New Mexico Lobos (2-4, 0-2} – Mountain West – Vs. Utah State (3-4, 2-1)
When/Where: 7:08 p.m., Saturday – Branch Field – University Stadium
TV: ROOT Sports (Comcast 261, DirecTV 683, Dish 414); Mountain West Network (game online subject to blackout on systems carrying ROOT Sports)
Radio: Lobo Radio Network (770-AM KKOB), ESPN Deportes (1450 KRZY-AM, Jose' 105.9 FM)
Game Promotion: Lobos Love Pink for Breast Cancer Awareness.
GoLobos.com: Game Story, Complete Statistics, Quotes, LoboTV
By Richard Stevens – Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
When 308-pound Baby D, also called Darryl Johnson, envisions the end of a block, he usually sees two things. He sees his target down on the ground or he sees his target 10 yards down the field.
“Baby D is a play-finisher,” said fellow O-lineman LaMar Bratton. “He is always driving someone 10 yards down the field. He is a great player because he is so consistently good. He doesn’t have a good game and then a bad game.”
Johnson also likes to drive his man into the turf, the grass, the ground. He has 44 knockdown blocks in 440 offensive snaps which isn’t bad, but not as impressive as the 81 registered by Bratton in 444 snaps.
“I like to give great effort on every play and finish my block,” said Johnson. “I try to be on my guy until the whistle blows. I like to give that extra effort.”
There are other things involved in evaluating a lineman besides pancaking an opponent to the ground. The grades handed down by O-line coach Jason Lenzmeier over New Mexico’s six games has Lenz making this bold statement about Johnson, who has graded the highest in every game: “He’s the best lineman.”
“I spend four hours after every game to see who grades the best and he grades the best,” said Lenzmeier. “The grades make the statement. He sets the standard for the other guys. He’s a pretty good player.”
Said Johnson: “I don’t feel like I’m the best. I’m happy to say I’m one of the best. I look at the offensive line as a one unit, one whole, and we all have to go out there and play good and play as a unit. If we don’t all play good, then I don’t feel I played good.”
Johnson and his fellow O-linemen are graded on a lot of things including technique, footwork, execution, and blocking the right guy the right way. However, there is another stat that reflects on Lenz’s O-line: offensive production.
The Lobos take to Branch Field on Saturday to play Utah State as the No. 2 rushing team in the nation. A week ago the Lobos were No. 1. The Lobos are averaging 349.3 yards per game. .
There are a lot of holes dug out of the UNM trenches for Kasey Carrier, Cole Gautsche and company and Johnson and his company of trench hogs are the guys putting on the hard hats and doing the digging.
“As an offensive lineman, that yardage is a reflection on us,” said Johnson. “We have to do our job so the backs can get their yardage.”
Usually, it’s the backs who take the bows (figuratively) in front of the media. But Carrier and the UNM backs are always quick to give credit to the wall in front of them. Johnson is a big part of that wall. He stands 6-foot-4 and weighs in at 308 pounds.
Johnson is blocking his way toward an All-Mountain West season and hopefully to the National Football League. The native of Baton Rouge, La., has some extra motivation to push for that NFL paycheck. He will become a father this month.
“That’s my biggest motivation,” said Johnson, who started 12 of 13 games in 2012 when UNM ended the season No. 5 in the nation in rushing. “I wake up every morning thinking about my daughter and I want to do everything I can to be the right kind of father.
“Of course, I want to go to the NFL, but in case I don’t make it, then I want to be ready to find another good job. I had to work to get my grades up and that's from coming to the conclusion that there is another life besides football and I plan on graduating.
“One thing that helped me understand the importance (of being a parent), was helping raise my sister. My parents were divorced and I tried to be the father figure of the house. I watched my sister grow from this little girl following me around everywhere to this mature, young lady having great success in college.
“Now, I get to do the same thing for my little girl.”
Yep, there is a soft side to Baby D. “He likes to sing and dance at practice and have a good time while he’s working,” said Lenzmeier.
Said Bratton: “Baby D is a great person to play next to. He always brings excitement and energy and transfers it to other guys. It’s a special thing that he has. He is that guy who brings everyone up because he is 100 percent energy.”
Baby D’s soft side probably won’t be seen on Branch Field Saturday, if you come watch the Lobos battle Utah State.
Johnson and the O-line have their work cut out for them. Utah State is statistically – and probably physically – the best defensive team in the Mountain West. They lead the MW in scoring defense (21.4), rushing defense (129.1 yards per game) and total defense (351.6 yards per game).
“It’s going to be a fight,” said Johnson. “We just have to keep swinging and make sure we finish the game.”
Of course, there is one finish you can count on: Darryl Johnson will finish his block.
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.