Stevens: Lobos Will Be Betting Vegas Can't Stop The Option

Nov. 2, 2012

New Mexico Lobos Football - Mountain West Conference - vs UNLV Rebels

When/Where 2 p.m. (MT) Saturday - Sam Boyd Stadium - Las Vegas
On The Air: 770-AM KKOB, Lobo Radio Network; Comcast 77
GoLobos.com: GameTracker, Game Story, Stats

By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

In Sin City, a roll of the dice trying to beat the odds is not an unusual thing. In a way, Lobo Coach Bob Davie and his Lobos already have beaten the odds.

"I remember distinctly thinking, "Can we just make it to November" from the standpoint of having enough guys," said Davie.

The Lobos - bumped, bruised and still fragile in numbers -- made it to November. On Saturday, the 4-5 Lobos will be looking for win No. 5 in a stunning season of turnaround and renewed respectability.

But are the Lobos still bucking the odds in Vegas when it comes to having enough guys?

The semi-gamble is putting Cole Gautsche behind center and allowing him to run the option at the 1-8 Rebels. Gautsche has been cleared to play and he should start. However, the freshman warrior is two weeks removed from a concussion and less than a week removed from a neck injury that knocked him out of the Fresno State game this past Saturday in University Stadium.

When Gautsche went down, the Lobos put B.R. Holbrook on the field, who also was recovering from a concussion. In a perfect world, Holbrook might have been given the day off. The gutsy senior also went down in the Fresno game, although it had nothing to do with his head and a lot to do with a separated shoulder.

Holbrook is lost for three weeks and maybe for the season and although Gautsche has been medically cleared to play, a perfect world might have given him another weeks' rest.

So, will Gautsche make it to the game's end? That might be a pivotal question but a whole lot of Lobos have been playing banged up in 2012. As Davie likes to say: "That's what it is."

Davie said he remembers in spring - when looking out over a seven-player skeletal crew of offensive linemen - thinking: "if we can just make it to November and have enough healthy players to finish this season, we will have accomplished something."

Of course, the Lobos would have finished the season no matter what. But there could have been a few defensive linemen playing on the offense, if things had turned differently.

And this rag-tag bunch of Lobos already has accomplished a lot. Remember, this is a program that won one game in the past three seasons.

The push in Vegas is to win No. 5 and keep alive maybe a longshot dream of reaching postseason play. The Lobos have proved they can hang with teams better and deeper and UNLV, Wyoming and Colorado State have been struggling. The Rebs are 1-8, CSU is 2-6 and Wyoming is 1-7. Nevada, at 6-3 and 3-2 in the Mountain, appear to be the toughest test left.

But first UNLV.

"They played a tremendously difficult schedule with a lot of close games," said Davie. "They have a redshirt freshman quarterback who's really good. They have two running backs who are very good. They have built that program. They've played a lot of close games and are really talented. "

The Rebels obviously have struggled to reach the positive side of the scoreboard. Their loss to Northern Arizona was not good. Bu they beat a decent Air Force team 38-35, didn't lose badly to Nevada 42-37, and even their 24-13 loss at San Diego State was respectable.

A key at this point of the season for a lot of teams is what kind of passion do they bring to the field when they see the season slipping away. Wyoming and Colorado State probably will be answering that question Saturday when they meet in Laramie.

The Lobos have displayed a lot of passion. Their 4-5 season really is something to be proud about. A bowl bid is within reach. But these Lobos also just want to win the next game and that next game is Vegas.

Will this be the UNLV team that beat Air Force or the UNLV team that lost to NAU?

The Vegas offense has potential. The quarterback Davie mentioned is 6-foot-5 Nick Sherry, who averages 223.3 yards per game. He has 2001 yards on the year and 12 touchdowns. He can be good.

The Rebels also have a solid running back in Tim Cornett, a 6-foot, 210 bull, who averages 103.9 yards per game. If Sherry and Cornett both have good games, the Rebels can move the ball.

UNLV held a 31-14 halftime lead over Nevada. In the Rebs' win over Air Force, UNLV had 199 yards rushing and 250 passing for a 449 total. Cornett had 114 yards and Sherry went 23-of-32 for those 250 yards.

The Rebels can be inconsistent on offense, but their biggest concern is on the defensive side of the ball. They give up an average of 34.2 points per game, 213 yards per game and an average of 472 total yards per game.

The Lobo defense might bend a lot, but it often buckles down in the red zone. UNLV's foes have a 89 percent success rate in the red zone - 42-of-47 ending in scores. The Rebels have been outscored in every quarter (season totals), but their bad periods are the second and the fourth, where they have been out pointed 100-to-64 and 83-to-37, respectively.

With Holbrook on the bench, the Rebs might have a little edge defensively knowing that the Lobos most likely will be coming with the option. Gautsche has thrown eight times this season and backup Quinton McCown has tossed the ball 11 times. They total 50 yards on the season. Carlos Wiggins has the most receptions for UNM with nine. The top two UNLV receivers - Marcus Sullivan and Devante Davis - have 46 and 43.

But can the porous UNLV defense stop the UNM option behind Gautsche and Kasey Carrier, who averages 138 yards per game?

The Lobos will be betting that the Rebels can't.

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 rstevens50@comcast.net.