Nov. 8, 2011
New Mexico Lobos Football -- At University Stadium
Saturday: 8:06 p.m., UNLV at New Mexico Lobos
On The Air: The Mtn-TV; 770-AM KKOB - Lobo Radio Network
GoLobos.com: GameTracker, Game Story, Stats, Quotes, LoboTV
By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
For Lobo senior Carmen Messina there is only one way to step onto a football field and that's as a winner thinking about winning.
"I never step on a football field thinking about losing," said Messina. "That thought never enters my head. It`s not in my DNA."
Of course, that means 2011 has been hard on Messina, his DNA, and all Lobos. The University of New Mexico and its 12 seniors will step on the grass of University Stadium for the final time this season at 8:06 p.m. Saturday looking at maybe their best chance to end their winless season.
There are reasons to view UNLV's visit this way. It's a home game for the Lobos. The 2-6 Rebs are struggling, too. This is a UNLV team with a whole lot of woes on the offensive side of the football.
And the final two games for the 0-9 Lobos are at Wyoming and at Boise State and those will be mean and nasty places to visit and leave with a win.
On paper, the Rebs are vulnerable and, like the Lobos, they have been vulnerable on the football field, too. Unlike the Lobos, they have done things well enough to win two football games.
The Rebs' wins were good ones. They beat Hawaii 40-20 and they beat Colorado State 38-35. They are coming off a 48-21 loss to Boise State and probably encouraged by those 21 points. The Boise defense is good.
And here's another truth the Rebs probably are taking into University Stadium even though they might be in denial over this possibility: This might be the Rebs last chance at a victory in 2011.
The Rebs finish the season with Air Force, San Diego State and TCU. The Rebs will not be favored to win those games. You have to give the Rebs a slight edge Saturday at University Stadium simply because of their two wins.
The Mountain West statistics thrown out by Rebels and Lobos this season promise and interesting and fair battle. Consider:
If the Rebs have an obvious edge, it's on the defensive side of the football.
The Rebs have had decent success stopping the run, but maybe that's because they can't stop the pass. But the Lobos have not had success in the air. UNM is last in the Mountain in pass efficiency (106.7). The Rebs aren't much better in seventh place (108.3).
Cook Off Challenge
The Albertsons Cook Off Challenge for Saturday vs. UNLV is chili. The contest is at 6 p.m. on the northeast corner of The Pit. The last contest winner was Gary Lange and his roaring green chile stew. The weekly prize is a $50 gift certificate to Albertsons.
UNLV might have notched its belt with two wins in 2011, but those came in Vegas. The Rebs are riding a 13-game road losing streak into Albuquerque. UNLV's last win? It was a 34-17 win on Oct. 24, 2009 -- in University Stadium.
You can bet the Rebs will be eyeing the Lobos as if they were an early Thanksgiving dinner. The Lobos should be hungry for the Rebs, too.
An interesting and important battle on Saturday will be when the Reb offense is looking at a third-down situation. The Rebs are last among the 120 Football Bowl Subdivision schools in third-down conversions (26-of-111) at 23.4 percent.
However, the Lobos' defense also is last in that category bending at a 58.7 percent rate.
The Rebs have a trio of solid running backs in Dionza Bradford (4.5 yards per carry), Tim Cornett (5.5) and Bradley Randle (4.3). It's reasonable to expect the Rebs to try and generate a running game against the Mountain's worst defense against the run. Randle ran for 96 yards vs. Boise State. UNLV had 182 yards on the ground vs. Boise. The Rebs ran for 244 vs. CSU with Bradford getting 122 yards.
UNLV's arm in the pocket is Caleb Herring, who averages 105.5 yards passing a game. He has eight touchdowns against five interceptions. He is a little threat to run the ball with 265 positive yards, not counting the minus yards via sacks.
His top receivers are Phillip Payne (36 for 445 yards) and Michael Johnson (22 for 212 yards).
For sure, the Lobos aren't looking at the Rebs as UNM's last chance at a victory in 2011. But there is one truth about Saturday's game that can't be denied.
It's the Lobos last chance in 2011 for a win at home.