The math is simple, yet dramatic.
In the three football games the New Mexico Lobos have won this season, they have averaged 462 yards on the ground.
In the six games they’ve lost, the average is exactly 200 yards less.
Now comes Colorado State, a team that held the Lobos to only 137 yards rushing (a 3.7 average per carry) last season in Fort Collins. The Rams beat the Lobos 24-20, a game the Lobos could have won – only because senior quarterback B.R. Holbrook passed for 205 yards.
Saturday, a much-improved Colorado State team (5-5 overall, 3-2 in Mountain West play) comes to University Stadium.
Lobos coach Bob Davie said he expects much the same defensive approach from Colorado State that it used against the Lobos last year. The Rams have the third-ranked rushing defense in the MWC, 32nd in the nation.
“First of all, I think they’re stout inside,” Davie said after UNM’s practice Monday night. “… It will be how a lot of teams have played us. They’re gonna cover those guards up. They’ll be in a four-man front.
“They play a lot of man(-to-man) coverage. They get up there and crowd the box on you, like Utah State played us.”
Chances are, after rushing for 451 yards and throwing just three passes Friday in a 45-37 victory over Air Force, the Lobos (3-6, 1-4) will need a passing game against the Rams. Colorado State has been porous against the pass, allowing an average of 303 yards per game through the air.
But Holbrook is gone. And the Lobos rank 121st nationally in passing yards per game at just under 100.
Yet, Davie said, he has been pleased with the Lobos’ recent improvement in the passing game. Yes, Gautsche threw only three passes against Air Force – but one was a 28-yard completion to wide receiver Jeric Magnant for UNM’s first touchdown.
After that, the Lobos’ ground game was so effective that UNM didn’t need to throw.
“I felt like we probably could have thrown it some more (against Air Force),” Davie said. “… We certainly have a lot more confidence in throwing the ball now. I’m kind of anxious to watch Cole get a chance to throw it more.”
FRESNO STATE GAME: The Lobos’ Nov. 23 game at 16th-ranked Fresno State will be telecast on ESPNews, it was announced Monday. Originally scheduled for a 5 p.m. MST kickoff, it has been moved to 2 p.m. for television purposes.
The slotting of the game on ESPNews means UNM will not get the $500,000 bonus that applies to Mountain West games televised on ESPN, ESPN2 or one of the major over-the-air networks.
INJURY UPDATE: Davie said starting cornerback SaQwan Edwards, who missed the Air Force game with a shoulder stinger, should be back for Colorado State. But Davie added that Tim Foley, who started in Edwards’ place against the Falcons, has earned more playing time.
Freshman cornerback Isaiah Brown (shoulder) is not expected back for CSU, Davie said.
The Lobos’ linebacker corps has been thinned by injuries to senior David Orvick, junior Tevin Newman and sophomore Mike Arredondo. Orvick and Newman have seen considerable playing time this season. Arredondo has played mostly on special teams.
Davie said running back Crusoe Gongbay, who left the Air Force game with a hip pointer, practiced Monday and should be ready for CSU.
THE STAT SHEET: The Lobos never punted against Air Force, thus preserving punter Ben Skaer’s spot in the national rankings. Skaer is third with an average of 46.5 yards.
The NCAA, for reasons of its own, dictates that a punter must average 3.6 attempts per game or more in order to be ranked. If Skaer had punted once, his average attempts would have dropped below that figure.
Because he didn’t punt at all against the Falcons, the game doesn’t count against his attempts per game.
The Lobos moved from third to second in rushing yards per game with an average of 328.9, less than 2 yards behind leader Army.
Running back Kasey Carrier moved from 11th to 10th in rushing with an average of 123.2. Colorado State’s Kapri Bibbs, who rushed for a school-record 312 yards Saturday in the Rams’ victory over Nevada, ranks 14th at 114.8. Bibbs leads the nation in rushing touchdowns with 19.
Lobos sophomore Carlos Wiggins ranks 10th in kickoff return average (27.5 yards). The Lobos are tied for third in fewest average penalty yards assessed (29.11).
New Mexico ranks 110th of 123 teams national in total defense with an average yield of 477 yards. Yet, in the defense-challenged Mountain West, three league teams – Air Force, Wyoming and Nevada – rank below UNM.