New Mexico Lobos Football – On The Mountain West Road
When/Who: 2 p.m. (MT) Saturday, New Mexico at Fresno State
On The Air: ESPNews (TV); 770-AM KKOB/Lobo Radio Network
GoLobos.com: Game Story, Complete Stats, LoboTV
By Richard Stevens – Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
Maybe it’s a good thing for the Lobos that the Fresno State Bulldogs have vision of the Sugar Bowl or the Fiesta Bowl dancing in their undefeated heads.
Check out the Mountain West Network and there is a reel on Fresno State’s chances of going BCS bowling. The Bulldogs are sniffing at a glorius future, a big paycheck, national glory.
So, are the 9-0 Bulldogs looking past the injury-riddled New Mexico Lobos?
Probably not because the No. 15 ranked Bulldogs are savvy enough to realize that an undefeated season and a berth in a BCS bowl needs to include a win over the Lobos. It’s that one-game-at-a-time cliché and the Bulldogs have three hurdles remaining to clear: New Mexico, San Jose State and the Mountain West Championship game.
The ‘Dogs have a lot of reasons to be motivated for the Lobos’ visit on Saturday.
1. It’s Senior Day.
2. It’s on an ESPN site.
3. They need to stay undefeated in order to go to a BCS bowl.
4. A win over the Lobos would clinch the West Division of the Mountain West and secure the Bulldogs a spot in the inaugural MW title game to be played Dec. 7.
5. The Lobos went up on Fresno State 21-0 a year back.
The Bulldogs would have been heavily favored against the Lobos in Fresno regardless, but are a heavier pick since the Lobos will be without quarterback Cole Gautsche and halfback Kasey Carrier. These are hurtful blows since it’s obvious that a key to a New Mexico upset in Fresno lies in the productivity of the Lobo offense.
The UNM defense yields an average of 39.9 points and is ranked No. 117 out of 123 teams in scoring defense. The Lobos are No. 115 in total defense with an average yield of 494.2 yards. Fresno State is No. 5 in the NCAA in total offense (546.6 yards).
The Lobos scored 45 in a win over Air Force. The Lobo scored 42 in a loss this past Saturday to Colorado State. UNM gave up 66 points to CSU.
The Bulldogs probably will make some defensive adjustments this week anticipating UNM handing the huddle over to Clayton Mitchem. He isn’t as seasoned as Gautsche in reading and running the option, but Mitchem can throw it. The UNM backfield is still potent behind Crusoe Gongbay, Jhurell Pressley, Teriyon Gipson and David Anaya.
Most likely, the Lobos will have to score a lot of points to hang with Fresno State. The Bulldogs move the football. The Bulldogs find the end zone. They are No. 7 in the nation in scoring at 44.3 points per game and they score because they average 546.7 total yards and 384 yards passing.
The ‘Dogs have a special arm in Derek Carr. He is ranked No. 2 nationally averaging 380.1 passing yards a game. He has tossed for 32 touchdowns and has thrown 229 passes without an interception. He has given up four picks on the year. He completes 69.5 percent of his passes.
It’s a wonder the Bulldogs ever let this quarterback hand off the football. He has 11,181 career passing yards and holds 17 Mountain West marks. If Fresno can stay unbeaten and reach a BCS bowl, Carr is a strong candidate for the Heisman Trophy.
Carr has a special pair of hands to throw to. Davante Adams tops the nation with 15 touchdown catches. He is one TD pass shy of the Mountain West record of 16. Adams also tops the nation with 10.1 receptions per game. He has 91 catches for 967 yards – a 107.4 average per game. The Lobos average 114.6 passing yards as a team.
Adams is on a path to become the Bulldogs’ top receiver ever, but the school record for receptions set this season came from another pair of hands. Josh Harper had 17 grabs vs. Nevada and has 68 catches on the year for 823 yards. Isaiah Burse has 61 receptions for 652 yards.
The Bulldogs win behind Carr and their passing game, but with defenses backpedaling, there have been some nice holes up front for Josh Quezada and Marteze Waller, who both average 5.2 yards per carry and combine for 1,119 rushing yards. With Carrier and Gautsche out, Fresno State will have the top two rushers in the game. Quezada has gone over 100 yards rushing in the past two Fresno State games.
If the Lobos pass more with Mitchem in the huddle, a Bulldog defender to watch is Ejiro Ederaine, who has nine sacks. He has 7.5 tackles for loss in the past four games. The Fresno secondary is paced by safety Derron Smith, the MW’s preseason Defensive Player of The Year. He has five interceptions in nine games. Linebacker Karl Mickelsen tops the ‘Dogs in tackles with 69. He had 16 vs. Boise State.
Fresno State gives up 154.9 yards rushing per game. UNM is No. 2 in the nation with a 323.8 rushing average.
The Bulldogs are the highest ranked non-qualifying BCS team. They are No. 15 in The Associated Press Top 25 Poll and No. 16 in the USA Today Coaches Poll. There are two other undefeated teams below Fresno State in the rankings: Central Florida and Northern Illinois. The Bulldogs have won 11 consecutive home games and have won 14 straight regular season games.
The Bulldogs have had some close calls in 2013. They won 52-51 in overtime vs. Rutgers, beat Boise State 41-40, won at Hawaii 42-37 and won at San Diego State 35-28 in overtime. They are coming off a bye week, but won impressively 48-10 at Wyoming on Nov. 9. The Cowboys had 82 second-half yards in that contest. Fresno State has played only nine games due to their Sept. 14 game at Colorado being canceled because of flooding.