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Can Lobos sustain running game vs. Broncos?

University of New Mexico running back Teriyon Gipson, center, is chased by Utah State defenders during Saturday's game. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

University of New Mexico running back Teriyon Gipson, center, is chased by Utah State defenders during Saturday’s game. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

Throughout their fabulously successful recent history, the Boise State Broncos have been best known for their offense. Yet, they’ve been no slouch on the other side of the ball.

Of 15 former Boise State players currently on NFL rosters, nine play defense. Since joining the Mountain West Conference in 2011, the Broncos have been particularly strong against the run – allowing an average of about 130 yards per game.

This year’s rush defense might be the best the Broncos have had. Through nine games, they rank first in the Mountain West and fourth nationally with an average yield of 83.4 yards per game.

Now, however, comes New Mexico.

Since coach Bob Davie’s arrival at UNM and his installation of a triple-option offense in 2012, the Lobos have run wild against the Broncos.

Well, OK – they haven’t run wild enough to win a game. The Lobos are 0-3 against the Broncos during the Davie era, 0-6 overall.

lobo football 11-13Yet, UNM’s success on the ground against Boise State, an average of 378 yards the past three seasons, has been remarkable. The 505 yards the Lobos gained on the ground in last year’s 60-49 track meet of a loss to the Broncos in Albuquerque were the most a Boise State team has given up. Ever.

Among teams UNM has played at least three times during Davie’s tenure, only New Mexico State and Air Force have given up more yards to the Lobos than the Broncos.

But that was then; this is now. The Lobos have not been their usual ground-gobbling selves this season. Having ranked no lower than fifth nationally in rushing from 2012-14, they’re currently No. 13 with an average of 235 yards per game.

What ails the UNM running attack? Nothing, says junior running back Teriyon Gipson, that can’t be fixed.

“We’ve just got to lock in,” said Gipson, UNM’s leading rusher this season with 588 yards and a 6.1-yard average per carry. “When we watch film, we’re one guy away – one missed block, or one guy you didn’t make miss, or one wrong read.

“We just need to get back on track, everybody reading the keys right.”

The Lobos are coming off their poorest performance in the running game, statistically, this season. They managed just 132 yards on the ground last week against Utah State and an average of 2.75 yards per carry. It was the defense and special teams, not the offense, that carried the Lobos (5-4 overall, 3-2 in Mountain West play) to a 14-13 upset victory.

Gipson certainly hauled his load, leading UNM with 86 yards on 18 carries.

With defenses intent on keeping the triple option off the edges, Gipson – all 182 pounds of him – has gained most of his yardage between the tackles.

Gipson will take the ball and run with it, no matter where the play takes him.

“As a football player, it doesn’t matter to me,” he said. “Going between the tackles, outside the tackles, I’m just trying to make a play for my team.

“Whatever those guys ask me to do, I’m all in.”

Boise State (7-2, 4-1) is coming off a bye week, meaning the Broncos have had extra time to prepare for the UNM ground attack. And Boise State defensive coordinator Marcel Yates noted that, after giving up a mind-boggling 408 yards rushing to the Lobos last year in the first half, they held UNM to 97 yards – and no points in the fourth quarter – as the Broncos came back to win.

Even so, Yates said, the New Mexico rushing offense has his full attention this week.

“They force every (defender) on the field to be in their gap, have great eyes, be disciplined and do their job,” Yates told the Boise media. “And because they do it all the time, they usually have an answer for everything you do.”

Saturday (8:15 p.m., EPNU), we’ll find out who really has the answers.