Stevens: Lobos Face Bully Frogs in MW Trip To TCU
Oct. 20, 2011
New Mexico Lobos Football - On The Mountain West Road
Who: New Mexico Lobos at TCU Horned Frogs
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
Into the Valley of the Shadow of Horned Frogs rides .... OK, we admit using this intro before, but it`s still appropriate for a Lobo trip into dark and threatening territory. Last time the shadowed valley metaphor applied to New Mexico`s visit to Arkansas and that was a mean, mother bear of a test for the young Lobos.
Their journey into TCU territory is a test of similar demands and challenges and the shadow of the Horned Frogs casts a dark shade on any team venturing into Fort Worth expecting to squash some Frogs. TCU has won 22 of its past 23 home games and has won 19 consecutive Mountain West games.
These are bully Frogs.
There is one major difference in this charge of Lobos into foreign land and that's being led by a new leader in interim head coach George Barlow. However, not a lot of other things have changed for the Lobos. They are winless on this trip, heavy underdogs to TCU and struggling on both sides of the football to find positive production.
"I've kind of been thrown into this on the run, but I'm going to continue to evaluate both sides of the ball and try to find out the things that they do well," said Barlow. "We know TCU is a tremendous challenge."
The Lobos are struggling on the field and struggling on the chalkboard in finding things that work. You have to give Barlow credit in his willingness to be creative in that search. He tried a 3-man front vs. Nevada, used two quarterbacks vs. Nevada, didn't snap the ball as quickly, and even went to a direct snap to a running back.
He might try these things against TCU and is even thinking about abandoning the no-huddle offense in an attempt to slow down the game.
Barlow is realistic about his 0-6 Lobos' challenge at TCU. He is hoping to hang around with the Frogs and be in the game in the fourth quarter.
"I'm a pretty positive guy and the kids are pretty resilient," he said. "The kids are ready to go out and play again. The kids have a good look in their eye. I have to keep evaluating to find something on offense and defense that we do well that will give us a chance to win in the fourth quarter.
"We're not going to give up."
If the Lobos hope to be hanging around in the fourth quarter, they need to change what is happening on the field in the previous three quarters. The first quarter has been particularly cruel for Lobos, as they have been outscored 84-10. The third quarter also has been nasty with a 49-7 edge for the enemy.
The fourth quarter has been kinder with UNM in a 56-48 hole, but a lot of that Lobo scoring has come with the game long decided.
TCU might not be as explosive on offense as Arkansas or even Nevada, but the Frogs can turn basic plays into touchdowns. The non-explosive Frogs of 2010 beat UNM 66-17. TCU rolled Portland State 55-13 in Fort Worth. The Frogs average 441.5 yards on offense and yield an un-Frog-like 391 yards on defense.
TCU likes a balanced attack and that lean to the run game can keep a score manageable -- if you don't let the Frogs run and run and run. Or break big plays. Portland State ran 78 total plays on offense to 53 for TCU but lost by 42 points. TCU had scoring plays of 66 yards (pass), 65 yards (run), 73 yards (pass) and 82 yards (kickoff return).
The Frogs were looking to throw up a balanced attack around sophomore quarterback Casey Pachall, who had to replace Andy Dalton in the huddle. The Frogs have that balance behind Waymon James, Matthew Tucker and Ed Wesley, who respectively average 7.8, 4.7 and 6.7 yards per carry. Those three Frogs all have more yards than any Lobo carrier.
"They do a great job of running the ball. They run through people," said Barlow.
The 6-foot-5 Pachall isn't shy about passing the football. He has completed 69 percent of his passes for 1,391 yards with 15 scores and four picks. UNM's B.R. Holbrook and Tarean Austin have combined for 1,397, but their combined efficiency rating of 114.8 doesn't compare to Pachall's 161.6.
"He is a tough kid," said Barlow. "He takes some shots and he comes back. He stands in there and throws the ball."
Pachall probably is looking forward to throwing the ball at the Lobos. UNM has only five sacks on the year and the UNM defense has done a good job in making opposing quarterbacks look good.
The enemy arms are averaging a 174.6 rating and 287.8 yards per game. Pachall has averaged 231.8 yards per game in six starts, but TCU averages 209.7 yards on the ground. UNM averages 129.8 yards on the run.
Barlow said two things that need to happen vs. TCU -- establishing a running game and pressuring the QB -- were positives at Nevada.