Stevens: It's The Lobo Option Vs. Pass Happy Fresno State
Oct. 26, 2012
New Mexico Lobos Football - Mountain West - Vs Fresno State Bulldogs
When/Where: 1:30 p.m. (MT) Saturday - Branch Field - University Stadium
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
They will step onto Branch Field with their strengths coming from opposite ends of the playbook.
The New Mexico Lobos want to run. The Fresno State Bulldogs want to pass.
They are both excellent at what they do. The Lobos roll out 296.9 yards per game on the ground and Fresno State splits the air for 303.4 per game passing. UNM has Kasey Carrier with his gaudy 138.3 ground average. Fresno has Derek Carr tossing for 293.8 yard per game.
However, there is a difference. So far, the Lobos have put no fear into defensive units behind a passing attack that that averages 55.9 yards per game. Senior B.R. Holbrook, responsible for 51.9 of those yards, probably will not see the field on Saturday.
The Bulldogs have some dimension. The Bulldogs can run. They have 5-foot-7 Robbie Rouse, who averages 109.9 yards which is excellent considering this is a passing team. Rouse is almost like a bonus. His presence keeps defenses honest. He must be tackled.
The Bulldogs might have another edge in this conflict of offensive attacks. The Lobos know the Bulldogs can pass and run and have to prepare accordingly. But can the Lobos' pass?
If Holbrook (concussion) stays on the sidelines, Cole Gautsche will be behind the center. He is an outstanding freshman running the option. He averages 7.9 yards per carry, which even beats Carrier's 6.4 average.
But Gautsche has completed only two passes on the year and has only thrown the ball eight times. He has tossed one interception. He is a runner. But does UNM have the luxury of confining him to that ground role?
Here's another way to put the two passing attacks into perspective: Fresno's leading receiver, Davante Adams, has more receptions (56) and more yards (616) than the total of the 14 Lobos, who have hauled in 52 passes for 447 yards.
"I'm sure Fresno is sitting there thinking, and it's legitimate, "Will they even throw a pass?" said Lobo Coach Bob Davie.
McCown is Gautsche's backup. He has thrown five passes this season in three games. Thomas and Carrier accept the snap out of the "Wildcat" formation, which is designed to run. The Wildcat puts the ball directly into a runner's hands and the quarterback is replaced by a better blocker.
Thomas and Carrier have not thrown any passes in 2012. No Lobo receiver has cracked double digits in receptions this season.
It will be interesting to see what Fresno State does with the line of scrimmage on Saturday when any of these Lobos are taking the snap. Will the Bulldogs crowd it and attack it? Will they simply think they are good enough to stop the option without making adjustments?
Air Force came up with a huge tackle on UNM's final offensive snap in the Lobos' 28-23 loss at Air Force. Thomas was in the Wildcat on fourth down. The Falcons didn't seem too concerned with the UNM receivers and Carrier, with 338 yards rushing, was on the bench. The Falcons blitzed. Thomas was tackled for a loss. Game over.
Fresno is good on defense. They are No. 2 in the Mountain in rushing defense (150.1), No. 2 in pass defense (177.2), No. 2 in scoring defense (21.8), and No. 2 in total defense (327.4). The UNM stats on the tacking side of the ball are not as impressive. UNM yields 413.9 total yards per game.
Davie calls Fresno the most balanced team in the league. They average 36.1 points on offense and give up 21.8 on defense. They are better than Boise State on offense and close to the Broncos on defense.
The Bulldogs scored 69 on Colorado, 25 on Oregon, 52 on Rocky Long's defense at San Diego State and scored 42 on Wyoming. The Fresno State defense held Wyoming to 83 yards rushing and held Oregon to 87 rushing yards in the second half. Fresno outscored Oregon 19-7 in the second half, but the Ducks were floating on a 35-6 lead.
The Bulldogs' target on Saturday will be Carrier, but also the option. The Lobos' target will be Carr, but also Rouse.
Davie says Fresno State's passing game has his secondary "backed into a corner." That means the Lobo secondary has no choice but to come out fighting. There is no place to run or hide.
The Bulldogs will look for yardage through the air. Carr is No. 3 in the nation when it comes to tossing TDs. He has 22 scoring throws. He has 2,350 yards on the year and completes 68 percent of his throws.
The Bulldogs' have another All-American candidate in senior safety Phillip Thomas, who leads the nation with seven interceptions in 2012. But will Thomas get a shot at an interception come Saturday?
Well, not if the Lobos have their way.
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.