New Mexico Lobos – Mountain West Football -- at Wyoming Cowboys
When/Where: 1:30 p.m., Saturday – War Memorial Stadium – Laramie, Wyo.
TV: ROOT Sports (Comcast 261, DirecTV 683, Dish 414); Mountain West Network (game online subject to blackout in systems carrying ROOT Sports)
Radio: Lobo Radio Network (770 KKOB-AM), ESPN Deportes (1450 KRZY-AM, Jose' 105.9 FM)
By Richard Stevens – Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
In its simplest form, this is a game of what Wyoming’s Brett Smith can and cannot do and what the New Mexico Lobo ‘Pistol’ can and cannot do.
It’s also a game of what the Lobos’ defense can and cannot do to stop Smith and what the Cowboys’ defense can and cannot do to quiet the Pistol.
Of course, there are other things that can and will pop up: turnovers, special team play, penalties, missed tackles, sacks, etc.
But Smith and the Lobo Pistol are focal points. They gobble up yardage like a planet-eating spaceship out of a Star Trek episode devours worlds. Smith is No. 3 in the nation in total offense. The Lobos are No. 1 in the nation in running the football.
Football might not be a game of inches Saturday afternoon in Laramie’s War Memorial Stadium.
“They have the perfect quarterback for their offense,” said Lobo Coach Bob Davie. “He is truly fast and he has the quickest release I’ve seen.”
The Cowboys give Smith a variety of choices out of the huddle including running (or passing) out of the triple option.
There is a curious distinction about this so-called triple-option attack: Smith averages 321.4 yards passing. Maybe this attack should be called the triple-option pass.
For sure, it’s an offense built around Smith’s many skills. He had 475 total yards at Nebraska and 511 total yards at Air Force. He averages 384.4 yards per game. He is tough to beat.
“I think we’ll be ready for Wyoming,” said Lobo Brett Bowers.
The Lobo defense gets plenty of looks at a triple option in practice. UNM is triple option, too: dive, quarterback keep, pitch. But the Lobos lean to keeping the ball on the ground – for good reason. UNM averages an un-worldly 367.8 yards per game via the rush.
The Lobo pistol is triggered by senior Kasey Carrier, who averages 137 yards per game followed by quarterback Cole Gautsche with a 100.8-yard average. Crusoe Gongbay and Carlos Wiggins combine for 87.4 yards per game.
“We know they are a hard-nosed football team,” said Wiggins. “So, we just have to come out harder. We’re still hungry.”
The Lobos are 2-3 on the season and looking for their second Mountain West win under Davie. Wyoming is 3-2 and welcoming the Lobos to Laramie on Homecoming Day.
The Wyoming defense gives up a fair hunk of yardage, but toughens up when teams near the pay zone. Wyoming is No. 2 in the Mountain and No. 45 in the NCAA in scoring defense, allowing opponents 23.8 points per game. UNM bends at a 35.6-point rate.
“Wyoming is very big, strong and physical,” said Gautsche, UNM’s talented sophomore QB. “They are very in-your-face.”
The Pokes shine on pass defense – No. 2 in the MW and No. 22 in the nation at 191.6 yards per game – but the Lobos do not lean heavily toward an air strike.
The defensive key for Wyoming will be holding ground against UNM’s exceptional offensive line led by Darryl Johnson, Reno Henderson, LaMar Bratton, Toye Adewon, Dillon Farrell, Garrett Adcock, Jamal Price, Calvin McDowney, Johnny Vizcaino and Dillon Romine. Coach Jason Lenzmeier’s “Hogs” are tough to uproot.
The Cowboys gave up 256 rushing yards and five rushing scores in a loss at Texas State. The Air Force Falcons ran for 346 yards vs. Wyoming. The Lobos are fresh off a 66-17 win over New Mexico State, a win that included 541 rushing yards.
The Cowboys lean to Smith’s playmaking and passing, but they have a little more balance on offense than the Lobos. Wyoming averages 193.4 yards on the ground and 322.8 passing. UNM is ranked No. 122 in passing out of 123 teams throwing for 76 yards a game.
However, Gautsche threw for 155 yards a year ago in Wyoming’s 28-23 win on Branch Field.