Sept. 7, 2011
LOBO FOOTBALL - AT ARKANSAS
Who: New Mexico Lobos at No. 14 Arkansas
When/Where: 5:06 p.m., Saturday, Little Rock, Ark.
Radio: KKOB 770-AM, Lobo Radio Network; Pre-game show at 2 p.m.
TV: ESPNU (Xfinity 281, Cable ONE for Rio Rancho and Roswell 301, DirecTV 208)
GoLobos.com: GameTracker; Game Story, Complete Stats
By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
Into the valley of the shadow of Razorbacks, ride Mike Locksley and his Lobos. So, are the Lobos in trouble venturing into the hostile territory of No. 14 ranked Arkansas?
From Arkansas' perspective, this is a yawner for the powerful Razorbacks of the Southeastern Conference. They are SEC. They are BCS. They are ranked. They are Arkansas.
They are throwing some big bucks at a non-BCS team and in their pig eyes they see a sacrificial lamb coming to town. The Arkansas fans eye New Mexico the way New Mexico fans eye Sam Houston State. The Hogs are not playing this game to lose.
From the Lobos' perspective, it's a chance to show how much they have grown from the 1-11 teams of 2009 and 2010. It's also a chance to take a punch at a heavyweight from the Southeastern Conference on that team's territory - War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock. For sure, it will be a cool atmosphere in which to play football.
It's also a good test for the Lobos because this is the type of team and the type of talent they will be looking at when they battle Boise State and TCU of the Mountain West. Arkansas is very good.
The experts who throw down odds on this game do not think much of the Lobos' chances. New Mexico is a heavy underdog. There are reasons for this.
First, it's Arkansas and the game will be played on Arkansas soil. Second, this is supposedly an exceptional Razorbacks' team coming off a 51-7 spanking of Missouri State.
It's early, and those numbers were thrown up against Missouri State, but the stats suggest there will be more than a few rowdy Razorbacks looking to have their way with Lobos on Saturday. Arkansas has size, speed and depth.
For sure, the Lobos will have to perform better on offense against Arkansas than they did against Colorado State in UNM's 14-10 loss in University Stadium. Arkansas went into the 2011 season expecting to be a beast on defense and against Missouri State, that beast was alive and well. Consider:
It's possible that the Arkansas defense might be the true heart of this 14th-ranked team. It's also possible Arkansas has two hearts in 2011. The offense looks pretty good, too.
Razorback quarterback Tyler Wilson is a good one and he is loaded with premium targets. He passed for 260 yards and two scores in the opener. He was 18-of-24 in his collegiate debut as a starter. He threw four TDs at Auburn last year.
Brandon Mitchell came off the bench to mop up and completed 10-of-11 passes. That's a combined 28-of-35 effort, with no picks and three sacks.
Jarius Wright was the top receiver with six grabs for 108 yards and two touchdowns. Joe Adams ran back two punts for touchdowns. He returned a punt 97 yards for a TD last season. Arkansas rolled out 466 total yards and had 24 first downs, giving up nine first downs.
If there were any cracks to be seen in the Arkansas armor, it was the Hogs' running game: 102 yards for a 3.1 average per carry. Not a huge crack and when you are completing 80 percent of your passes for 364 yards, who needs to run the ball? Arkansas led the nation in 2010 in pass plays of 70-plus and 80-plus yards. These Hogs like to go long.
Arkansas has four receivers on the Biletnikoff Award Watch List. The award goes to the best wide receiver in the nation. The four Razorbacks to watch are Adams, Wright, Greg Childs and Cobi Hamilton. They went into the 2011 season combining for 375 receptions, 6,378 yards and 50 TDs.
The Lobos' defense played well against the CSU Rams, but the Razorbacks are a different creature. UNM held CSU to 14 points and 270 total yards. Arkansas' leading rusher in its opener was Ronnie Wingo Jr. with 48 yards on 11 totes. However, Arkansas listed five wide outs and no running backs on its starting lineup.
On defense, the Razorbacks list five down linemen giving them a 5-2 front. Their top linebacker is Jerry Franklin, who has led the team in tackles for three straight seasons. They return seven starters.