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Lobo Pack: UNLV Game Preview and Prediction

Homecoming week

NCAA Football: New Mexico at Wyoming Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports

What:

New Mexico Lobos vs. UNLV Runnin’ Rebels

Where:

University Stadium in Albuquerque, NM

When:

Saturday November 6th, 2021, at 5:00 pm Mountain Time

Coverage:

The game will be streamed on Stadium and on the radio side it will be the Lobo Sports Radio Network. If you are in Albuquerque, the Lobo Sports Radio Network can be found at 770 AM/96.3 FM KKOB.

Series:

The series is tied at 12-12. The last time these two teams got together was back in 2018 with the Lobos winning 50-14.

Breakdown:

The New Mexico Lobos return from their bye week to kickoff the final month of the season starting with this Saturday’s contest against the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels.

The Lobos come into this contest riding a wave of momentum following their 14-3 win over the Wyoming Cowboys back on October 23rd. That victory snapped a five-game losing streak and kept UNM alive for a bowl bid, having to need three more wins over their final four games to improve their current 3-5 record.

The Rebels come into this game as one of two remaining winless teams in the FBS this season (Arizona). In their last contest, the Rebels lost to in-state rival Nevada by a final of 51-20. That loss dropped UNLV to 0-8 on the season and 0-4 in the MWC.

Who will be the QB for UNM:

There are still a lot of question marks surrounding who will start at quarterback this weekend for New Mexico.

Terry Wilson, who dislocated his elbow against San Diego State, had yet to practice this week leading up to Thursday. That undoubtedly will put Isaiah Chavez in position to get his second consecutive start for the Lobos. Although Head Coach Danny Gonzales stated during this week’s press conference that he would not name a starter until gametime.

Chavez went 10-for-11 for 112 yards and a touchdown while adding 49 yards on 16 carries against the Wyoming Cowboys.

If Chavez does get the start, it will be the third of his career. He started the season finale in 2020 against Wyoming as well.

What the Lobos do on offense:

The Lobos seemed to change their tendencies a bit more with Chavez at quarterback than they did when CJ Montes started against Colorado State. There were more jet sweeps, more quick passes, and a lot more effort to run the football. Overall, the Lobos ran the ball 44 times for 147 yards, with Chavez gaining 49 of those yards himself. Wideout Luke Wysong got the ball in various ways in the running game and was officially tallied with 46 yards on eight carries.

That running game might come in handy this weekend, as the Rebels are allowing 142 yards a game on the ground. Just two games ago, the Rebels allowed 216 yards rushing to San Jose State. The Lobos will definitely be trying to exploit that run defense.

UNLV did allow 417 yards passing to Nevada last week, so even though the Lobos aren’t known to throw it often with Chavez at quarterback, this might be the time that they do.

What to expect from UNLV?

The Rebels will be desperate in this one, so the Lobos cannot overlook them. In three of the last four games, the Rebels had a lead at halftime, only to see it disappear in half number two. They will be looking for a hot start to force UNM to pass the ball.

The passing game for UNLV is their strong suit on offense. Last week, UNLV threw for 283 yards on Nevada. And in their game with Texas-San Antonio, the Rebels had 316 yards passing.

The key will again be to pressure the quarterback for the Lobos defense. Rebel quarterback Cameron Friel threw three interceptions against Nevada last week, so he is prone to mistakes if the Lobos can pressure him.

UNLV has struggled to run the ball this season, and that could play into the Lobos hands. Averaging just 104 yards per game, the running game has been missing for much of the season, and with a Lobo defense coming off a game in which they allowed only 108 yards rushing, this seems like a recipe that favors UNM.

Running back Charles Williams is explosive, however. Williams did go for 221 yards against Utah State a few weeks ago. However, Williams is the workhorse, and very rarely does anyone else see any touches out of the backfield. So, if the Lobos can slow Williams down, there isn’t much experience behind him.

Defensively for the Rebels, as was said before, they allow some rushing yards and a lot of passing yards. Honestly, the surprise here will be if the Lobos cannot move the football.

Austin Ajiake is the leader of the Rebels defense. Ajiake has been in on 74 tackles this season and will be around the ball a ton on Saturday.

Whomever the starter is a quarterback, they will have to be wary of defensive back Phillip Hill of UNLV. Hill has three interceptions on the season, including one against Nevada last week. The Lobos can ill-afford to turn the ball over at all in any game, this will be no different, so they really need to be able to find Hill and either throw away from him or throw short passes in front of him.

Final Thoughts and Prediction:

This is a golden opportunity for the Lobos to continue their winning ways. UNLV’s defense is extremely leaky, so I would be stunned if the Lobos couldn’t move the ball against them. However, the Lobos will need to limit mistakes to keep the confidence of UNLV low. If the Rebels can be in this game heading into the fourth quarter, they might very well take advantage of it. The Lobos cannot let that happen, or the unthinkable will.

That being said, I like the Lobos to win this one. Chavez seems like he is growing in confidence, so if he starts, do not be surprised if they test the pass defense of UNLV’s every so often. I see the Lobos getting an early lead and then playing ball control. I like the Lobos-20 UNLV-10.