New Mexico's biggest win during the Bob Davie-era arguably came last year against Boise State on the smurf turf. In true nail-biting fashion, the Lobos shocked the Broncos with a 31-24 victory behind a big play by Austin Apodaca and 132 rushing yards by Jhurell Pressley. Bob Davie was so pleased with his men that he celebrated with a team photo on the famed blue turf. This year the Broncos will look to return a favor with a victory in Albuquerque. Below are three keys for the cherry-and-silver to get the win.
1. Slow Down RB Jeremy McNichols
Jeremy McNichols has easily been one of the top running backs in the conference this year and the Broncos' coaching staff knows it. Last week he ran the ball 30 times against Utah State for 132 yards. If that's not enough, he also had 6 catches for 73 yards. The tailback, who does so many things well, is a danger to the fragile New Mexico defense. That is to say, with a guy like McNichols, you don't hope to take him out of the game, you only hope to make the game hard for him.
With Dakota Cox back in the fold, the UNM defense must slow him down for a chance at victory. That means quickly penetrating the line of scrimmage and closing the gaps. For a defense that has blown two leads and almost lost the lead to San Jose State last week, this could be a tall order. The good news for Lobo fans is that the defense is due for a good game and I expect Cox, Kimmie Carson, and Nik D'Avanzo to have big days.
2. Win the Run Game
Boise State offers a very well-balanced offense. In addition to McNichols, the team also boasts of Brett Rypien who is quickly becoming one of the best quarterbacks in the country. Last week he went 15-of-24 for 163 yards and two touchdowns. He has a skilled target in WR Thomas Sperbeck. With that being said, New Mexico has one element of the offense that they do better than Boise State: the run game.
Last week, they re-established their bread and butter with Lamar Jordan back in the lineup. The offense put up 446 rushing yards last week against San Jose State and they will need a repeat performance on Friday against the Broncos. If they can get more than 45 pass yards out ofJordan as well (his total last week), this will further help their cause.
3. Win Special Teams
New Mexico needs any advantage it can get. They'll be fighting an uphill battle when they're on defense, so special teams presents a chance to get the upper hand. Last week Chris Ian Davis Jr. had a 34 yard punt return that put the Lobos in good field position, Jason Sanders knocked in a 45-yard field goal and Corey Bojorquez had his best punting game of the season.
If they can build on this, particularly Davis Jr., they can add a new element to New Mexico's attack. Sadly, the same Jeremy McNichols who I mentioned above returns for BSU, so winning special teams will be tough.
Boise State will be a tough challenge this week, but New Mexico will take care of home-field advantage while limiting McNichols and Rypien to pull off another upset.