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October 9, 2011This weekend was a time for the Lobos to take a breath.
A time to lick their wounds and heal a bit.
A time to regain their focus on what has been a tremendously disappointing season so far.
A time to step away from the negative things that have happened so far, like the firing of head coach Mike Locksley and an 0-5 start with the last loss being to their biggest rival, New Mexico State, 42-28.
It truly has been a wild two weeks for the Lobos.
"What's happened to this program over the past 14 days, I could not have foreseen that," said UNM defensive coordinator Toby Neinas. "It's not that you can't foresee someone getting let go of their positions, it has happened to everyone I've known in this professional. Even (New England Patriots head coach) Bill Belichick has been fired, and he's arguably the greatest coach in this profession today. It's been difficult to see this and I feel bad for my players."
Senior linebacker Carmen Messina said he used the bye week to hit the weight room and the cafeteria.
"I am focused on getting back in the weight room and eating a lot," Messina said. "I want to put back some pounds that I lost during the first part of the season. I want to work on my strength and speed. I'm not in a situation where I can take a day off. I want to take advantage of every opportunity to make myself better. That will allow me to go and play well on Saturdays, show what I have and then maybe play at the next level."
While it's no secret that the break helped some injured Lobos heal some injuries, Messina knows the break better served his teammates mentally.
"Only because we are such a young team," said Messina, who leads the team in tackles with 43. "We have a lot of young guys playing for the first time and have never been in this situation before. So it's good for them to take a week off, step back and focus on what they need to do."
Messina was in this situation before. He remembers how shocked he was when former UNM head coach Rocky Long resigned at the end of the 2008 season. Granted, Locksley's firing was four games into this year, but the loss of a head coach can be stressful to a team, no matter when it happens.
And Messina feels it's up to him and the other older players to make sure that the Lobos don't fall apart in the final eight games of the season.
"We have to tell the younger ones that this season isn't over," Messina said. "We still have a lot to play for. If nothing else, play for your family and your friends. Play for Lobo Nation. You have to play for them and not go out there and embarrass yourself. You still have a lot of football to play."