What to expect when New Mexico hosts Liberty
The New Mexico Lobos will return to the field Saturday evening when they host the Liberty Flames at Dreamstyle Stadium. Kickoff is set for 4 p.m. Mountain between the Lobos, who are 2-1, and the Flames, who are 1-2. The game is Homecoming for the Lobos, who haven’t played at home since its season opener against Incarnate Word. There is no television broadcast of the game, but there will be radio coverage across the Lobo Radio Network, and online on the TuneIn App. There’s plenty to preview for this one so let’s get to it:
Who’s going to start at QB? Earlier in the week Head Coach Bob Davie said that Tevaka Tuioti was back from his concussion suffered against Wisconsin, but that he had to earn his starting job back after Sheriron Jones had some solid practices during the bye week. Tuioti has apparently impressed Davie well enough that he was named the starter for Saturday night. However, don’t be surprised if Jones does see action in this game.
How good is Liberty? The Flames are an interesting team to say the least; they have been blown out in their last two games, losing 38-14 to Army, and 47-7 last week to North Texas. They did open the season with a blowout win over Old Dominion (52-10), the same Old Dominion team that shocked the college football world last week with their win over Virginia Tech. Liberty loves to throw the ball, they average 294 yards passing per game. Now the Lobos defense has been a bit stingy in the pass defense category, they do allow 240 yards a game through the air but ended up with five interceptions in the last game versus New Mexico State. It’ll be interesting to see if the Lobos can be aggressive again to set up their offense. Defensively they have been up and down. Certainly North Texas is a great team this season, and Army has stunned some teams (hello Oklahoma), but they seem prone to up tempo offenses, and offenses that run the ball. The Flames have allowed an average of 308 yards on the ground this season, but 397 yards in just their last two games. The UNM running backs should have an explosive day by all indications.
Lobo fans should watch for Liberty quarterback Stephen Calvert trying to hook up with DJ Stubbs in the passing game. Calvert has found Stubbs 14 times this season for 269 yards and one touchdown. The key will be to do like Army did who held him to just one catch for 19 yards. Stubbs will also return kickoffs and punts.
Thoughts on outcome: If the Lobos expect to win this game then it’ll be up to their defense. As stated above the Lobos had five interceptions last time out against New Mexico State. This is another pass heavy team and if the defense can be just as aggressive going for the ball as they were against New Mexico State, then there should be no reason the Lobos move to 3-1. One tough break is the loss of linebacker Alex Hart who tore his ACL against NMSU, but the Lobos have depth at linebacker and will also give safety AJ Greeley some playing time at linebacker.
Overall, until something odd happens, the Lobos should ride an improved defense to victory, and standing at 3-1 is a great start entering conference play. With a tough conference slate still to come, a win will go a long way to getting the Lobos back into a bowl game this season.