New Mexico Lobos Football – vs. UTEP Miners
When/Where: 6 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 30 – Branch Field/University Stadium
On The Air: 770-AM-KKOB/Lobo Radio; Mountain West Network
By Richard Stevens – Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
The UTEP Miners hit University Stadium early. They were there on Friday. The Miners’ pro-set offense was in full gear. The Miners’ rugged Nathan Jeffery and speedster Aaron Jones were carrying the football.
The UTEP 4-2-5 defense was on the attack.
“We tried to simulate UTEP’s offense, UTEP’s defense and special teams,” Lobo Coach Bob Davie said after UNM’s rainy-day practice Friday in University Stadium.
There were Lobos down in El Paso, too. The Miners are doing their best to simulate an option attack they really can’t simulate because this is a Lobo attack that has been fine tuned in UNM’s previous two seasons. You simply can’t simulate how Lobo Cole Gautsche orchestrates the option. The Miners don’t have a 235-pound quarterback, who runs likes a freight train.
But the Miners are trying. Ditto for UNM in trying to imitate what UTEP does on offense and defense. It’s simply that time in fall camp where Lobo coaches and Miner coaches are doing their best to prepare their teams for what they might see in next Saturday’s season opener for both teams on Branch Field.
Of course, there will be some guessing. Do the two teams really know what each other will do come Saturday?
A story in the El Paso Times said: “Like UTEP, New Mexico will release a depth chart, and like UTEP, there may be some gamesmanship on it in terms of disguising a few positions.”
Maybe. But some things can’t be hidden. There will be running next Saturday in University Stadium. You can bet that Gautsche, Jeffery and Jones will carry the football.
UTEP coach Sean Kugler told the El Paso Times: "It's important to understand what personnel they are in, what type of plays they run out of which personnel groups. In the first game, it can be hard to tell."
Still, there is a lot the two teams do know about each other. The Miners will come with Jeffery and Jones and the Lobos’ strength is still the option. But how much will the two teams test the youth in the defensive backfields?
The Miners have a mock game scheduled for the Sun Bowl and then are scheduled to take two days off before returning to the practice fields on Tuesday. The Miners will look to be prepared but rested for a physical Lobo team.
Davie’s Lobos also went over game-day mechanics on Friday. However, working to stop what UTEP does on offense is a huge key for Lobo success. Ditto for UTEP.
The Lobos won 42-35 last season in the Sun Bowl but UNM gave up 399 yards on defense and UTEP allowed 483 total yards. UNM ran for 395 yards and UTEP ran for 280.
So, you think there will be two offenses expecting to roll out some rushing yards next Saturday?
“Neither team could really stop either team last year when the offenses had the ball,” said Davie. “That game last year came down to one inch, literally one inch to decide who won and who lost.
“They obviously think they’re better (improved). We like to think we’re better (improved). They have a defense I think will play much faster because it’s their second year in the system. I think our defense plays much faster. I think they are a lot like us.”
The Miners’ offense in 2013 moved the ball better than it scored. There was production in yardage, but not as much production on the UTEP side of the scoreboard. UNM moved the ball well and scored well. Both teams need to take a big jump on the defensive side of the football in order to find consistent success in 2014.
Lobos’ Scout Team Looking Good: A key factor in simulating another team’s offense and defense is being able to do it at speed – and with comparable talent. The Lobos are a much deeper team in 2014 and that means there is more talent on the Lobo scout team.
That means when UNM is simulating the UTEP offense or the UTEP defense, the Lobo scout team is throwing out a more realistic test.
“We have some really good players on the scout team,” said Davie.
The scout team always has a few players that will play in the current season, but it’s also a testing and growing environment for younger players who a program prefers to redshirt.
“For the first time, we are able to take some talented players and maybe be patient and don’t use guys (eligibility) up,” said Davie. “We all want to get this done this year, no one more than I do, but I want to use good judgment and patience.
“There are good players that we might err on the side of maybe not playing because we want to give them a little more seasoning.”
This is a luxury the Lobos really didn’t have over the past two seasons.
Editor's Note: Richard Stevens is a former award-winning Sports Columnist and Associate Sports Editor at The Albuquerque Tribune. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.