Lobos defense to be tested at LSU - or is it vice versa? - Albuquerque Journal

Lobos defense to be tested at LSU — or is it vice versa?

Brian Kelly spoke with a bit of nonchalance on Thursday when he said that LSU star wide receiver Kayshon Boutte will miss Saturday’s game against New Mexico to be with his girlfriend for the birth of their child.

Boutte and his girlfriend welcomed a baby boy later that day.

Perhaps Kelly didn’t seem too worried that Boutte will be gone on Saturday because the Tigers (2-1) are rather loaded at the wide receiver position. With UNM (2-1) expected to play mostly man defense in its backfield, the receivers could have a big day for 31½-point favorite LSU in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, for the first-ever meeting between the two teams.

Jack Bech, who led the Tigers in receptions (43) as a true freshman last year, is expected to fill in as the slot receiver with Boutte gone. Bech has two receptions for 22 yards and a touchdown this season.

Malik Nabers, another sophomore, leads the Tigers in receptions (14), receiving yards (199) and yards per catch (14.2). He was named a captain for Saturday’s game. Kyren Lacy, a Louisiana Lafayette transfer; the speedy Brian Thomas, who has 11 career starts; and Chris Hilton Jr. are expected to be in the rotation at wide receiver, Kelly said.

The Lobos counter with the strength of their defense – especially a secondary led by senior safety Jerrick Reed II, a preseason All-Mountain West Conference selection who had four pass break-ups in the Lobos’ 27-10 win over UTEP last week.

UNM coach Danny Gonzales refers to junior Donte Martin as the top cornerback in the MWC. Sophomore A.J. Odums had a strong performance when the Lobos played at Texas A&M last year and will be looked to for a big game again Saturday in UNM’s guaranteed money game. The Tigers are paying $1.6 million in total to UNM.

New Mexico’s defensive backfield meanwhile has suffered a big loss. Junior safety Tavian Combs is out for the season due to a torn ACL in his left knee sustained against the Miners.

A.J. Haulcy, who was named Mountain West freshman of the week after causing two turnovers against UTEP, will start in his place, and 6-foot-4, 200-pound redshirt freshman Benji Johnson is expected to see some time at the “Lobo” safety position in UNM’s 3-3-5 scheme.

Johnson and the 5-11, 220-pound Haulcy split time against UTEP after Combs’ injury, and Haulcy “got the hot hand,” Gonzales said.

“Benji was the best one about it,” Gonzales said. “Benji was A.J.’s No. 1 cheerleader.”

QUITE THE COMBO: With LSU wearing purple on Saturday, UNM will wear its white uniforms that have the turquoise accent, and for the second time this season, the Lobos will wear their cherry-colored helmets.

Since 2000, LSU wears purple for nonconference games at home, with the exception of the season opener, when it always wears white.

THAT’S WHAT FRIENDS ARE FOR: Gonzales said he speaks to his friend, Zach Arnett, at least once a week. Arnett, a La Cueva High graduate who played at UNM and has coached with Gonzales, is the defensive coordinator at Mississippi State, which lost 31-16 last week to the Tigers. Gonzales acknowledged that they did speak about LSU this week and noted that the Lobos’ 3-3-5 scheme is a bit different from what LSU saw last week from Arnett and the Bulldogs.

Home » From the newspaper » Lobos defense to be tested at LSU — or is it vice versa?


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