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Lobo QB Gautsche May Play

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Sophomore quarterback Quinton McCown (9) is still learning New Mexico’s offense. (jim thompson/journal)

Holbrook doesn’t need surgery; Lobos to expand offense

The New Mexico Lobos’ bag of tricks from the wildcat formation goes far deeper than the plays opponents have seen through UNM’s first nine games.

The deeper in that bag the Lobos go, though, the more danger lurks in the execution.

On Sunday, UNM coach Bob Davie was cautiously optimistic about the Lobos’ quarterback situation.

True freshman Cole Gautsche, who sustained a neck injury during the first quarter of Saturday’s 49-32 loss to Fresno State, might be available next Saturday when the Lobos play UNLV in Las Vegas.

“It’s probably a little more positive than (it looked on Saturday),” Davie said. “They’re always really cautious with neck injuries, but it’s going to be day to day.”

It’s possible that senior quarterback B.R. Holbrook, who suffered a shoulder separation in the second quarter, could return before the season is over – though likely not until the last game of the season.

“The good news is there’s no surgery,” Davie said.

Regardless, with No. 3 quarterback Quinton McCown limited in his ability to execute the offense, the Lobos (4-5, 1-3) will need to expand their wildcat package with wide receiver Lamaar Thomas and/or running back Kasey Carrier as the functioning quarterback.

“Even if Cole is ready, we’re still going to have to get more productivity from different guys at that position,” Davie said.

During fall camp, the Lobos worked on a number of wildcat plays that first-year offensive coordinator Bob DeBesse had used successfully the previous two seasons at Sam Houston State. But, as he and Davie pared down the playbook to eliminate things that hadn’t been consistently executed, these plays disappeared.

“We’ve been pretty conservative with it,” Davie said. “The next step is, we have to become a little more aggressive with it. We have no other choice.”

Against Fresno State, after first Gautsche and then Holbrook exited, the Lobos’ offensive bread and butter – the option – languished.

The full wildcat package includes an option element, Davie said, but to expect precise execution from a non-quarterback, making the right decision and (if necessary) making a timely and accurate pitch, is expecting a lot.

“Always, the biggest issue is ball security,” Davie said. “… It’s always a little bit of a risk taking a guy as a wildcat quarterback and asking him to do all that stuff.”

Nevertheless, he and DeBesse are asking.

CREDIT THE OTHER GUY: In the second half against Air Force on Oct. 20, with both Gautsche and Holbrook out of the game, UNM was able to run the ball effectively out of the wildcat. The Lobos rushed for 155 yards during the final two quarters.

Against Fresno State, not so much. New Mexico had all of 10 yards total offense in the third quarter against the Bulldogs.

“First of all, Fresno State was good,” Davie said. “Their nose guard (Tyeler Davison) wa a force in there the whole game. … They really did realize that we were very limited getting the ball on the perimeter after Cole went out, certainly then even more so after B.R. went out.

“Part of it was, they were they were really good and got after us a little bit. The other part was, we were really limited.”

With Gautsche or Holbrook in the game, and with UNM’s option game working, the early story was different.

“It’s not that you look at the tape and say, ‘Boy, they really gave you option… That wasn’t the case.

“But, early in the game, just mixing (the option) in there puts them back on their heels a little bit.”

IT’S NOT ABOUT UNLV: The Lobos play at UNLV next Saturday in a game vitally important to UNM’s hopes for a bowl bid. The Rebels, Davie said, are much better than their 1-8 season record suggests.

But, he added, “more than ever, it’s all about us. It’s us trying to put a plan together. … It’s a pretty significant challenge for us.”
— This article appeared on page B1 of the Albuquerque Journal


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