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Lobos set to tangle with MWC’s best, Boise State

Ryan Langford was a lad of 13 years, living in Davenport, Iowa, when he first became aware of Boise State football.

On Jan. 2, 2007, he watched on television as the Broncos defeated Oklahoma 43-42 with a wild-and-crazy finish in the Fiesta Bowl.

“That was the first time I’d heard of Boise State,” Langford, a University of New Mexico senior linebacker, said this week. “They made noise throughout the country (with that victory), and everybody remembers them after that. That was kind of their big break.”

Langford isn’t calling himself a Boise State fan, but he acknowledged he’s followed the Broncos the past eight years as they became one of the most successful programs in college football.

“I’ve always wanted,” he said, “to play Boise State on the blue turf.”

Tonight at Boise’s Albertsons Stadium, Langford will get his wish. The Lobos (5-4 overall, 3-2 in Mountain West Conference play) face the Broncos (7-2, 4-1) on their signature blue synthetic playing surface.

For Langford, a junior college transfer in his second season at UNM, it’s his first and last visit to the blue. Fellow senior Reece White has been there before.

White is 0-for-3 against Boise State. The games in 2012 and 2014 in Albuquerque were highly competitive, but Boise State put the Lobos away with ease, 45-17, in Boise two years ago.

Why should tonight be any different? The oddsmakers have found no reason to think so, installing the Broncos as 30-point favorites.

Like Langford, White has total respect for Boise State.

“You kind of see them as almost the leader of this conference, just from tradition,” he said. “… They’ve controlled this league, and they’ve always had a high-powered offense.

“They’re always doing a real good job to kind of put the Mountain West on the map, so you’ve got to give respect when respect is due.”

But White, riding the momentum of last week’s 14-13 upset of Utah State, also expresses total confidence in the Lobos’ ability to make a game of it on the blue.

“(The Utah State win) shows me the potential that we’ve had, and we’re finally getting the ball to roll our way a little bit,” he said. “Going into Boise, we’ve got to come out and play fast.”

Since White and Lobos coach Bob Davie arrived at UNM in 2012, Boise State is 38-11 overall and 24-4 in the Mountain West. Despite losses to Brigham Young and a stumble against Utah State fueled by eight turnovers, this might be the best Broncos team New Mexico has faced during Davie’s tenure.

“It’s like all the Boise State teams. It really is,” Davie said. “I don’t know that it’s the best one, but certainly you can’t get much better than first in the league in offense and first in the league in defense. They’re totally balanced as a team.”

The Lobos’ traditional imbalance between offense and defense under Davie may be shifting. In beating Utah State, UNM held the Aggies to just 78 yards rushing and barely 2 yards per attempt. Utah State had just one touchdown and managed just two drives of 60 yards or more. The Aggies had just one play of more than 24 yards.

Utah State, though, runs a power-based, relatively slow-paced offense. In contrast, Boise State averages 80 plays per game and spreads opposing defenses across the field. The Broncos offer a challenge similar to that of Tulsa, which hung an even 600 yards on the Lobos in a 40-21 UNM loss Sept. 12.

Like White, his fellow fourth-year senior, cornerback Cranston Jones, believes this is not the New Mexico team that lost to Tulsa.

“It’s not even about who we’re playing,” Jones said. “It’s all about us, and that’s how we feel.

“It’s all about executing, and we feel like we can beat anybody.”