New Mexico Lobos Football – Branch Field – University Stadium
When/Who: 5:08 p.m., Saturday – Colorado State (5-5, 3-2 MW) at New Mexico (3-6, 1-4 MW)
On The Air: ROOT Sports/Mountain West Network; 770-AM KKOB/Lobo Radio Network
GoLobos.com: Game Story, Quotes, Complete Stats, LoboTV
By Richard Stevens – Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
In evaluating how to stop and beat the Colorado State Rams, you would be foolish not to key on tailback Kapri Bibbs.
And you would be even more foolish not to look at all the other things the Rams do on the football field.
In a word, second-year Rams’ coach Jim McElwain says he seeks “balance.” He said he wouldn’t mind looking at the Rams’ offensive stats and seeing 250 yards running and 250 yards passing.
“Five hundred yards should be a realistic goal every time you play,” said McElwain.
McElwain was pretty happy with his offense a week back in a rock-solid 38-17 Mountain West win over Nevada. He got 312 rushing yards – from Bibbs. But here’s a point about what’s important at CSU – and what wins games. Bibbs was the Mountain West Offensive Player of The Week, but not the Rams’ team POW.
“It’s not what shows up in the box score. It’s what causes the things to show up in the box score,” said McElwain.
Bibbs’ stats obviously came from some good blocking, but his yardage also comes from his ability to run the football. He once ran for 520 yards and seven touchdowns in high school and became a recruiting sensation out of Illinois.
His 312 yards vs. Nevada is a school record. Like UNM’s Kasey Carrier, he already has cracked the 1,000-yard barrier for the 2013 season.
Bibbs leads nation in rushing TDs (19) and he average 6.3 per carry. He has averaged 179.8 yards in the past four games behind an offensive line that has a combined 144 starts – No. 11 in NCAA football.
Bibbs is a huge reason the Rams average 453.3 yards per game and have cracked 500 yards on offense in five games. Defenses are aware and wary of this hard-running Ram.
CSU averages 201.3 yards rushing, the programs most productive ground season since 2002. CSU is on pace to have the No. 2 offense (total per game) in program history. Those yards also are converting to points on the board. The Rams average 33.5 points, up from 21.2 in 2012.
The Rams scored 59 points vs. UTEP and 52 (52-22) against the Wyoming team that beat New Mexico 38-31 in Laramie. CSU gave up 42 points to UTEP.
“Colorado State reminds me of Utah State,” said Lobo Coach Bob Davie. “It’s a big, strong team, very powerful with a lot of fifth-year seniors.”
On paper, the Lobos’ Mountain West battle with Colorado State looks like it might be a shootout similar to UNM’s 45-37 win over Air Force last week. For sure, both teams are capable of moving the football. New Mexico is No. 2 in the nation in rushing yards (328.9 yards per game).
The Lobos lean heavily on a Cole Gautsche/Kasey Carrier-led option and when that attack is clicking, the Lobos don’t look much to the air. The Rams seek balance.
CSU averages 201.6 yards on the ground and 251.7 passing. To beat the Lobos, you have to stop the option and not give up big passing plays on the occasional play-action pass. To beat the Rams, you have to stop both aspects of their attack.
The Rams’ quarterback is Garrett Grayson. He has thrown 327 times and completed 204. The Lobos have thrown 129 passes in nine games. UNM threw three passes vs. Air Force for an obvious reason. The option was clicking.
Grayson has a solid 62.4 percent rate. He tossed for 397 yards vs. Boise State. His top targets are freshman Rashard Higgins (47-for-577 yards), Joe Hansley (38-446) and 6-foort-6, 255-pound tight end Crocket Gilmore (29-346). The 6-4, 245-pound Kivon Cartwright (21-339) has six TD grabs from his tight end spot. Those tight ends also can block.
“They have two tight ends that are gigantic,” said Coach Davie.
The defense is led by Max Morgan (90 tackles), Aaron Davis (86) and Shaquil Barrett has 16.5 tackles for a loss (No. 2 in NCAA). Shaq Bell and James Cory combine for 16 tackles for a loss. Most of those tackles for a loss did not come against an option attack.
The Rams, like most Mountain West teams, give up some yardage on defense. They average a yield of 442.8 yards per game but can be tough in the run defense where they average 139.5 yards. The Rams have been more vulnerable to the pass – 303.3 aerial yards. CSU’s defense held No. 1 Alabama to 2-of-10 on third-down conversions and held Hawaii to 2-of-17.
McElwain is like Davie in he understands and stresses solid special teams’ play. He knows there is a lot of ways to win – and lose – football games. The Rams are coming off one of their better games of the season in their 38-17 win over Nevada.
The Rams have another huge motivation on UNM’s Branch Field. They are two wins away from bowl eligibility with UNM, Utah State and Air Force left to play. CSU won last year’s game 24-20 in Fort Collins. UNM ran for 137 yards in that MW loss, but got 205 passing yards from B.R. Holbrook.
The Rams’ motto for 2013 is “One Town, One Team, One Dream.” They list 15 freshmen and 17 sophomores on their two-deep which CSU says is No. 2 nationally behind Virginia’s 34 underclassmen. However, CSU is not an inexperienced team. They return nine starters on offense and eight on defense.
"Certainly, we’ll have a big challenge," said Coach Davie.