Midway through the 2012 season, the 3-3 New Mexico Lobos are looking forward to better things ahead. Their host this week, the 1-4 Hawaii Warriors, are looking as well – in search for a way to save their season from falling off any further.
UNM, which currently stands 0-1 in Mountain West Conference play, makes its first trip to the Islands since 1998 and is looking for its first win outside its home state since 2007. The Lobos won their own homecoming game last week, taking care of Texas State 35-14, prompting some in the local media to ask whether UNM could become bowl eligible by season’s end – a remarkable improvement for a program that won just three games in the last three seasons.
By contrast the host Warriors, who stand at 0-2 in MWC play and celebrate homecoming this week, are wondering if they can salvage a .500 season after a 52-14 defeat at San Diego State last week.
UNM head coach has a little experience coaching in Hawai’I and said the game will be a challenge "on a lot of different levels."
"We also know they’re a different type of team at home than they are on the road," said Davie. "Their fans really do create a heck of an atmosphere. So that’s something we have to prepare for. The other thing I think, for the first time this year, from a schematic standpoint you know how teams are going to play you defensively."
The Warriors defense is likely to key on the run – and their chances of winning lay heavily on being able to stop, if not slow the Lobos running game.
New Mexico is currently ranked eighth in the nation in rushing offense with an average of 271.7 yards per game. UNM has rushed for 1,680 yards and 18 rushing TDs this season.
Against Texas State, UNM racked up 361 yards rushing most of it coming from running back Kasey Carrier. The junior rushed for a career-high 191 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Lobos winning effort.
Davie said Hawai’I mainly uses a man-to-man coverage on receivers, which wil allow them to cover the line of scrimmage with five or six men at a time.
"This is a team that will attack the line of scrimmage," said Davie. "I’m really anxious to see how this all plays out because it’ll be interesting to see. But their philosophy is to crowd the line, to attack, to send linebackers, to cause havoc, and we haven’t seen that. This is going to be a big, big test for us."
The Hawai’i offense has switched from its wide open spread offense to a pro style under first year head coach Norm Chow and the transition has been a rough one.
The Warriors rank at the bottom of the Football Bowl Subdivision in every offensive category this season – 118th in total offense (with 266.6 ypg average), 107th in scoring offense (20.4 points per game) and surprisingly 109th in passing offense (162.4 ypg).
The Lobos have been most susceptible to the pass this season and could be moreso this week with the loss of Jamal Merrit, who was lost with a season-ending knee injury in the Texas State game, and DeShawn Mills, who is reportedly out for at least a few weeks.
"Jamal Merritt started three games in a row," said Davie. "DeShawn Mills has started the whole season. And we’re thin to begin with. So we’ve got some continued challenges to deal with. But I think the attitude is really good and that’s a real positive right now.
The pattern that UNM has established is that controlling the line of scrimmage and clock as well as strong special teams play are the keys to winning. That will not change this week in Hawai’i.