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/Lobo Radio Network; ESPNU
GoLobos.com: Game Story, Complete Stats, Quotes, LoboTV
By Richard Stevens – Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
In a Lobo game that will honor possibly New Mexico’s greatest defender ever – Brian Urlacher -- Lobo Coach Bob Davie throws out an appropriate challenge.
At his defense.
To play at an extreme level. To get off the field.
There are many keys to winning football games: execution, turnovers, making big plays, stopping big play, special teams, etc., but there is a consistent need on the 2013 Lobos.
Simply put, they need to play better defense. They need to make some stops. They need to hand the ball over to an offense that is No. 3 in the nation in rushing.
“Not being able to stop people has been the common thing that has got us,” said Davie. “Both teams will try to find a way to get off the field. Both are going to try and get the ball back for their offense.”
Air Force has the same need to make stops. The Falcons are No. 114 in the nation in total defense (out of 123). New Mexico is 116. This brings New Mexico’s Friday night ESPNU game with Air Force back to a basic principle of the game: blocking vs. tackling; tackling vs. blocking.
Which part of the game will work on which side of the ball for which team?
For sure, both the Lobos and the Falcons can move the football on the ground. The Lobos are No. 3 in the nation averaging 313.6 yard a game. The Falcons are No. 11 with a 279.2 production off their wishbone.
“Both teams are going to have a chance to move the ball because of the schematics,” said Davie.
The Lobos run out of a pistol with their quarterback a few steps behind the center. The Falcons put their quarterback over the center and it’s usually dive, quarterback keep or pitch. Both teams go left and right. Both teams can be highly efficient in what they do – when they execute from player one to player 11.
The defenses are more hit and miss and this is an important point on Friday: It’s not easy to stop an option even with a good defense.
“It’s not changing styles or schemes. It’s just trying to be exact,” said Davie. “That’s where the problem lies.
"When you have to be exact, and you don’t have a guy that can create havoc in there, or a guy that is an eraser in the secondary, or you don’t have a linebacker that’s just going to blitz and blow things up, so when you have to be exact, you’re going to have problems.”
What Davie might lack on defense is an impact player maker. A guy like Brian Urlacher, who impacted the game in a dramatic fashion both at the collegiate and pro level. Urlacher will be honored at halftime and his jersey (No. 44) will be retired.
“I think it’s a heck of an atmosphere. We’re excited about this,” said Davie, referring to the visit by Urlacher and ESPNU. Davie also said he hopes the presence of Urlacher will inspire his defense to play at a high level.
That might be a good thing to have on Friday. The Falcons, one of the youngest teams in the nation, had lost seven straight before surprising Army last week in a 42-28 Air Force win. The Falcons rolled behind 263 rushing yards by senior tailback Anthony LaCoste, who broke runs for 78, 73 and 43 in averaging 11.4 yards per carry.
Some of the Falcons’ execution woes can be blamed on consistency from the quarterback spot. Air Force entered the season with no starts from the quarterback position and now they are on their fourth starter of 2013. Freshman Nate Romine became quarterback No. 4 when he got the nod vs. Notre Dame. If he starts Friday vs. UNM, it will be his third consecutive start. He is getting better.
UNM’s Kasey Carrier will get some attention from the Falcons’ defense. Carrier set a Mountain West rushing record with 338 yards last year in UNM’s 28-23 loss at Air Force. “Kasey made some unbelievable runs,” said Davie.
LaCoste has the Lobos’ attention. The option obviously will try to utilize its best runners, but this attack is designed to beat you at several points of attack.
“There a chance for there to be some points in this game,” said Davie. “But you never know.”
Obviously, this is a key game for either Lobos or Falcons to break into the Mountain West win column. The 2-7 Falcons are 0-5 in league play. The 2-6 Lobos are 0-4 in the Mountain. The Falcons have won five straight against UNM.
Davie said an important aspect of this game is matching Air Force’s sustained effort.
“They are going to give it and bring it every time they play,” said Davie. “They represent this country and you feel good about that. They are going to fight you and they are going to block you and they are going to run it and they are going to play hard. It’s impressive.”