Stevens: Possessions Will be Key When Lobos Battle Falcons

Oct. 20, 2012

New Mexico Lobos Football - Mountain West Conference - at Air Force Falcons

When/Where: 5 p.m. (MT) Saturday - Falcons Stadium - Colorado Springs
On The Air: 770-AM KKOB, Lobo Radio Network; ROOT Sports TV Network GameTracker, Game Story, Statistics

By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/

If the New Mexico Lobos and the Air Force Falcons have their option - if there aren't too many of those sneaky passes - this scenario is possible at Falcon Stadium:

The Lobos will have two possessions in the first half and Air Force will have two possessions. Ditto for the second half.

Likely, it won't happen that way. There will be a few long runs, a fumble somewhere, and maybe a sneaky pass. And really, the Falcons' option attack prefers quick strikes and a high-scoring game. Their option is built to score. They no-huddle to gain more possession time because they expect to score.

The Falcons do not really want their defense on the field.

But both the Lobos' option and the Falcons' option have a grind-it-out element. Here's that grind-it-out scenario.

  • One team takes the opening kickoff. They go 75 yards in 15 plays burning 7:50 off the clock.
  • That team kicks off. The other team goes 75 yards in 7:10.
    Quarter over! It could happen.

    Coach Davie has talked about the importance of possessions and stealing some away. That theory might be even more important today as possessions could shrink for both teams.

    Obviously, it's a big Mountain West Conference game for both Lobos and Falcons. UNM heads North with a 4-3 mark and the Falcons are 3-3. Air Force is 2-1 in league and UNM is 1-1. With only one loss, you can still dream of a Mountain West title.

    However, if you have three or four wins at this juncture of the season, you also can think about becoming bowl eligible. This game marks a pivotal slash in the win column - or the lost column - for both teams.

    "It's an important contest, it is," said Air Force Coach Troy Calhoun.

    So far, except for New Mexico's emergence and 0-2 Wyoming's skid, the Mountain West race is pretty much on target. Boise State was expected to be the bully and sits 2-0 with a win over UNM. Nevada is 3-0. San Diego State and Fresno State were supposed to be challengers and they are, each at 2-1. The SDSU Aztecs and Nevada battle Saturday night in a pivotal MW game.

    The Lobos and the Falcons both are damaged in the backfield for this game. UNM probably will not use freshman quarterback Cole Gautsche (concussion) and that takes away a dynamic prong of the Lobo option.

    The Falcons might not use Cody Getz, who left the Wyoming game with an ankle sprain. He was wearing a protective boot and walking the sidelines earlier this week. Getz not only is one of the top runners in the Mountain West, but one of the more dynamic runners in the nation. He averages 154.7 yards per carry.

    The Falcons have some capable backups, but Getz is special.

    "(Getz) is really a great tailback," said Lobo Coach Bob Davie. "Their offense is really impressive. Just how they do things is fun to watch. Not fun to defend but fun to watch. It's a big challenge."

    A challenge for the Lobos this week has been trying to simulate the explosiveness of the Falcons' offense in UNM's practice sessions. "Not real close," said Lobo defensive coordinator, Jeff Mills on UNM's attempt to match Air Force's speed.

    Air Force also attacks out of one-back and two-back sets with Getz as the featured back.

    What will they do if Getz stays on the bench?

    "The bank of things they have they can do and get to quickly," said Davie. "They don't have to have practiced things during the week to dust it off to match what it is you're doing. That's unbelievably impressive to me.

    "They're a true triple option core team. They start in the triple option, but they've expanded so much to take advantage of their personnel."

    Another key for the Lobos is maintaining defensive responsibilities in the secondary. The Falcons are No. 2 in the NCAA in rushing and No. 3 in the nation in pass efficiency. This presents the Lobos with a team that is productive by land and air. Air Force averages 17.97 yards per completion. The Falcons' first two scores at Wyoming came on throws.

    It's possible the Falcons might look at the Lobos' 3-33 past and figure they can save Getz for tougher battles. That probably would be a mistake against a Lobo team that is improving as the season progresses. Calhoun seems to know this.

    "This is a hugely talented football team," he said of UNM. "How many teams in this league have gone into the third and fourth quarter and completely dominated Boise State in the past two years?"

    The Falcons have wins over Idaho State (49-21), Colorado State (42-21) and Wyoming (28-27). They lost at Michigan (31-25), at UNLV (38-35) and vs. Navy (28-21) in overtime. They either win or hang tight on the scoreboard.

    "We have to find a way to get better because from here on out every team we play I see as an improving team," said Davie. "I see as all good teams left on this schedule. But we should be better as it goes along too. We've just got to become more efficient at everything we do."

    Editor's Note: Richard Stevens is a former award-winning Sports Columnist and Associate Sports Editor at The Albuquerque Tribune. You can reach him at