The San Diego State Aztecs are heading east to face the New Mexico Lobos this Friday at 6:30 pm PT.
Mountain West Connection talked to Rick Wright, the beat writer of the New Mexico Lobos football for the Albuquerque Journal.
Rick gives great insight on both sides of the ball of the Lobos and how they will attack the Aztecs.
1) After a disappointing start to the season, opening 1-3, the Lobos were able to bounce back last week on the road against the heavily favored senior laden UTSA Roadrunners. What can be most attributed to this win and can Aztec fans see it carrying over into Friday’s matchup?
UNM's defense obviously has made some strides, though the Lobos have always fared better against pro-style offenses than spread attacks. If you look at their past games against SDSU, even going back to the Mike Locksley era, you'll see that the Aztecs haven't shredded them the way uptempo, spread teams have. But give them credit; a nine-point deficit looked pretty large, considering how low-scoring the game had been, and they overcame it. That said, the 17-point spread in that game never made a lick of sense.
2) UNM has one of the most prolific run games in the country as they have averaged a blistering 322.4 yards per game good enough for 4th in the nation. How will they game plan for an SDSU Rush defense that rank 41st in the nation and have only allowed 3.4 yards per carry?
Just as Rocky Long's teams do what they do on defense, so it is -- mostly -- for the New Mexico offense. They'll run the triple option, hoping to stay away from down-and-distance situations that force them to pass (or run when most teams would pass), and try to pass only when they want to and not because they have to. But they strugged in that regard with a UTSA defense that I'd have to say is not as talented as SDSU's.
3) Crusoe Gongbay will be out for this game and is a big part of this running back by committee for the Lobos, how will his absence affect UNM's running game?
New Mexico doesn't have another Gongbay -- a powerful back to can get the tough yards, yet with enough burst to break an occasional big one. They'll still run the dive if that's the proper read on the triple option, but probably with less success.
4) The passing game for UNM has taken a far backseat to the ground game, is that credited more to the lack of talent in the air game or the success of the run? And can the passing game play a factor in this week's game?
They have hit a few big plays in the passing game and will look to do the same against the Aztecs. Several of those have come on first down, when defenses don't expect them to throw. The flip side is that, if the pass is incomplete, they're looking at the second-and-10 that they've always wanted to avoid. Lamar Jordan, the redshirt freshman quarterback, has thrown the ball more effectively than junior Cole Gautsche has thus far.
5) The run game, especially Donnel Pumphrey, has been the cog for the Aztecs' offense, how does the Lobos' defense expect to stop the rush and force true freshmen Nick Bawden to carry this team?
The Lobos would love to load the box in an effort to contain Pumphrey, but Davie also worries about the Aztecs' speed at wide receiver vs. his young secondary. Bawden, despite his struggles against Fresno State, is on scholarship for a reason. Right?
6) The Lobos are one of the youngest teams in the nation, how has that played a role so far into this season?
The defense is painfully young, and that's been evident in the many busted assignments they've had. But they seem to be maturing in that regard. Coach Bob Davie noted in particularly the play of redshirt freshman linebacker Kimmie Carson, who he described as "a liability" in previous games, with an excellent performance against UTSA.
7) What will be the main reason the Lobos win this game?
They manage to contain Pumphrey without giving up big plays in the passing game and hit a couple of big plays -- running or passing -- against Rocky's defense. Oh, and maybe Carlos Wiggins brings a kickoff back for a TD.
8) What will be the main reason the Lobos lose this game?
The Lobos are beaten by a more talented, more mature football team.