Sophomore quarterback Cole Gautsche practiced fully Wednesday and is expected to play Saturday at Pittsburgh, Lobos football coach Bob Davie said on his radio show Wednesday evening.
Gautsche, the Lobos’ starting quarterback entering the season, left the team’s season-opening loss to UTSA with concussion symptoms. He didn’t make the trip to El Paso for Saturday’s 42-35 overtime victory over UTEP, and junior quarterback Clayton Mitchem played the entire game.
Davie said Tuesday that Mitchem would start against Pittsburgh. That hasn’t changed, Davie said Wednesday. But Gautsche “has had no setbacks,” he said, adding that he expects both quarterbacks to play.
THE RUN GAME: Pittsburgh coach Paul Chryst expressed respect for New Mexico’s running attack this week, but he’s also focused on establishing his own.
The Panthers (0-1), who play the Lobos (1-1) on Saturday in Pittsburgh, rushed for just 96 yards in their 41-13 loss to Florida State on Aug. 31. Part of the problem was an early deficit that forced them to play catch-up.
“We weren’t very good on first down (against the Seminoles),” Chryst told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “We need to stay ahead of the chains.”
New Mexico’s defense against the run so far this season should give the Panthers reason for optimism. The Lobos rank 103rd nationally in rushing defense at 218.5 yards per game. Their first two opponents, UTSA and UTEP, have averaged 5.5 yards per carry.
Regarding UNM’s option-based running game – largely stifled by UTSA but prolific (395 yards) against UTEP – Chryst said he and his staff are familiar with Navy and Georgia Tech, both option teams.
“It’s going to present itself a little different (than those attacks),” he said at his weekly news conference. “It’s more gun (formation) and pistol, but a lot of the principles carry over.
“It’s not like we’re just going to find the football and everyone can swarm to it. We’ve got to play disciplined.”
THE PASSING GAME: While Chryst intends to get the Panthers’ running game going against the Lobos, UNM coach Bob Davie said he also expects Pitt to test UNM’s young secondary with some deep passes.
“I anticipate they’ll throw the ball down the field on us,” he said. “We haven’t really been tested that much (with deep passes) early in the season. … I’m kind of anxious to see if we can respond.”
Davie noted that, while UTSA threw 34 passes against UNM and UTEP threw 20, future opponents Fresno State and Wyoming have thrown as many as 72 (the Bulldogs) and 44 (the Cowboys) passes in games this season.
“That part of our schedule is coming,” he said, “so I think it’s a good challenge for us to go up there (to Pittsburgh) and play against some quality, quality players.”
THE O-LINE SHUFFLE: With senior center Dillon Farrell out with an MCL injury, Davie said, the Lobos’ starting offensive line will consist of junior LaMar Bratton at center; senior Calvin McDowney and junior Jamal Price at guard; and senior Darryl Johnson and sophomore Johnny Vizcaino at tackle.
Price, 320 pounds, started the UTSA game at right tackle. Davie said his move to guard in tandem with McDowney, 345 pounds, gives UNM “a little more size in there, which is a good thing.”
CONFIDENCE IN ADAMS: Davie said he remains confident in kicker Justus Adams, who missed a 42-yarder against UTSA and a 21-yarder at UTEP.
Last year, Adams made nine of 12 field-goal attempts. He was 5-of-5 inside 30 yards and made his only attempt from beyond 40.
“He’s our guy,” Davie said.
TALKIN’ ABOUT PRACTICE: The Lobos practiced on University Stadium’s synthetic turf Wednesday because their grass practice fields were still soaked from Tuesday’s heavy rain.
Defensive end Paytron Hightower and inside linebacker Toby Ball missed practice due to illness.
LOBOS-UNLV ON TV: ROOT Sports will televise the Lobos’ Sept. 28 home game against UNLV, it has been announced. Kickoff is scheduled at 6 p.m.