Saturday: Utah State (3-4, 2-1 Mountain West) at New Mexico (2-4, 0-2)
Time, Location: 7:08 p.m. on Branch Field at University Stadium
TV: ROOT Sports (Comcast 261, DirecTV 683, Dish 414); Mountain West Network (game online subject to blackout on systems carrying ROOT Sports)
Radio: Lobo Radio Network (770 KKOB-AM), ESPN Deportes (1450 KRZY-AM, Jose' 105.9 FM)
Game Promotion: Lobos Love Pink for Breast Cancer Awareness.
AT A GLANCE
The University of New Mexico returns to Branch Field at University Stadium to take on Mountain West newcomer Utah State on Saturday night. It’s been a decade since the Lobos and Aggies have played; UNM beat USU 34-7 in 2003 at University Stadium.
The Lobos erased a 21-point deficit last week in Laramie, Wyo., but still came up short against Wyoming, 38-31. UNM passed for a season-high 179 yards with two touchdowns but also threw its first interception of the season — the last FBS team to do so. For the third consecutive week, the Lobos had at least two ball-carriers top the 100-yard rushing mark.
UNM is No. 2 in the nation in rushing offense at 349.3 yards per game and third in the country in rushing TDs with 23 on the season. The Lobos have thrown five touchdown passes and only one interception on the season, which is the second best touchdown-to-interception ratio in the MW, behind only this week’s foe, Utah State (21-to-4).
Kick returner Carlos Wiggins has moved up to No. 2 nationally in kick returns with an average of 33.4 yards per return. He averaged 38 yards on a pair of attempts against Wyoming last week. He’s also third in the Mountain West and 27th in the nation in all-purpose-yard average at 133.2 yards per game.
Running back Kasey Carrier leads the MW and is No. 21 in the country in all-purpose yards at 138.7 per game. The senior is No. 1 in the MW and eighth in the nation in rushing at 131.5 yards per game after recording his fourth 100-yard effort of the season against Wyoming. He recorded the first TD reception of his career on an impressive 24-yard reception from quarterback Cole Gautsche vs. the Cowboys.
Gautsche is No. 3 in the MW in rushing and No. 21 nationally at 103.2 yards per game after his fourth 100-yard effort of the season vs. Wyoming. Gautsche is the No. 2 rushing QB in the nation. Gautsche had career highs in attempts (21), completions (11) and yards (156) vs. the Cowboys last week and ran for 113 yards.
UNM is nationally ranked in several categories. It is tied for No. 1 in fewest interceptions thrown (1), No. 2 in net punting at 43.6 yards per attempt and tied for No. 2 in penalties per game (3.0). The Lobos are third in penalty yardage (27.0 per game), No. 12 in kickoff returns (26.5 yards per attempt), No. 19 in red-zone offense with 21 scores in 23 possessions and No. 19 in time of possession at 32 minutes, 35 seconds per game.
Utah State is adjusting to life without heralded QB Chuckie Keeton, who suffered a season-ending knee injury on Oct. 4. The Aggies used two QBs last week vs. Boise State (Craig Harrison and Darell Garretson). Joey DeMartino leads USU in rushing at 66.0 yards per game. The Aggies lead the MW in scoring defense (21.4 points per game allowed), rushing defense (129.1 yards per game) and total defense (351.6 yards per game).
The Starting Lineup
The University of New Mexico welcomes Mountain West newcomer Utah State to Branch Field at University Stadium on Saturday. The teams have not met since 2003, when the Lobos beat the Aggies 34-7 in Albuquerque.
That game was the exception during the team’s four-meeting span from 1997-2003. The other three games were nail-biters. In 1997, the Lobos committed five turnovers and 11 penalties, but Brian Urlacher’s fumble recovery late in the fourth quarter led to UNM’s game-winning touchdown with 2:20 left as the Lobos beat the Aggies 25-22 on a rainy September night to go 4-0 on the season.
In 1998, UNM played its first overtime game in school history, and wide receiver Germany Thompson outjumped two USU defenders in the end zone for a touchdown reception in the third overtime to lift the Lobos to a 39-36 victory. Urlacher played a key role in that game as well, making two tackles in the red zone on the Aggies’ final possession in regulation that forced them to settle for a game-tying 23-yard field goal with 1:22 left.
In 2002, the Aggies defeated the Lobos 45-44 in overtime when UNM true freshman kicker Kenny Byrd missed an extra-point attempt in OT. Utah State hit a 32-yard touchdown pass on the last play of regulation to send the game into overtime tied at 38, then scored a touchdown on its OT possession. The Lobos answered with a TD on a Hank Baskett 12-yard reception. But Byrd, who had never played organized football before that season, missed the PAT. Byrd, however, learned greatly from the experience. He went on to hit 33 of 41 field goals during his Lobo career, hit 24 straight from inside the 40, make three game-winning field goals during his career and finish as the 2006 Mountain West Co-Special Teams Player of the Year.
The Lobos offense currently is averaging 442.5 yards per game, which would rank fourth on the school’s all-time list for yards per game in a season. UNM is on pace to surpass the 5,000-yard offensive mark for just the sixth time in school history.
The 1994 UNM team averaged 472 yards per game and ranked sixth in the country in total offense. To put into perspective how the game has changed with greater offensive output, that 1994 team’s total offense average per game would rank just 31st in the nation this season.
The Lobos’ rushing offense (a 349.3-yard average) is on pace to surpass the 4,000-yard mark for the season for the second time in school history. The 1971 team rushed for 4,229 yards and averaged 384.5 yards per game. The current Lobo rushing offense would finish with 4,192 yards at its current pace.