This preview is a guest post done by Adam Gregory Evarts. Thank you Adam for your contribution!
The New Mexico Lobos tumultuous off season can finally come to an end Saturday when Incarnate Word visits Dreamstyle Stadium. The Lobos are hoping that the new look Cardinals can offer the right sort of prescription to get the team pointed back in the right direction.
The Lobos ended the 2017 season with seven straight losses. Then in February of this year head coach Bob Davie was suspended 30-days for his handling of off-field matters. So, one might say that the Lobos are looking more forward to this season opener than in years past. The Cardinals themselves also have a lot to look forward to.
Incarnate Word will be breaking in Eric Morris as their new head coach. Morris spent the past five seasons on the Texas Tech staff, with the last four spent as the Red Raiders offensive coordinator. Morris is bringing the air raid style of offense that the Red Raiders run under coach Kliff Kingsbury. The installation of the new system is hopeful to turn around a team that went 1-10 last season, while averaging just 293 yards per game. Morris directed now Kansas City Chiefs starter Patrick Mahomes in his college career and had an offense at Texas Tech that rose as high as second nationally in 2015.
For the Lobos that might spell trouble. New Mexico allowed 241 yards per game through the air last season, and only had 21 sacks on the season. It also might spell relief though as the returning Cardinal starters have never played in an air raid offense. Sean Brophy will be under center for Incarnate Word this weekend, and he averaged only 116 yards passing last season with 11 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. The top returning receiver that Lobo fans will get to know is Phillip Baptiste who came on strong at the end of last year. Baptiste caught only 31 passes last season for 623 yards and three touchdowns. However, in the last three games of the season he amassed 12 of those catches for 309 yards and two touchdowns. Expect the Brophy to Baptiste show quite a bit from Incarnate Word on Saturday night.
Defensively for Incarnate Word they were horrible to say the least last season. They allowed a whopping 495.7 yards per game last year, as well as 47.7 points per game last year. The achilles heel for the Cardinals last season was stopping something the Lobos offense has struggled with under Coach Davie; the passing game. The Cardinals gave up 328.6 yards per game through the air, and an additional 167.1 yards on the ground. This is a defense that, on paper, the Lobos should be licking their lips to get a hold of.
The Lobos will also debut a new coach of their own. Unlike the Cardinals, the Lobos aren’t introducing a new head man, but a new offensive coordinator. Calvin Magee, who spent 16 of the last 17 seasons working under Rich Rodriguez at three different schools, is now taking the reigns at OC. His style fits perfectly with what Coach Davie likes to run, a run-based option system. If anyone had ever had the chance to check out Rich Rodriguez’s teams since 2001, then be ready for a lot of running, which Lobo fans should already be used to.
Tevaka Tuioti has been named the starter for the Lobos at quarterback. Tuioti, a red-shirt sophomore, will be making only his second career start, but did also see action in eight games last season. He will have plenty of help around him, though, with key returners at running back and wide receiver.
Tyrone Owens will be the top running back for the Lobos, who are known for their revolving door of backs. Owens is explosive, he ran for 1,097 yards in 2016, and came down to 770 yards last season. However, of his 14 career rushing touchdowns, five have been of 62 yards, or more. So, whenever Owens touches the ball explosive plays do happen.
At the receiver spot, the Lobos will have another explosive playmaker, and a nice and steady set of reliable hands. First, the explosive playmaker is Jay Griffin IV. Lobos fans know that name well, as he scored four touchdowns last season, three of which also came of the 60 yards, or more variety. Getting the ball in Griffin’s hands will be key in this game as his big play ability can be the spark the team is looking for. Patrick Reed is the reliable hands at the receiver spot, and unlike Griffin, will only see action at the receiver spot. Reed has only 20 catches in his career, but when he is thrown the ball Reed usually is able to come down with it. Which might be big for the Lobos if Incarnate Word moves up to stop the run.
Overall the Lobos are looking to put a tumultuous off season behind them, while Incarnate Word is looking at a rebuild. There’s not enough defense for the Cardinals in this game to slow the Lobos rushing attack, and the Lobos should have easily enough to get the win.