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Stevens: Lobos' Passing Game Could be Explosive
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  08/07/2014

By Richard Stevens – Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

To throw the football or to not throw the football isn’t exactly the New Mexico question.  The Lobos will throw it. The Lobos want to throw it.

They will run it more.

However, it’s possible that the scales in Bob DeBesse’s  Pistol offense have shifted slightly toward the aerial game.  For several reasons:

1. Kasey Carrier (1,222 yards in 2013) has graduated. Can he be replaced?

2. The offense line lost Dillon Farrell and Darryl Johnson and only two returning starters are in Camp Ruidoso: LaMar Bratton and Johnny Vizcaino.

3. The passing game has improved..

4. Coach Bob Davie really wants his Lobos to have a few more tools on their tool belt for the 2014 season.

“You have to hold judgment until the lights are on in the stadium,” said Davie. “But the passing game, at least as far as in Ruidoso, it’s the best it has ever been in Ruidoso. 

“It looks different across the board and not just with Cole (Gautsche), but with Clayton Mitchem --  and the younger guys throw it pretty good.  Our receivers are stepping up.  It looks like we have some juice. We have some playmaking ability.”

Davie made a point when he opened fall camp that his Lobos don’t necessarily have to throw the football in order to move it – or to win – because their option attack has produced one of the top running games in the nation. 

But a potent passing game is helpful. 

“We have to keep the defense on their heels,” said Carlos Wiggins, who caught only 13 passes in 2013. “If they see us running the ball, running the ball, we can bust them up in the open field with a throw. They (defense) won’t know what to do. 

“I think we’ll be effective throwing the ball and a defense won’t know what to do.”

Most defenses didn’t know what to do with the UNM option over the past two seasons.  That option topped the Mountain West with a 308.8 yard average in 2013.  But UNM completed the fewest passes (90) in the MW.  To put that number into perspective, there were three MW receivers who had more than 90 grabs in 2013 and Fresno State completed 460 passes.

Different strokes for different folks.  Still, Davie and DeBesse want defenses to show concern when Gautsche or Mitchem fall back into the pocket.

“We are encouraged by seeing we are calling more pass plays and completing them,” said Marquis Bundy, a 6-foot-4 junior, who gives UNM a big target and a capable deep threat. “I definitely feel like we have improved.”

Said Kevin Cosgrove, UNM’s defensive coordinator:  “The offense has done a great job throwing the deep ball. They have been very accurate with the deep ball and you see the improvements.” 

Bundy and Jeric Magnant, a 6-foot senior, led UNM in receptions last year with 19 each.  The Lobos averaged 308.8 yards rushing and 113 yards passing in 2013.  That’s not a bad ratio for a team that butters its bread via the option.

But not only is it helpful to be able to pass the ball, sometimes it is necessary.  And when it’s necessary, that’s when you really have to be good at it.

“Being a receiver, we like to see the ball thrown,” said Ridge Jones, a 5-foot-10 speedster. “Hopefully, there will be more big plays in the passing game this year.”

The key to UNM’s passing game isn’t simply the good hands waiting for the ball.  The quarterback has to hit his targets.  The offensive line has to give the QB time to find his targets. 

Mitchem completed a respectable 59 percent of his passes in 2013.  Gautsche, a 235-pound wrecking ball, was exceptional running the option, but completed only 44.9 percent of his throws.

”This year Cole is really on point with his passing,” said Jones, who had three receptions last season.

The Lobos averaged 7.7 yards per  attempt in 2013.  However, there were only two teams in the 12-team MW which had a better average per attempt. The Lobos simply didn’t throw the ball as often as most of the other MW teams.  UNM was No. 11 in the MW in passing and had 177 attempts.  The No. 10 team, Utah State, had 481 attempts.  Air Force, an option-heavy offense, had 174 attempts to fall into the No. 12 slot.

However, UNM was No. 1 in the Mountain averaging 6.1 yards per carry. That’s 12.2 yards in two carries. That’s why they ran it.

An improved passing game is something Davie and DeBesse would like to see in the continuing evolution of UNM’s Pistol offense.  However, there is another reason UNM would like to complete a few more passes in 2014.

There is that “juice” Davie is talking about – explosiveness.

 “It’s going to be dangerous,” Jones said of any defense that allows a UNM receiver to get the ball in open space.  “Speed kills and we have some speed.”

Editor's Note: Richard Stevens is a former national award-winning Sports Columnist and Associate Sports Editor at The Albuquerque Tribune. You can reach him at rstevens50@comcast.net.

New Mexico Lobos -- Wide Receivers 

81   Marquis Bundy WR 6-4 200 Jr. 2L Anthem, Ariz. (Boulder Creek HS)
22   Chris Davis WR 5-6 177 Fr. HS Westlake Village, Calif. (Oaks Christian HS)
85   Devin DesJarlais WR 5-11 192 RJr. SQ Elk Grove, Calif. (Butte College)
10   Tyler Duncan WR 6-0 195 Sr. 1L Long Beach, Calif. (Orange Coast College) (Long Beach Poly)
28   Dameon Gamblin WR 5-10 163 So. 1L Mesquite, Texas (Mesquite HS)
11   Ridge Jones WR 5-10 166 RSo. 1L DeSoto, Texas (DeSoto HS)
87   Jeric Magnant WR 6-0 190 RSr. 3L Rio Rancho, N.M. (Rio Rancho HS)
38   James McNeely WR 6-1 170 Fr. HS Albuquerque, N.M. (Valley HS)
84   Garrison Mitchell WR 5-11 182 Fr. HS Beaumont, Texas (Central HS)
82   Matt Quarrells WR 6-1 185 Fr. HS Florissant, Mo. (Hazelwood Central HS)
29   John Russo WR 5-11 182 RSo. 1L Albuquerque, N.M. (Eldorado HS)
46   Michael Walsh WR 6-1 194 RSo. SQ Albuquerque, N.M. (La Cueva HS)
24   Carlos Wiggins WR 5-8 162 Jr. 2L Plano, Texas (Plano West HS)
83   Jacob Willcox WR 6-0 175 Fr. HS Grants, N.M. (Grants HS)
Friday, September 26
6:00 PM - 
Football
vs. Fresno State
Saturday, October 04
1:30 PM - 
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at UTSA
Friday, October 10
7:30 PM - 
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vs. San Diego State
Saturday, October 18
1:30 PM - 
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at Air Force
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