Can the Lobos win three in a row? Below are four keys for how they can go into Mackay Stadium and do just that.
1. Carry the Defensive Momentum
The Lobos have won two straight games. In football. Momentum is certainly on their side at this moment and with the way the defense played in the second half of last week's game, they should strive to continue their effort. Against the Aggies, they gave up only three points in the second half and held Larry Rose III, who had already rushed for 251 yards, to a paltry 9 yards in the fourth quarter. One of the keys for the Lobos this weekend will be to match that intensity for an entire sixty minutes.
2. Make Nevada Throw by Stopping the Run
Nevada running backs James Butler and Don Jackson have combined for 149 carries and 843 yards already this season. They have seven of the Wolf Pack's fourteen offensive touchdowns on the year. Stopping the run will be vital to New Mexico's chances to win the game, just as it was last week when they finally figured out Rose III. Unlike NMSU, Nevada offers two backs who can do a lot of damage. However, should the Lobos stop the run, they have a great chance to win the game. Nevada quarterback Tyler Stewart has six touchdown passes on the year to go along with three interceptions. He completes passes at a 54% clip with an average gain of just under six yards. Forcing an average quarterback to throw the ball on a regular basis is better for the Lobos defense than two strong backs running all over the field. Let's see if Dakota Cox and the Lobos defense can step up and force the Wolf Pack to change their game plan.
3. Run the Ball
This one is no surprise. Whether the Lobos win this game or not will ultimately come down to how well they run the football. The good news is that the offense has many emerging talents in the backfield, such as quarterback Lamar Jordan (51 carries for 404 yards) and running backs Jhurell Pressley (73 rushes for 347), Teriyon Gipson (42 for 255), and Richard McQuarley (24 for 147). The last couple of weeks the triple option has looked great and if Jordan continues to reduce his errors, it should only improve. After throwing 5/17 last week, Jordan (and the Lobos) will continue to rely on the run.
4. Win the Big Play Battle
Going into week six of the season, we more or less know who the Lobos are. For them to win games, they need to make more big plays than the other team. They won their last two games because of this fact. Frankly, they struggle to put together a grind-it-out drive that takes ten minutes because they only gain four yards each play. For UNM to leave Reno with a win, they will most likely need long runs from the aforementioned backfield, a great return by Wiggins on special teams, a defensive turnover, or a wide receiver to step up out of nowhere to energize the offense. Depending on how well Nevada plays, they may need a combination of these scenarios.
Look for the Lobos tomorrow as they'll be sporting their beautiful white and turquoise jerseys for the first time this season as they look to pick up their second win in conference play.