Air Force travels to the University of New Mexico to take on both a team and a community that has been reeling sine the tragic death of Nahje Flowers, the defensive tackle who was reported dead at just 21 years old. The game was originally scheduled to take place that weekend of the 9th, but in light of the loss both schools were given an impromptu bye week which now brings us to this Saturday at 12pm.
Prior to the bye two weeks ago New Mexico had been struggling on the season and to the surprise of no one have continued to struggle now with the added adversity of losing a teammate, especially when that teammate had been an anchor on the defensive line for the past three seasons like Flowers had been. However, on the season the Lobos had been average or partially above average at stopping the run only allowing about 4 yards per carry and as a team average 40 more yards rushing than they have given up on the season. The problems come in the pass defense and the defensive secondary, averaging 335 yards per game and 27 touchdowns against in this season so far. Nowhere had that been more evident than last weekend at Boise as the Broncos blew the doors off the Lobos defense scoring 49 points on a multitude of chunk plays. The recent stats given up against Boise and the showing the offense has given in recent weeks the Falcons should be licking their chops going into the game Saturday.
Coming into the game Air Force averages 35 points a game, 313 yards rushing, and 34 touchdowns on the ground. The defense has looked sharp, minus a few lapses here and there, and despite some struggles against Boise State and Navy still have a chance to finish the season 10-2 and if Boise collapses here at the end of the season a chance to find themselves in the Mountain West championship game representing the Mountain division. But they cannot overlook a school in the situation of the New Mexico Lobos, they no doubt will be filled with emotion in their second to last home game of the season. The rushing game lead by DJ Hammond III will need to test a tough Lobo defensive front to keep their success and identity on the ground going. However, Hammond’s arm may be the deciding factor in this game. Tactically the Falcons should press the parts of the defense that are the weakest and given the three touchdown pass performance last week Hammond has learned how to throw successfully out of the triple option offense.
Defensively the Air Force front seven will be tested by a New Mexico team averaging 191 yards rushing on the season. This defensive front seven has been dominating opposing running backs all season long only allowing 91 yards a game so far on the season, but an underrated value they bring is the pass rush having 3 players with 4 or more sacks on the season and 23 total on the year. Couple that with a secondary who has stepped up after the Army game where they gave up over 250 yards in the air and all signs seem to point to an Air Force team with too much talent for a struggling New Mexico team coupled with tough emotions as well.
Score Prediction USAFA: 42, UNM: 17