Stevens: Lobos & CSU Rams Have a Lot In Çommon
Aug. 24, 2011
LOBO FOOTBALL - AT UNIVERSITY STADIUM
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
He is a coach coming off back-to-back losing seasons and feeling some heat. He has juggled a few things in his coaching staff.
He has a young team and must rely on a number of inexperienced newcomers, but he likes his team's improved talent and attitude.
He says his 2011 team is the deepest it has been since he took over as head coach and thinks his offense will be "pretty good." He thinks the chemistry on the team is at an all-time high.
He says he will be very disappointed at the season's end, if his team is not in a bowl.
He realizes that the game Sept. 3 in University Stadium is a pivotal one not only because it is a Mountain West game, but because it will set an early tone for the confidence of his team.
Meet Colorado State's Steve Fairchild. If you think there are more than a few similarities between Fairchild and New Mexico Lobos' Coach Mike Locksley, well, you are right.
Fairchild, in his fourth season at CSU, is a season up on Locksley, who is entering his third year at UNM. Still, they are looking at similar hurdles and similar progress in their programs.
And if you think the Sept. 3 clash between Fairchild and Locksley, Ram and Lobos, is huge, well, you are right again. It goes down as one of the more pivotal openers of the 2011 season.
For sure, the game doesn't create a dead end for the loser or a bowl bid for the winner. There are lots more games to be played. But for CSU, coming off back-to-back 3-9 seasons, and UNM, coming off back-to-back, 1-11 seasons, it would benefit both teams not to let any 50-50 games slip away.
So, is the UNM/CSU game a 50-50 affair? Probably so, even though CSU hammered the young Lobos 38-14 last season in Fort Collins, Colo., after racking up 584 total yards on the Lobos.
The difference between 2010 and 2011 should be the additions and changes the Lobos have made to their team. The game also will be played in Albuquerque.
The Rams and the Lobos are both still young, products of coaches trying to build programs and not simply teams for a season. That young talent obviously has to produce for both teams, but New Mexico is keying heavily on first-year Lobos to make a huge impact.
Locksley expects that to happen and those expectations are why the third-year Lobo coach believes his 2011 Lobos can win at least six games and reach a bowl.
UNM has revamped its secondary with young speed that not only provides depth, but also is providing competition for playing time and spots on the two-deep roster. True freshman tailback Crusoe Gongbay has been impressive in fall drills, and minor injuries to other running backs could turn Gongbay into a starter.
The infusion of speed and talent on the receiving corps is obvious and impressive, especially behind transfers Lamaar "Flash" Thomas and Deon Long. These are quick, explosive receivers that give the Lobos a different look on the edge. True freshman Daniel Adams also has been a standout in fall drills with hands and routes that contradict his rookie status.
Another area that should be dramatically impacted by UNM's infusion of talent and speed is the special teams which had trouble in 2010 in almost every facet of the return game. That team now has better and faster athletes running down the field. It also allows UNM to leave starters on the bench during special team action.
Of course, that's New Mexico's side of the story. In Fort Collins, they are talking about young Rams, who are also bigger, better, faster and deeper. And hungry to turn a corner with the 2011 season.
The first look at the corner comes Sept. 3 in University Stadium. One team will stick a foot around the edge. The other team, the losing team, will have to wait for another day.
The outcome between Lobos and Rams can't really be predicted. But you can say this about the game: It's a must-see game that's going to be huge.
NEW MEXICO LOBOS 2011 FOOTBALL/TV SCHEDULE