SATURDAY: New Mexico (3-7, 1-5 Mountain West) at Fresno State (No. 15 AP, No. 16 Coaches, 9-0, 6-0)
TIME/LOCATION: 2:02 p.m. MT, Bulldog Stadium in Fresno, Calif.
TV: ESPNews (Comcast 102, 246 HD, DirecTV 207, Dish 142)
The University of New Mexico makes his first trip to Fresno, Calif., in 18 years when it travels to play the Fresno State Bulldogs (No. 15 in The Associated Press poll and No. 16 in the Coaches Poll) on Saturday. Both teams were members of the Western Athletic Conference back then.
Despite playing without quarterback Cole Gautsche and running back Kasey Carrier in the second half last weekend, UNM registered its seventh game of at least 30 points this season, tying a school record. It’s the first time since 1997 that the Lobos have registered seven games of at least 30 points.
UNM is ranked No. 2 in the nation in rushing with an average of 323.8 yards per game. Despite rushing for “only” 278 yards vs. the Rams last week, that total was 141 yards more than UNM had at CSU in 2012. The Lobos are tied for No. 5 in the country in rushing touchdowns with 35 on the season.
Kick returner Carlos Wiggins has two 100-yard returns for TDs this season, getting his second Saturday vs. CSU. Wiggins was a College Football Performance Awards National Kick Returner of the Week. He leads the Mountain West and ranks No. 7 in the nation with an average of 28.8 yards per return. He’s No. 2 in the Mountain West and 23rd in the nation in all-purpose-yard average at 132.1 yards per game, with a nation-leading 922 yards this season coming on kickoffs. The two returns for TDs also is tied for No. 1 in the country.
Running back Kasey Carrier has 1,122 rushing yards this season to rank ninth on UNM’s single-season rushing list. Carrier is the first Lobo with back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons since Rodney Ferguson in 2008.
Senior punter Ben Skaer is No. 4 in the nation in punting at 46.5 yards per attempt. Even more impressive is the fact that he has not punted since Nov. 2 at San Diego State. During the 2010 season, Skaer’s first as the starting punter, UNM averaged 7.25 punts per game. This season, the Lobos are averaging 3.1 punts per game.
UNM is nationally ranked in several other categories. It is tied for No. 4 in the nation in interceptions thrown with four on the season. The Lobos are No. 5 in net punting at 41.2 yards per attempt and tied for No. 5 in fewest penalties per game at 3.7. UNM is sixth in fewest penalty yards per game at 32.1, No. 8 in red-zone offense with a 92.1 percent success rate (35 scores in 38 possessions) and No. 20 in time of possession with an average of 32 minutes, 18 seconds per game.
UNM’s home attendance for six games during the 2013 season was 141,220 fans, an increase of 7,380 fans over last season (1,230 fans per game). The average attendance in 2013 was 23,537, and the percentage increase in attendance from 2012 was 5.5 percent. The 141.220 fans in 2013 represent an increase of 21,060 fans in total home attendance from 2011, the year before coach Bob Davie arrived. The average attendance in 2011 was 20,027 — 3,510 fewer than the 2013 average.
THE STARTING LINEUP
The University of New Mexico travels to Fresno, Calif., for the first time since 1995 when it visits Fresno State on Saturday. Both teams were Western Athletic Conference members then.
Fresno State has won the last three meetings. Last season on Branch Field, the Lobos jumped out to a 21-0 lead in the first half but lost both quarterbacks B.R. Holbrook and Cole Gautsche to injury in the first 30 minutes and couldn’t keep up with the Bulldogs offense. Fresno State ended up with a 49-32 victory.
The Lobos offense currently is averaging 438.4 yards per game, which would rank fifth on the school’s all-time list for yards per game in a season. UNM is on pace to surpass the 5,000-yard offensive mark for just the sixth time in school history, and its current scoring average of 34.8 points per game would break the previous school record of 34.0 points per game set in 1982.
UNM also has tied the school record for most 30-point games in a season, accomplishing that feat seven times to match the 1997 and 1994 Lobo teams.
The 1994 UNM team averaged 472 yards per game and ranked sixth in the country in total offense. That 1994 team’s total offense average per game would rank just 24th in the nation this season.
The Lobos’ rushing offense (a 323.8-yard average) is just shy of the pace to reach the 4,000-yard mark for the season. Only the 1971 team, with 4,229 yards, has surpassed that mark in school history (a 384.5 yards-per-game average). The current Lobo rushing offense would finish with 3,886 yards at its current pace.
UNM VS. THE NATIONALLY RANKED
The Lobos have a 7-51 record against nationally-ranked teams. The breakdown is 5-24 at home, 4-23 in University Stadium, 2-26 on the road, and 0-1 at neutral sites. UNM’s last win against a nationally-ranked opponent came on Oct. 25, 2003 when the Lobos defeated No. 23 Utah 47-35 in Salt Lake City.
In that game, UNM rushed for 407 yards and amassed 633 total yards against a Utes team coached by current Ohio State coach Urban Meyer and quarterbacked by current Kansas City Chief Alex Smith. UNM offensive line coach Jason Lenzmeier was an offensive tackle in that game. The last nationally ranked squad UNM beat at home also was Utah when the Utes were No. 8 in 1994. The Lobos beat the Utes 23-21.
The Lobos lost 45-0 to No. 17/15 Texas on Sept. 8, 2012. UNM’s 32-29 loss to No. 24 Boise State on Sept. 29, 2012 was the closest the Lobos have come to an upset since that 2003 win at Utah.