Stevens: Hawaii Warriors Plans To Quiet The Lobos' Pistol

Oct. 13, 2012

New Mexico Lobos at Hawai'i Warriors - Mountain West Football

When/Where: 10 p.m. (MT), Saturday - Aloha Stadium - Honolulu
On The Air: 770-AM KKOB, Lobo Radio Network; ROOT Sports-TV (Comcast 261, DirecTV 683, Dish 414)
GoLobos.com: GameTracker, Game Story, Stat Package

By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

Lobo Coach Bob Davie admits it. The offense he throws at the Hawaii Warriors Saturday night in Aloha Stadium is not exactly the offense of the Lobos' future.

But, for now, it is working.

"It's where we're at," says Davie. "The triple option is hard (to stop). That's why we're in it."

Eventually, the New Mexico "Pistol" is expected to fire off all six chambers, be multiple, and strike fear through the air. But maybe not that much in 2012, and maybe not that much in Honolulu tonight.

That kind of depends on what Hawaii Coach Norm Chow does with his defense.

Here is Chow's dilemma:

His defense against the run is about as unyielding as a Waikiki Beach sand castle is to a runaway Tsunami. He gave up 335 yards rushing to Nevada and 396 yards on the ground to Brigham Young. That's awful, especially considering those teams really are multiple with their attack.

And here comes the New Mexico Lobos, who run left, run right, run up the middle, and have only thrown four passes in the past four quarters. "They will force us to pass the ball more," said Davie. "I really believe that."

But can the Warriors force UNM to the airways? The Lobos are the No. 8 rushing team in the nation. They have few secrets off the snap, but come at defenses in a scheme that is difficult to stop.

The Lobos' resurgent offensive line is relevant again. It is charging off the line with confidence and passion, mashing into defenders Tsunami style, and creating holes for UNM runners up the middle and on the option pitch. This "Pistol" is a force to be reckoned with.

So, what do you do, Mr. Chow? Do you think out of the box and pack it in in the box? Do you take a chance that you might be vulnerable in the backfield? Or do you let the Lobos run all over you with an option that, at times, is pretty much unstoppable?

Davie expects a crowded box come Saturday at 10 p.m. (MT) in Aloha Stadium. Really, it's the only defense that makes sense, but coaches often are hesitant to drift away from the comfort of text book football. Hawaii might have no choice but to attempt to distort the line of scrimmage at a new level of gambling and blitzes.

This is not a complete change for the Warriors. They attack. They blitz linebackers, "to cause havoc," said Davie. "We haven't seen that. This is going to be a big test for us.

"You look at Hawaii and they are 70 percent man-to-man defense. Of those 70 percent times they're in man, it's five- or six-man pressure and they're coming at you. It won't be what we've seen at the start of the season with teams playing a lot of zone.

"This is a team that will attack the line of scrimmage."

It's probable that teams came at UNM with a zone philosophy because those teams thought they could simply beat UNM with personnel - talent. That happens when you are looking at a depth-challenged UNM team with a 3-33 past.

Three of those teams - Texas, Texas State and Boise State - were able to out-talent the Lobos. Three of those teams - Southern, New Mexico State, Texas State - could not and fell to firepower of the UNM Pistol.

Hawaii probably can't out-talent the Lobos. The Warriors are 1-4 and not favored to win on their own soil. Hawaii cannot beat the Lobos playing the way it did in losses to USC (49-10), Nevada (69-24), Brigham Young (47-0) and San Diego State (52-14).

Hawaii did have 378 yards on offense vs. Nevada. The Warriors have a solid runner in Will Gregory, who averages 4.7 yards per carry. Quarterback Sean Schroeder averages 162.4 yards passing per game, but has only a 55.4 completion percentage.

This is an offense that can be explosive. This is an offense that can struggle. The Warriors are 28 percent on third-down conversions. UNM is at 41 percent.

The Warriors probably have to beat the Lobos with Xs and Os, execution, and hope that the Warriors will feed off the vibrant energy of Aloha Stadium. It can be a special stadium. Hawaii will need some emotion.

"Their fans really do create a heck of an atmosphere," said Davie. "When it starts really going good for Hawaii in their own stadium, it really starts rolling on you. So, that's something we have to prepare for."

There are many statistical aspects that point to a Lobo win in Hawaii. Take away their 54-2 romp over Lamar in Honolulu, and the Warriors average around 12 points a game. Include that romp, and they still give up 43.8 points a game.

They are a team desperately in search of some positive changes on both sides of the football and they likely look at the Lobos as a source of that change.

But only if they can quiet the Pistol.

Editor's Note: Richard Stevens is a former award-winning columnist and associate sports editor of The Albuquerque Tribune. You can reach him at rstevens50@comcast.net.