Stevens: It's Lobos Pistol Vs. Nevada Wolf Pack's Pistol
Nov. 15, 2012
New Mexico Lobos Football - Mountain West - Vs. Nevada Wolf Pack
When/Where:1:30 p.m., Saturday - Branch Field - University Stadium
On The Air: 770-AM KKOB--Lobo Radio Network; Comcast 77 (TV)
GoLobos.com: GameTracker, Game Story, Photo Gallery, Quotes, Statistics
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
It's a battle of "Pistols," but there is a difference when Lobos come at Nevada and vice versa Saturday on Branch Field.
To simplify, the Lobos Pistol is more like a cannon, with one, huge chamber that shoots out Cole Gautsche, Kasey Carrier, Lamaar Thomas, Jhurell Pressley and other Lobos out of an option attack. It is an effective weapon, but it has its limitations.
It is not yet as multiple as Coach Bob Davie would like. He wants to add some chambers.
The Nevada Pistol is multiple. The Wolf Pack's weapon of attack has several chambers and is much further along the line of evolution than UNM's Pistol. It should be. Nevada Coach Chris Ault is credited with coming up with this scheme.
"I look at Nevada and Nevada is really what we want to try and become," said Davie of Ault's pistol. "When you say Nevada, right away it's Chris Ault and the pistol offense. And then the next thing I see is a very physical team with physical players.
"I can see Nevada as kind of a template for us moving forward. It's a big challenge because they're ahead of us. They're better than us right now."
Yeah, Ault can look at Davie and say, "My pistol is bigger than yours." And it's true. But pistols have a way of misfiring - fumbles, dropped passes, penalties, poor execution, interceptions, etc.
And not getting enough help from your defense.
Nevada will step onto Branch Field riding a three-game losing streak. The Wolf Pack gave up 48 points to Air Force - an option team. They are coming off a 52-36 hammering by Fresno State. The Wolf Pack has its problems.
The Lobos' pistol might be too one dimensional, but the Lobos have shown they can be pretty impressive shooting out of the option. They had 551 yards in their 28-23 loss to Wyoming last week. That's a lot of yards, not that many points.
Nevada averages 39.2 points per game. The Lobos average 26.5. Nevada's problem is similar to a lot of Mountain West teams. They score just fine, but give up too much on defense. The Wolf Pack yields 30.7 points a game. UNM gives up the scoreboard at 33.9 points per game.
Nevada's biggest concern on defense might not be as big against New Mexico, if you just look at season stats. The Pack defense yields 283 yards per game via the pass. On the ground, they bend at 159.7 yards per game.
That's not awful and here comes a Lobo team that leans to the ground attack. But Nevada gave up a massive 461 yards rushing to Air Force's option and 600 total yards. You can bet New Mexico - and Nevada - will be reviewing that game's tape.
Nevada has the edge in the red zone. Nevada's Pistol does a good job finishing on the scoreboard. The Nevada Pack scored 69 at Hawaii. They scored 45 vs. Northwestern State and 35 when they pistol whipped Wyoming. They scored 38 in an overtime loss to a tough San Diego State defense.
There is a reason Nevada finishes. The opposing defenses don't know if the Wolf Pack will come by land or by air. Nevada is the only team in the nation averaging more than 250 yards both on the ground and with the pass.
"They're a tremendously balanced team because they throw it and they run it," said Davie. "And they're explosive at the key positions."
If Coach Ault looks at his red zone opportunities in Nevada's last three losses, he has to be frustrated. Nevada was 5-of-7 in the red zone vs. Fresno State, 4-of-4 vs. Air Force and 6-of-6 vs. San Diego State. Nevada is 84 percent on the season.
That's winning football - on one side of the ball.
"They have so much more balance than we have right now," said Davie. "They're more pistol and pass. We're more pistol and triple option just because of where we are."
To evolve closer to Nevada's Pistol, the Lobos will have to develop a chamber that can strike through the air. That probably won't happen in the two remaining games on UNM's 2012 schedule. UNM averages 62.7 yards per game passing.
A pistol offense - any offense - works best when it has a dynamic, dual-threat quarterback, a stud runner, a couple of hot receivers, and a mean mother bear of an offensive line.
The Wolfpack quarterback is a good one: Cody Fajardo. He has completed 66.4 percent of his passes for 2,194 yards and 14 scores. He averages 243.8 yards passing per game. Fajardo doesn't just pass and hand off the football. Fajardo is dual. He has 133 carries for a 79.3 yard average per game.
It would be nice for the Lobo defense if Fajardo was the only Wolf Pack player to target. He's not. Heck, Fajardo might be the No. 2 target. Nevada has the nation's leading rusher in Stefphon Jefferson. He tops the NCAA charts with his 143.6-yard average and also with his 1,436-yard total.
These numbers are even more impressive when you consider how much the Wolf Pack throws and how much Fajardo runs. Still, Jefferson is a work horse. He has 290 carries in 10 games. UNM's Kasey Carrier, with 1,265 yards, has 221 totes.
Nevada has several standout receivers. Brandon Wimberley has 55 receptions for 715 yards, Richy Turner has 47 for 584 yards, Zach Sudfeld has 37 for 444 yards and Aaron Bradley had 35 grabs for 357 yards.
UNM has given up 28 TD passes and has tossed for four. UNM's Lamaar Thomas tops UNM's receiving charts with 11 receptions.
In this battle of the Pistols, a lot of things favor Nevada. Still, Davie says: "I expect us to go out there and be very competitive and have a chance to win this game. "
If you look at the rushing yardage that the Nevada defense gave up against Air Force - 461 -- that gives huge hope that UNM will move the football and the scoreboard.
But can the UNM defense slow down the Wolfpack's multi-chambered Pistol?
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.