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New Mexico vs. Texas preview: Can Lobos build on their week one success?

New Mexico defensive back Dante Caro
New Mexico defensive back Dante Caro

Long before Bob Davie took over the job as head coach of the New Mexico Lobos, most UNM fans had written in this week’s match-up against the No. 15/17 Texas Longhorns in Austin as a loss.

The Lobos were seen not as wolves but as sheep being lead to the slaughter. But after UNM’s 66-21 win at home over Southern to open the season, some fans are feeling a little more hopeful that the Lobos can come away with at least a moral victory on Saturday afternoon.

A closer look at last week’s results for both UT and UNM gives a little credence to that new glimmer of hope that Lobo fans may have – but not much.

Texas’ MO against Wyoming in their week one victory was the run, then run some more putting very little pressure on starting quarterback David Ash.

Davie said he expects Coach Mack Brown’s Longhorns to pass more against the Lobos’ defense, which bent but did not break against Southern. Ash got bad grades from Texas fans for Saturday’s performance – probably a leftover feeling from his lackluster effort in 2011. In the win over Wyoming Ash went 20-of-27 for 156 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. Most fans outside of Texas would consider that a stellar day.

The pair that put the real hurting on the Cowboys last weekend was Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron. The duo ran for 110 and 105 yards respectively against Wyoming and that dominant running attack allowed Texas to wear down the Cowboys as the afternoon went on.

UNM will look to contain the duo and force Ash to pass more and possibly show some of the attributes that caused many to label him inconsistent last season. But with a balanced attack based on its power running game, the Longhorns could make it another long afternoon for its MWC opponent.

UNM’s defensive depth was not great to begin with and took a hit when defensive linemen Rod Davis and Fatu Ulale were declared ineligible for the Texas game two weeks ago. But the real challenge will be with the defensive secondary, which in addition to being thin is relatively inexperienced – something the Longhorns will likely try to take advantage of.

The Lobos’ Pistol offense could give UNM a chance against Texas if only because the option tends to give teams that see primarily pro offenses fits. However what the Longhorns may lose in terms of preparation they will make up for with speed and depth from their 4-3 base defense.

But the Lobos will need to establish more of a passing game against the Longhorns than they did against Southern, which never quite figured out New Mexico’s running attack and allowed 386 yards on the ground.

Junior Demarcus Rogers and freshman quarterback Cole Gautsche will need the Lobos’ offensive line to again give them holes to run through, though starter B.R. Holbrook may see more action for UNM because of his better throwing ability and experience.

Wyoming was able to throw for 276 passing yards against the Longhorns D and gave up no sacks, but the Cowboys converted just 1-of-11 third downs. And aside from a good first quarter, which saw Wyo take a 9-7 lead, the Cowboys were competitive but not really a threat.

If the Lobos are to have any kind of chance of escaping Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium with a true victory, they will need to control the tempo and the time of possession. They’ll also need to find a way to get Texas to go three-and-out more often than not and not fall into the same trap them selves.

But as a program coming off total of three wins in the last three years, New Mexico’s best hope is to come away with a moral victory in the same fashion that Wyoming left Austin – gaining the experience of playing in a big-time college football atmosphere against a perennial top-20 team while not suffering any injuries.