Stevens: Holes In Lobos' Run Game Need To Be Up Front
Aug. 18, 2011
FAN PHOTO DAY: The New Mexico Lobos football teams will hold Fan Photo Day at 4 p.m., Saturday in University Stadium. The event is free and includes a 2-plus hour scrimmage and a photo/autograph session with the players and coaches. Fans can enter through Gate 4 at the northwest corner.
NEW MEXICO LOBOS IN RUIDOSO
By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
RUIDOSO, NM. -- He charged out of the backfield without hesitation - a freshman looking for a hole. As it is with the run game, sometimes the hole is there and sometimes it isn't pretty what the defense will do to a freshman with no place to run.
On this play, there was a hole. Not a huge hole, but a workable one. Lobo Crusoe Gongbay, a 6-foot, 196-pound rookie to D-I football, played it well. He shifted to the right with his shoulders just enough to get the defense to lean - or think - right. Then he planted a strong right foot and cut back into the hole. He made good yardage.
"First down," shouted Lobo Coach Mike Locksley.
"Way to go offense," shouted a UNM defender. Yes, defender.
That's the way it is with these Lobos. They are a family in a dilemma of sorts. They want to look good in their position and what they do. They are fighting for spots. They want to play. But the success of all Lobos depends on the success of other Lobos.
The offense needs the defense. The defense needs the offense.
On Wednesday afternoon in the plush fields loaned to UNM by the Village of Ruidoso's parks & rec department, the Lobos spent a lot of time working out kinks in their running game.
At times, the defense made a play. At times, the offense and the running game looked good. That's the way it should be. That's the way it needs to be.
And even though Locksley's multi-look, multi-attack offense features a bevy of fleet and dangerous receivers, the running game is pivotal to any and all attacks.
"Our style of offense really starts with running the football," said Locksley. "I think the skill level on the perimeter will help open our running game, but it needs to be efficient on its own merit, too.
"We are going to see more concentration on coverage which should open up the box for us to have numbers to efficiently run the football. Now, we have to do it."
To run the ball efficiently, it helps to have a good mix of running backs. The Lobos have speed on quickness in Gongbay, Kasey Carrier, and Demarcus Rogers - three tailbacks, who have gotten a lot of carries in Ruidoso. They also have power in James Wright, a 5-11, 227-pound bullish senior, and Chris Biren, 6-2, 255-pound sophomore.
Carrier and Wright combined for 193 carries last season. Carrier gained 372 yards and Wright added 304 yards. Carrier has been banged up a bit in fall camp and Gongbay has gotten a lot of touches.
"I like the work," Gongbay said. "The more carries, the more I learn because we go over everything in film, so I get to see what my mistakes are. The learning curve is big for me because this offense is more complicated than anything I've ever run.
"When I look at film, I see holes I could have hit. It's a learning process on my part. "
There are enough tools in the backfield to run the football. But what about the big boys in the trenches responsible for opening the holes?
"It all starts with the guys up front," said Locklsey. "Coach Hud (Ron Hudson) has done a good job of getting those guys to understand the footwork, the pad level, and the intensity they need to be successful up front.
"It's a young group, but worrying about how young we are isn't going to help us. Not many people care that they we are young, so we have to grow them up as fast as we can."
There was some good growth on Wednesday. The growth should continue because there are a lot of O-linemen, who simply need time - and games - in order to improve.
Dillon Farrell, a 6-5, 290-pound sophomore with a NFL look to him, is the only full-time starter back from 2010. Mike Muniz is the only senior with any real experience, but he has seen limited playing time in his former seasons as a Lobo.
Hudson also has a unit featuring six sophomores and five freshmen. UNM added Larry Mazyck, a 6-7, 332-pound freshman, to the roster this week. Mazyck will practice with the Lobos for the first time today (Thursday). He has some catching up to do.
On Saturday, the Lobos scrimmaged in Ruidoso High's stadium, with officials, in game-like situations. The run game looked anything but spectacular and it was clear that the defense dominated the action.
But Hudson, a high-energy coach of passion and purpose, said his review of the scrimmage film had him leaving the film room with an air of optimism.
"It wasn't that bad," he said. "We weren't that far off on Saturday. We were off, but not that far.
"One play it was a guard with a bad step. One play it was a quarterback with a bad step. One play it was a running back with a bad step. It's just little details that are crucially important and we aren't fine-tuned enough yet. But we are getting better every day.
"We made some adjustments and we are starting to run the ball better. Our guys are developing poise and confidence in what we are doing and it's showing. I have great kids, who are letting me coach them, who buy into what we are doing, and that allows us to get better every day. "
At the end of the scrimmage work on Wednesday, Hudson gathered his O-line and told them to go congratulate the running backs on their good work. It was a nice - smart - gesture. It was a band of Lobo brothers pulling closer together.
"It's always good to show some love and get some love," said Gongbay. "We also want them to know that we appreciate what they do."