Stevens: Lobos Hope To Run Past Party Crashers From Texas State

Oct. 5, 2012

UNM HOMECOMING: New Mexico Lobos vs. Texas State

When/Where: 4:06 p.m. (MT), Saturday - Branch Field, University Stadium
On The Air: 770-AM KKOB; ProView Networks (Comcast 27) Game Story, Game Tracker, Stats, Quotes, LoboTV

By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/

Really, this is the New Mexico Lobos' homecoming.

Don't pay any attention to all those ex-Lobo party crashers on the Texas State sidelines - including Dennis Franchione - who are marching onto Branch Field Saturday planning to spoil the Lobos' party with a look-alike offense that plans to run, run, run.

And pass.

"They run a lot of options, but they are multiple," said Jeff Mills, New Mexico's defensive coordinator. "They do a little bit of everything: counters, draws, shotgun runs, pistol runs. But they throw the ball. It's part of their emphasis."

It's a bit weird that for the Lobos' homecoming that there are more coaches on the Texas State sidelines than on the UNM sidelines with ties to UNM roots. That's because of Franchione, who was the UNM head man from 1992 to 1997.

Fran brings back six other Bobcat coaches with Lobo roots: Mike Schultz, Dennis Darnell, Mike Hudson, Brad Franchione, Craig Naivar and Jeff Conway. Heck, even the Texas State Director of Athletics, Larry Teis, got his doctorate from UNM.

It's like the invasion of the pod people. They once were Lobos. Now, they return with evil intent. Well, for sure, they plan to ruin the Lobos' homecoming shindig on Branch Field.

It's quite possible the run game - and turnovers -- will decide this 4 p.m., Saturday tussle between the New Mexico Lobos (2-3) and the Texas State Bobcats (2-2).

This "Pod People" theory even carries over to the two teams' use of the "Pistol" offense. The Lobos will be looking into a mirror, of sorts, when the Bobcats' offense takes to Branch Field.

"It's going to be an interesting game. It's similar styles," said Lobo Coach Bob Davie.

The Franchione `Cats run this "Pistol" thing out of a whole lot of formations and they lean a bit to the option. They average 150.8 yards off the run and 206 yards passing. They have a nice arm in quarterback Shaun Rutherford, who is 58-82-1 for six touchdowns and a 68.3 percentage passing.

"He is pretty dynamic," UNM's Mills said of Rutherford. "He's quick and makes good reads. He's like a point guard back there running the show. He distributes the ball well, but he can throw it.

"Their offense is like what you get from a lot of people. They are multiple and when they get big, they will probably run it. When they get smaller with wide outs, they might throw more. And they like to throw it. It's a lot like what we saw in fall camp in Ruidoso."

The Lobos would like to put the word "multiple" into their attack more, but the passing game is behind the running game. The Lobos also execute the "Pistol," but -- so far - lean a whole lot to the option. The Lobos average 252.8 yards on the ground and 56.8 in the air.

The good news about the UNM option is that teams know it's coming, but they haven't been able to stop it. The Lobos have hurt their attack by putting the ball on the ground 15 times and losing five of them. The Lobos and the Bobcats are pretty clean when it comes to penalties but even a few flagged errors can cripple a drive.

"We don't have a lot of room for error," said UNM's Davie. "For us to win, we almost have to be perfect.

"You see what time gives you. (Texas State's) efficiency, their execution, their personnel, fitting exactly what they do. They're an offense that from an execution standpoint is farther along than we are." (Texas State has fumbled five times in four games).

The Lobos need to optimize on scoring opportunities and part of that stems from a UNM defense that - like Texas State's - bends too much. A key for both teams will be keeping their "Pistols" on the field and finding ways to produce points.

"In this game, you might not get many possessions because the other team is going to keep the ball," said Davie. "So every possession, you better have some productivity. You know you better take advantage of your possessions. But for us, we do it knowing we've got to keep our defense off the field."

On defense, UNM's average yield is 167 yards on the ground and 294.2 in the air. Those numbers might entice the Bobcats to go over the top some on Saturday.

The Lobos are averaging 27.2 points on the season, 17.5 in their past four games and 28 points in their past two games. Against New Mexico State and Boise State, UNM had 302 yards rushing and 330 yards rushing.

"We're a pretty physical team on offense and I'm pleased with the running game," said Davie.

Said DeAndre Smith, UNM's running backs' coach: "Our running backs are getting better every week and that's what you want to see.

Crusoe Gongbay

"But a running back is never talented enough to do it on his own. It always starts with the big guys up front. They are doing a great job and you can see that they are improving, too."

The Lobo points and the Lobo offense obviously have been fueled by legs. Kasey Carrier has 289 yards and a 5.1 average, Cole Gautsche has 230 yards and a 5.8 average and Jhurell Pressley has 222 yards and a 4.4 average.

Those are the Lobos main threats on the ground. They might add another one on Saturday vs. Texas State: Crusoe Gongbay.

Gongbay was dropped to the bottom of the depth chart after skipping spring ball while contemplating a transfer. He liked what he saw and heard at UNM and returned to the team. He was UNM's leading rusher in 2011 with 500 yards.

"We are trying to get Crusoe out there," said Coach Smith. "He's a stat guy, but this is a different offense and he's behind. But he can run and he knows what to do.

"He is learning the offense, piece by piece, week by week. He has gotten more reps this week than any other week. He came off the field and thanked me and I said, `No, you earned it.' We are going to do our best to get him out there this week.

"We need all hands on deck."