By Rick White: CNJ managing editor
ALBUQUERQUE — It was supposed to be a post route.
But Hank Baskett noticed the cornerback shading him to the inside, and instead of cutting toward the middle, kept running straight. Sitting in the pocket, New Mexico quarterback Kole McKamey spotted the adjustment and lofted a high spiral toward Baskett, who cradled the ball to his chest as he fell into the end zone.
The 47-yard score midway through the first quarter was first of two big plays by Baskett on Monday as New Mexico opened its season with a 24-22 win over UNLV in a nationally televised Mountain West Conference contest.
“I was calling Kole every thing I could think of because I thought he was going to bring it down (and run),” said Baskett, who finished with six catches for 132 yards despite battling dehydration most of the game. “But he threw a perfect pass.”
Baskett is more than McKamey’s favorite receiver — the senior wide receiver from Clovis and the junior quarterback from Artesia are also roommates, which gives them a sixth sense on the field, they said.
“Hank and I talk about football and situations all the time,” said McKamey, who finished 20 of 29 passing for 284 yards and two touchdowns. “I know what Hank is thinking and he knows what I’m thinking. It’s comforting for a quarterback to know where his receiver’s going to be.”
Baskett and McKamey also hooked up for a 49-yard completion in the fourth quarter that set up UNM’s final score.
“Any time I can get one-on-one coverage on my best receiver, I’m going to take it,” McKamey said.
Just because they share rent and a love for football, it doesn’t mean they are equals on the field. McKamey is the undoubtedly the boss.
“I had to get on him one time,” McKamey said about Baskett breaking off a pattern. “But if he just makes one mistake and with all the plays he makes, I’ll take it every game.”
Baskett spent 30 minutes in trainer’s room after receiving fluids through an IV. At least six Lobos suffered cramps during the game, according to Lobos coach Rocky Long.
“I started feeling it in my stomach in the first quarter,” said Baskett, who left the field several times. “It just hits you all of a sudden.”
Despite the solid start by Baskett and McKamey in New Mexico’s new spread offense, the Lobos nearly blew a 15-point fourth-quarter lead.
The Rebels scored twice in the final 11 minutes of the game, including a 7-yard pass from Shane Steichen to D. Wheaton with 1:31 to go. Only a stop on UNLV’s two-point conversion try that would have tied the game and Gabriel Fulbright’s interception after the Rebels recovered an onside kick prevented potential disaster.
“I thought we played pretty well on offense early before really slacking off,” Long said. “After playing pretty well for three quarters, we stunk in the fourth quarter.
“But we got a stop on the two-point conversion and then the interceptions, and guess what? We made enough plays to win the game.”