ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Davie’s Team More Physical With Play
For the past three seasons, the terms “physical” and “University of New Mexico football” were associated only when players visited a doctor for routine examinations.
The program’s vital signs were barely discernible.
When he was hired last November, coach Bob Davie said making the Lobos a physical team was his highest priority.
Progress is being made toward that goal, perhaps sooner and faster than anyone thought possible.
Last Saturday at University Stadium, the UNM offensive line punched holes in the Texas State defense as the Lobos rushed for 361 yards – their highest total for a game since they amassed 416 yards in a 70-7 rout of San Diego State on Oct. 18, 2008.
Four times in six games this season, the Lobos (3-3) have rushed for more than 300 yards. They rank eighth nationally with an average of 272 yards on the ground.
Many of the yards UNM has gained this year have come on option plays, in which the goal is not to overpower the defense but to force it into mistakes.
But against Texas State, as well as two weeks before in a 27-14 victory over New Mexico State, the Lobos ran straight at the defense – with great success.
Texas State’s defense will never be confused with Alabama’s, nor will New Mexico State’s.
Still, the past three years – winning just one game each year – the Lobos didn’t overpower anyone.
“I think we are (a more physical team),” Davie said on Sunday. “That’s encouraging. … That’s kind of the starting point, and I think the kids are buying in.”
Davie said the physicality of his team is not limited to the offensive line.
Running backs Kasey Carrier and Jhurell Pressley consistently gained yards after contact in combining for 269 yards on 43 carries against Texas State. Carrier weighs 180 pounds, Pressley 190.
The defense was physical as well, limiting Texas State to 32 yards net rushing on 20 attempts. Bobcats quarterback Shaun Rutherford was sacked five times.
“(Saturday) in the second half was the best we’ve been (defensively),” Davie said. “Was it because Texas State caved in a little bit? I don’t know, but it was the best we’ve been for a consistent period of time.”
Across the board, Davie said, credit strength-and-conditioning coach Ben Hilgart.
“I think it’s obvious he’s had an impact on this, not just at the offensive line positions but all the positions.
“… As I said when I hired him, I thought he was the most important hire in the program.”
FRAN SAYS: Texas State coach Dennis Franchione, UNM’s head coach from 1992-97, gave the Bobcats a thumbs down but didn’t hesitate to credit the opposition.
“(The Lobos) did a great job up front,” Franchione told the San Marcos (Texas) Daily Record. “We struggled to get off blocks, didn’t defend our gap and didn’t make plays.
“… We’re having trouble running the football right now, which is disappointing.”
STAT SHEET: Carrier’s 191 yards rushing were the most gained by any running back in NCAA Football Subdivision play last weekend, according to espn.com.
… Possible good news for UNM: three of the Lobos’ future Mountain West opponents, including Hawaii, this Saturday’s opponent, rank in the bottom 15 in rushing defense. Wyoming and Colorado State are the other two.
ABOUT PRACTICE: Davie is giving his players two days off – Sunday and today – for the first time this season. Normally, the players have Sundays off but practice on Mondays.
“I was gonna give them Sunday and Monday off regardless (of the Texas State outcome),” he said. “It was just time to give them a day away from it.
Two of the team’s preseason goals, he said, were to beat New Mexico State and to be 3-3 after the Texas State game. Reaching those goals, he said, required a lot from the players.
“We pushed them, and it was time to give them two days off,” Davie said.
THE HAWAII TRIP: The Lobos will practice Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon, as usual, then practice early Thursday before leaving for Honolulu that afternoon.
Students are off Thursday and Friday for fall break.
— This article appeared on page B1 of the Albuquerque Journal