Stevens: Lobos & Rams Have Similar Wants & Needs on Saturday

Nov. 23, 2012

New Mexico Lobos Football - Mountain West - At Colorado State

When/Where: 5 p.m., Saturday - Hughes Stadium, Fort Collins, Colo.
On The Air: 770-AM KKOB; ROOT Sports RM
GoLobos.com: GameTracker, Game Story, Stats

By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

There is fire in their bellies to win for the seniors, continue to change a culture, finish a season the right way, and head into the off-season on a rah-rah high.

And the New Mexico Lobos share those Colorado State emotions.

In a way, emotions and wants and fire have a lot to do with the Lobos' vs. Rams' Mountain West tussle in Fort Collins, Colo. In another way, all things are equal on the adrenaline front.

Both prideful teams have wants and needs - something to prove and something to change.

The Lobos have 23 seniors to win for and the Rams have 16. The Lobos have a first-year coach and a bunch of hard-working players digging in to change a culture. Ditto for CSU. The Rams are hungry for win No. 4 and the Lobos are hungry for win No. 5.

Now, who is going to execute? Who is going to make big plays and big tackles? Who is going to turn the ball over and who is not?

"The results are important," said Lobo Coach Bob Davie. "This is a big game for us. Colorado State ... this is a big game for them, too. Make no doubt about it, this is a big football game."

The ramifications of this game on a chilled field in Fort Collins have nothing to do with postseason bowls and a lot to do with postseason feelings. Winning helps. Losing lingers.

It's probably a safe bet to say the New Mexico Lobos will leave Hughes Stadium with the same type of effort they have walked away with in most of their gridiron battles.

Probably, the Lobos will be competitive on the scoreboard. CSU is no MW juggernaut. The Rams are 3-8 and 2-5 for a reason. They do some things well. Other things, not so well. Ditto for UNM.

Surely, the Lobos will finish with a never-say-die attitude that has marked their play regardless of numbers on the scoreboard. These Lobos give honeset effort.

"Just finish and keep playing and keep competing," Davie listed as a goal for his final game as a rookie Lobo coach. "I want to be able to say that not a guy on this team ever quit."

Davie probably will be able to say that. His Lobos haven't always played well. They haven't been 100 percent in execution or assignments. They have missed some tackles. But the effort has been honest start to finish.

Colorado State probably feels the same way. They will celebrate Senior Day on Saturday in front of their home crowd. They do not want to walk away on the wrong side of the scoreboard.

They have beaten the Lobos in 15 of the past 26 games played in Fort Collins and they seek a third consecutive home win for the first time since 2008.

It's a big game for the Rams. They have some hurting to heal.

"They've won their last two home games," said Davie. "They beat Hawai`i and UNLV at home, and they're trying to get their program established." CSU beat UNLV 33-11. UNM lost to UNLV 35-7 in the Lobos' worst MW outing.

For sure, the Rams will not have a good taste in their mouth, if they lose to a UNM team that has not (yet) won more than one Mountain West game in a season over the past four years.

To do that, the Rams will have to stop an option attack that is difficult to stop and sits in the No. 4 spot nationally at 314.9 yards per game. The Lobos ride a nine-game streak of 300-plus yards rushing and top the nation in average time of possession at 34:16.

One Ram goal Saturday is obvious: Get the Lobo option off the field and keep the UNM defense on the field. The New Mexico defense gives up 446.8 yards per game - 6.8 yards per play and 30.8 points per game.

The Rams feature a couple of rugged running backs in Chris Nwoke and Donnell Alexander, who combine for an average of 124.5 yards per game. "They have two big, strong running backs that would concern me the most," said Davie. "They're pretty physical at running back."

Those two backs have helped CSU in the red zone. They are No. 24 in the nation and No. 3 in the Mountain in red-zone efficiency (87 percent). CSU often uses a one-back, two tight end set.

The Rams attempt to balance their attack through the air and average 206.2 yards passing per game. UNM is 116th in the nation in pass efficiency defense, so teams usually don't hesitate to air it out on the Lobo defense. The Rams averaged 24.2 yards per catch and threw for 387 yards at Wyoming. Thomas Coffman had 146 receiving yards in Laramie. The Rams can pass.

Another obvious key is how CSU choses to defend the UNM option - especially after the first half. A number of teams have tried to defend that option "straight up," with minor adjustments in alignment. At the half, after UNM has ripped through that defense, they re-think things.

The Lobos have scored 76 points in the first quarter, 103 in the second quarter and 56 points in the fourth quarter.

The Lobos are 119th in NCAA stats in pass efficiency and average 57.5 yards per game. However, in Fort Collins, the Lobos' passing attack might receive a little boost - senior B.R. Holbrook is expected to play.

Statistically, Holbrook is more of a threat mentally than with pure yardage. He averages on 49.1 yards per game, throwing 91 times in nine games. But Holbrook can throw and that does prevent defensive from stacking the line of scrimmage.

Still, the key to beating UNM is stopping the option and Kasey Carrier, who averages 128.2 yards per game, and Cole Gautsche, who averages 71.9 yards.

"We have to come out strong," said Lobo Matt Raymer. "You always want your last game to be a win."

A sentiment that will be shared equally by two teams Saturday in Fort Collins.

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.