New Mexico Lobos Football – On The Mountain West Road
Saturday: 8:15 p.m. (MT) – New Mexico Lobos (3-8, 1-6 MW) at Boise State (7-4, 5-2)
On The Air: ESPN2; 770-AM KKOB/Lobo Radio Network
By Richard Stevens – Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
On the dizzying Blue Field Turf of Bronco Stadium, if you look close enough, you will see a measuring stick. It leans toward the Boise State Broncos. Lobo Coach Bob Davie knows that. In many ways, the Broncos are what the Lobos plan to become – established in tradition; excellent in what they do.
Davie has been honest and realistic about his Lobos’ final two games of 2013: at Fresno State and at Boise State. He knows there is a gap. He knows there is a difference. However, he also is wise enough to know that there is a lesson to be learned from experiencing this gap in pads and helmets.
It shows the Lobos where they want to go and what they need to do in order to get there.
Much of the Lobo journey is based on time and many, many snaps of the football. The Lobos are young. The Lobos are inexperienced. The Lobos have been worn down by a season that, yes, might not have had the same effect on an older teams.
But, as Davie says: “We are what we are.”
What the Lobos are in Boise is a team with a strong offensive identity, but one that has been dented a bit by the absence of quarterback Cole Gautsche and tailback Kasey Carrier. It’s possible Carrier might see the blue turf on Saturday, but Gautsche probably will sit.
Still, the Lobos enter the Mountain West game with the No. 7 rushing offense in collegiate football, an offense that has tied a school record by scoring 30 points or more in seven games. The Lobos scored 29 on Boise State a season back in a 32-29 loss on Branch Field.
The Lobos take a 309.6 rushing average to Boise in a running chase against Army (330.6), Auburn (320.3), Navy (320.1), Northern Illinois (318.9), Georgia Tech (316.1) and No. 6 Ohio State (314.7).
“We’ve got our niche on offense,” said Davie. “The next piece of this is defense.”
The elephant in the room is not one that Davie ignores. He knows he can’t. His defense needs to get better. UNM is 117 out of 123 teams in total defense; No. 118 in scoring defense; and 122 in rushing defense.
Davie said looking back on UNM’s past two games in which his defense allowed 66 and 69 points had him thinking “just what that looks like and trying to stop the madness of it.
“The shocking way that looks is something that you have to deal with as you go through this,” he said.
On defense, Davie has been trying to fill important holes with youth. Against Fresno State, Davie said there were 15 Lobo defenders who were not on the defensive side of the ball in 2012. “That’s no excuse, but that’s the reality,” he said.
The reality doesn’t change Saturday in Boise, Idaho. The young Lobos are 3-8 and playing on a field where the 7-4 Broncos have won .956 percent of their games over the past 14 season and have not lost in 2013. Boise State is the winningest program in the nation since 2000 (154-25).
“This is a tremendous opportunity for young guys to see what it takes to compete at this level,” said Davie reflecting on the success of Boise State football.
On Saturday, in order to compete on the Broncos’ level, the Lobos will have to excel on both sides of the football and be solid on special teams. The UNM offense needs to stay on the field. The UNM defense needs to get off the field.
The Broncos’ 7-4 record might not be up to Bronco standards, but this is still a very good football team. They average 38.2 points in their 11 games. They give up only 24.4 points and 149 yards rushing. They held San Diego State to 61 yards on the ground this past Saturday in a crushing overtime loss to the Aztecs. They beat Wyoming 48-7. UNM lost to Wyoming 38-31.
The Broncos went to Utah State and left with a 34-23 win. UNM lost to Utah State 45-10.
Boise State’s offense was hurt by the loss of quarterback Joe Southwick, a sharp passing quarterback, who could see some action on Senior Night in Boise. Grant Hedrick took over the snaps and appears to be getting better with snaps. He completes 69 percent of his passes and is an above average runner.
The Broncos get balance in the running game from Jay Ajayi, who has 1,181 yards in 11 games and averages 107.4 yards a game with a 5.8 average. The Broncos have two standout receivers in 5-foot-6 Shane Williams-Rhodes (77-for-702 yards) and 6-foot-3 Matt Miller (68-for-823 yards).
“The Boise offense is a culmination of 15 years,” said Davie. “It’s probably the most multiple offense maybe in the history of college football. It’s kind of an option, zone-read kind of offense. It’s really remarkable. “
Remarkable isn’t a bad word to toss at Boise State, especially in Boise. On their Blue Turf Field, the Broncos have been remarkable – at a rate of .956 percent.