In Fort Collins, Colo., the story is Nordly Capi – the defensive end who almost single-handedly destroyed the New Mexico Lobos’ chances of beating his Colorado State Rams on Saturday.
In Albuquerque, as unseemly as it may be to point fingers at a 21-year-old making his first major-college start, the story has to be Korian Chambers – the offensive tackle who couldn’t keep Capi out of the UNM backfield.
Saturday at University Stadium, Capi achieved the following: seven total tackles, 3 1/2 sacks, 4 1/2 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles. That last statistic establishes an NCAA record.
UNM vs. Arkansas
at Little Rock
TV: ESPNU, 5 p.m.
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For his final trick, Capi forced and recovered a fumble by New Mexico quarterback Tarean Austin to abruptly end what could have been a game-winning UNM drive in the game’s final seconds. Colorado State won, 14-10 in the season and Mountain West Conference opener for both teams.
Almost all of Capi’s success came at the expense of Chambers, a 6-foot-6, 322-pound junior.
Chambers, heavily recruited out of Arizona Western College, was billed entering 2011 spring practice as the heir apparent to departed Lobos left tackle Byron Bell as the guy who could protect a right-handed quarterback’s blind side. But during the spring, he had considerable problems blocking speedy right defensive end Joseph Harris.
Quietly, the UNM coaching staff moved Chambers to right tackle, where his bulk and strength could be more effective in the running game. Chambers, in fact, fared well in that aspect on Saturday; most of Lobos running back James Wright’s 65 yards rushing against the Rams came behind the right side of the UNM offensive line.
Unfortunately for Chambers and the Lobos, however, it turns out that a speedy defensive lineman can be just as effective rushing from the left end as from the right.
Afterward, UNM coach Mike Locksley was asked if his offensive line had simply worn down. The Lobos had 212 yards total offense in the first half, 117 in the second. Most, though not all, of Capi’s damage was done in the second half.
The problem, Locksley said, was inexperience and failure to apply lessons taught during the spring and the fall.
“We’ve got to utilize the technique out on the edge that we were taught to do,” he said.
Locksley also said that Austin occasionally held the ball longer than he wanted to because a receiver had run the wrong route.
“Those are things that, from game one two game two, we have to get corrected,” Locksley said.
Elsewhere, there was plenty to like about the Lobos’ performance on Saturday.
The New Mexico defense, last season gashed by CSU for 584 yards total offense in a 38-14 defeat, this time held the Rams to 270 yards and 12 first downs.
Colorado State was 4-of-13 on third-down conversions and 1-of-3 going for it on fourth down. Linebackers Dallas Bollema and Carmen Messina gave the Rams fits, combining for 21 total tackles. The secondary and defensive line were solid.
“The defense, hopefully, is gonna keep doing that all year,” Bollema said.
There were positives from the offense, as well.
Austin fumbled four times, two of those killing drives, but threw no interceptions. He rushed for 105 yards, minus sack yardage, and found Lamaar Thomas with a 27-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter. He finished with 20 completions in 31 attempts for 179 yards.
Eight of his completions went to freshman wide receiver Deon Long. One of those, a 25-yarder, set up a 33-yard James Aho field goal.
“No doubt, we’re hurting,” Austin said afterward, “but we’ve got to move on and go to next week (against Arkansas).”
— This article appeared on page B1 of the Albuquerque Journal