Oct. 1, 2010
Lobo Football Vs UTEP Miners
When/Where: 4 p.m., Saturday, University Stadium
On The Air: The Mtn (Comcast-276, DirecTV-616); 770-AM KKOB/Lobo Radio Network
GoLobos.com: Stats, Game Story, GameTracker
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
It is a Lobo team that is battered and bruised, likely playing a true freshman at quarterback, limping in the defensive backfield and, so far, heading down the wrong side of the won-lost column at 0-4.
They play a UTEP Miners' team at 4 p.m., Saturday that is 3-1, confident, and playing fairly consistent on both sides of the football.
Sure, there is a chance the Miners might be overconfident in eyeing the struggling Lobos, but this also is a big game for the Miners. If they can push their record to 4-1 just five games into the season, that would be a huge step in becoming bowl eligible in 2010.
The Lobos are just thinking about a win. "It's a much-needed victory that we're going to have to find a way to get," said Lobo coach Mike Locksley.
The Miners don't appear to be an easy target. UTEP hasn't yet established itself as a great football team in 2010, with no marquee wins. But the Miners seem to know how to win and they might be just as good as the UNLV team that pounded UNM 45-10 last Saturday.
Is the game winnable for UNM? Probably, but that calls for a drastic change in some of the things the Lobos have done in becoming 0-4.
"We have to play a near-perfect game," said Locksley. "UTEP presents quite a challenge."
So, what can the Lobos do to win besides cut down on mistakes, show more consistency on the field, execute on both sides of the ball, and miraculously becoming healthy on Saturday?
Should the Lobos throw caution to the win and blitz more on defense? Maybe. What the Lobos have done so far in 2010 has yielded more points than any other D-I team in the nation. UNM has been outscored 225-41. The average score is 56-10.
Should coach Locks abandon the no-huddle offense, which hasn't seem to fool anyone in 2010 and too often gives the field back to the UNM defense too quickly?
Should the Lobos shorten the game with more running and more huddling? Should they lean more to option plays out of the spread? Is it too late to put in the wishbone?
Possibly, there aren't a whole lot of answers for a young and depth-challenged team that has been damaged deeper with injuries. What Locksley does expect from his Lobos is intense energy and back-to-the-wall fight.
"We'll bring everything we got," said senior fullback Josh Fussell.
That surely will help. From the Miners' point of view, they can't afford to let a New Mexico team upset them and throw a unexpected stain on the lost side of the column. Miner coach Mike Price is also pushing in El Paso the notion that Locksley called UTEP and NMSU the "soft" part of their schedule.
True or not, the Miners should be fired up. The Lobos need to return the fire. The Miners obviously are capable. They have wins over Arkansas-Pine Bluff, NMSU and Memphis. UTEP has given up 10, 10 and 13 points in its three wins. The Miners lost 54-24 at Houston.
The win over the Aggies was impressive. UTEP crunched the Aggies 42-10. That's pretty much what UNLV did to UNM last week.
"They are pretty tough," Fussell said of the Miners. "We're going to have to take it to `em."
The Lobos likely will try to establish a run game against UTEP. The Lobos need to see a jump in production here. That attack was an emphasis in UNM's fall camp, but the Lobos are averaging only 76.2 yards per game. They give up a 221.5 average.
The Lobos passing game has been more productive, but UNM also has had to lean on the pass a lot as the Lobos have fallen behind quickly. UNM has been outscored 70-10 in the first quarter and 69-14 in the second quarter.
The Lobos need to come out in a second half and believe they have a chance to win. So far, that hasn't happened in 2010. The Lobos are hoping playing a geographical rival in homecoming will produce some addition fire in the Lobo huddle.
"Typically, in rivalry games, you can throw the records out the window," said Locksley.
True, but one thing you can't discount is how teams are playing going into that rivalry game. "Were disappointed in how we have played in the first four games," said Locksley.
The Miners are playing well enough to be 3-1.
Editor's Note: Richard Stevens is a former Sports Columnist and Associate Sports Editor for The Albuquerque Tribune. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.