The follow is a preview from Adam Evarts, who will begin covering New Mexico sports for us, but doesn’t have a profile yet.
A week after a sensational season opening win for the New Mexico Lobos and reality is getting ready to set in. The Lobos pay a visit to #5 Wisconsin this Saturday and is expected by many to not even keep it competitive with the Badgers.
The Lobos cruised to a 62-30 season opening win last week over Incarnate Word. The offenses sizzled, putting up 680 total yards of offense, including an astonishing 361 yards through the air. Quarterback Tevaka Tuioti threw four touchdowns in the win, the most for a Lobo quarterback since Casey Kelly threw four against Wyoming back in 2002.
This week will be a little tougher for Tuioti, and the Lobos offense, to generate the kind of success they saw against Incarnate Word. Wisconsin is known to have tough defenses; last year the Badgers gave up the second least amount of yards per game at 262. Only Alabama’s defense was better. Despite only returning three starters on defense the group looked solid in the season opener last week against Western Kentucky, allowing 305 yards, and forcing two turnovers, in a 34-3 win. That spells a little bit of trouble for the Lobos offense this week.
If the task wasn’t daunting enough from the offensive side, things look even bleaker on the defensive side. The Lobos defense will have the task of trying to contain one of the nation’s top running backs in Jonathan Taylor. It was a bad enough look that Taylor couldn’t be stopped last season, rushing for 1,977 yards, but he picked up right where he left off in the game against Western Kentucky; rushing only 18 times, but gaining 145 yards and scoring two touchdowns.
Taylor has to be licking his chops looking at the Lobos defense upcoming on Saturday as they gave up 244 yards on the ground last week to an Incarnate Word team that had instilled an air raid offense in the offseason. The Lobos can ill-afford to give up that kind of yardage this week and still expect to be in the game, let alone win it.
The one aspect of Wisconsin’s game that Lobo fans can get excited about is the Badgers did allow several long drives against Western Kentucky. In fact, twice that the Hilltoppers had the ball inside the Wisconsin 5-yard line they turned it over. If the Lobos can hold onto the football, long sustained drives could be what the Lobos need to stay in the game.
Aside from taking care of the ball, and slowing down Wisconsin’s Taylor in the running game, a huge part of the Lobos success will fall on the shoulders of Tuioti. The sophomore quarterback will have to fall on the experience of offensive coordinator Calvin Magee, whose spread offense is something Wisconsin does not see on a normal basis. If Tuioti can execute the plays to success, the Lobos might be able to get the Badgers young defense on its heels. Even then I don’t think it’ll be enough to overcome the Wisconsin running attack. The Lobos will keep it closer than some experts pick, but I see them falling to 1-1 after this one.