What: New Mexico Lobos vs Air Force Falcons
When: Saturday November 23rd, 2019 at Noon Mountain
Where: DreamStyle Stadium in Albuquerque, NM
Coverage: The game will be on ESPN3, and the UNM Sports Radio Network will have the radio call (TuneIn app KKOB, or 770 AM/94.5 FM KKOB in Albuquerque)
Series: This will be the 37th meeting between the two. The Air Force has the lead in the series at 22-14. Last season the Falcons topped the Lobos 42-24 in Colorado Springs.
Saturday brings the next to last game in what has been yet another disappointing season in Lobo football. If the Lobos do not win one of the next two contests, then they would have regressed from last season’s 3-9 record. The Lobos are coming off of a 42-9 loss last week at the hands of Boise State. The Falcons, meanwhile, beat Colorado State 38-21. The Falcons still have an outside chance to make the Mountain West Conference Championship Game. In order to do so, the Falcons need to win this week against UNM and next week against Wyoming and have Boise State lose its last two contests against Utah State and Colorado State. Still, Air Force is on track for its first 10-win season since 2016 and only the third in the last decade.
Get ready for the run and some pass:
One thing about this game that should scare Lobo fans is that the Air Force Falcons offense is sneaky when it passes, it doesn’t pass often, but when it does it is extremely successful. And given that the Lobos have an inability to stop the pass this season, it might magnify the success. Air Force quarterback Donald Hammond III is only 38-for-83 this season passing for 838 yards and eight touchdowns. Though his numbers look like they could be a game’s worth of output by Washington State, Hammond has been really successful throwing in conference play and that does not bode well for the Lobos.
Where’s the Lobo run game gone:
Over the last two games the Lobo running game has gone missing. Perhaps if we put up fliers and asked around, we would be able to find it? Well, hopefully the Lobos will find it on Saturday against Air Force. After having a 207-yard day against Hawai’i, the Lobos have combined for 223 yards in the last two games. That has made the Lobos one dimensional and has allowed defenses to key on Tevaka Tuioti, who has been unable to find many receivers.
The Lobos need to find the ability to run the ball in order to keep Air Force’s defense honest and give Tuioti a chance to complete some big plays in the passing game. That has been a key to what the Lobos have done in past games that they have won against Air Force.
The Lobo X-Factor will be:
Alex Hart. The Lobos linebacker needs to be able to stay upright and read the option and pass that Air Force will throw at UNM. Back in the win in 2017 versus Air Force Hart had nine tackles, a sack, and a quarterback hurry. Last season Hart missed the game and Air Force ran over the Lobos for 478 yards, including Hammond going for 136 yards on 19 carries. With Hart playing the middle linebacker it’ll make Hammond give the ball up more and might stymie his ability to have long runs as well.
The Lobos are in the midst of a seven-game losing streak, are heavy underdogs, and appear to be headed towards double digits in losses for the first time since Bob Davie arrived in Albuquerque. However, if there has been one team that Davie and Co. have found success against it is Air Force. The Lobos are 4-3 against Air Force under Davie, including winning two of the previous three against the Falcons, so the history is there. The biggest question will be the ability of the Lobos defense to slow down the Air Force rushing attack, get off the field on third downs, not allow chunk plays, and have the Lobos offense rediscover their running game. That seems like a lot, and it will probably be a bit more than they can overcome. I like this game to be closer than the 24-point spread that Vegas has, I got Air Force 34 Lobos 24.