New Mexico Lobos Football – Branch Field – University Stadium
When/Who: 7 p.m., (MT), Friday – Air Force (2-7, 0-5 MW) at New Mexico (2-6, 0-4 MW)
On The Air: 770-AM KKOB; ESPNU
GoLobos.com: Game Story, Complete Stats, Quotes, LoboTV
By Richard Stevens – Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
Lobo Coach Bob Davie says the Air Force Falcons are “a lot like us.”
Of course, that statement can refer to how the Falcons like to move the football. Like the Lobos, they are option heavy, but unlike the Lobos they are more pure option with the quarterback under the center in the more traditional wishbone attack.
The Lobos are “pistol.” Their option comes out of the shotgun. Usually.
You also can take Davie’s statement a few steps further and say the Falcons are like the Lobos in their need for better defense – and their need for a another win and their first Mountain West win.
UNM is 0-4 in league play and Air Force is 0-5. Something has to give there.
The 2-7 Falcons had lost seven straight before righting the ship with an impressive 42-28 win over Army. The Falcons also might have found a go-to runner from that game.
Senior tailback Anthony LaCoste led the Falcons with a career high 263 yards rushing on 23 carries. He had three TDs. He averaged 11.4 yards per carry thanks to scoring runs of 73 and 78 yards and another dash of 43 yards. Air Force averaged 7.5 yards per carry as a team and went 7-8-0 passing for 111 yards.
The big plays were a big deal. Army ran 30 more plays and had the ball 15 more minutes than Air Force and had 28 first downs to 17 for Air Force. Both teams went 4-of-4 inside the red zone – all for touchdowns. But Air Force scored two touchdowns from outside the red zone: big plays by LaCoste.
The Falcons gave up too many big plays a game earlier in a 45-10 loss to Notre Dame in a game that looked worse on the scoreboard than it did on the stat sheet. The Falcons won the time-of-possession battle, had only three fewer first downs than the Irish, and ran for 290 yards.
But the Falcons could not stop Notre Dame. The Irish racked up 466 yards with 331 coming through the air.
The Falcons found a way to make a few defensive stops vs. Army, which scored only 28 points off an Air Force defense that yields an average of 37.3 coming into Albuquerque. UNM bends at a 37.0 rate.
Both the Lobos and the Falcons will throw some off play action and wheel routes have worked well for both teams. But if neither defense shows improvement vs. the run, there might not be a pass thrown Saturday on Branch Field. The Air Force defense bends for 221.3 yards per game and UNM yields an average of 252.9 yards rushing.
The Falcons average 279.2 yards rushing and UNM, No. 3 in the nation, has a ground pace of 313.6. Air Force averages 97.3 through the air and UNM is at 108.6.
LaCoste’s 263 rushing yards are the second most in Air Force history, but he only totals 604 on the season for a simple reason: Air Force had been sharing the wealth out of its option. The Falcons have had five different runners crack the 100-yard barrier this season.
The Falcons also have eight players with 140 or more yards. Broam Hart has 416 and Hart and LaCoste usually get the most totes. But Air Force has seven runners between 32 and 97 (Hart) carries.
The Falcons are 63-118-4 passing for 876 yards. Sam Gagliano is the top target with 12 catches for 214 yards and Garrett Brown has 10 grabs for 137 yards. Air Force has four TDs through the air. Joey Nichol leads the defense with 80 tackles followed by Christian Spears with 70. Nichol has 7.5 tackles for a loss and Spears had 12 tackles vs. Army.
Air Force has won five in a row over UNM and eight of the past nine games. The Falcons went into the 2013 with only three returning starters on offense and were expected to struggle early on offense. Which they did. The Army game indicates that maybe the struggling is diminishing.
Air Force also returned only five starters on defense and that total of eight was the fewest in the Mountain West. The Falcons entered the season with 124 combined career starts which was the lowest in the nation.
A lot of the Air Force woes this season have been from quarterbacks being sent to the bench. Freshman Nate Romine became Air Force’s fourth starting quarterback this season when he got the nod vs. Notre Dame. The Falcon pup also got the start vs. Army.
However, the quarterback situation was key for Air Force before the season began as the Falcons entered the 2013 season with no career starts at the quarterback position.