Incarnate Word Vs. New Mexico: Three Keys To A Lobos Win
The Lobos will square off with the new-look Cardinals in their season opener. Here’s how they can beat UIW.
New Mexico wants a fast start to 2018.
WEEK 1: Incarnate Word Cardinals vs. New Mexico Lobos
WHEN: Saturday, September 1 — 6:00 PM MT/5:00 PM PT
WHERE: Dreamstyle Stadium; Albuquerque, New Mexico (39,224)
RADIO: The New Mexico broadcast can can be found in and around Albuquerque on KKOB, 770 AM, and elsewhere throughout the state on the Lobos Radio Network, so check local listings.
SERIES RECORD: This will be the first meeting between Incarnate Word and New Mexico.
Can the New Mexico Lobos reclaim their recent renaissance? After surging to nine wins in 2016, it all came to a screeching halt last fall when the dangerous running offense took a step back.
The story could have been much different had UNM not finished 1-3 in games decided by eight points or less, but after the on-field decline and an offseason with some significant controversy, getting off on the right foot in 2018, against an FCS team which bottomed out themselves last fall, would put a lot of minds at ease.
Here’s what New Mexico can do to send the fans home happy with a victory over Incarnate Word.
Three Keys for New Mexico
Be ready to defend the pass.
Incarnate Word head coach Eric Morris is playing his quarterback situation very close to the vest leading up to kickoff, but the depth chart reveals the choice to be made. Incumbent starter Sean Brophy and Hawaii transfer Cole Brownholtz have the notable “OR” between their names on the two-deep and, as we might have thought leading up to Hawaii’s season-opener, it’s feasible that both will see action to find out who emerges.
Regardless of who ends up taking more snaps, it seems likely the Lobos should expect them to throw, throw, then throw some more. Morris arrived in San Antonio after spending time as Texas Tech’s offensive coordinator, and the Red Raiders ranked 9th in the FBS in pass-run ratio by throwing 56% of the time. Both Brophy and Brownholtz would be hard-pressed to be as dangerous as, say, Patrick Mahomes or Nic Schmonek, but it’ll be a good test for a secondary that finished 9th in the Mountain West by opponents’ passer rating in 2017.
Get the passing game in a rhythm early.
You have to go back to 2011, before Bob Davie’s arrival in Albuquerque, to find a Lobos attack that threw as often as they did last year, but the results… well, cycling through three quarterbacks didn’t help, but they certainly didn’t expect to drop to dead last in the conference in passer rating.
Now that Tevaka Tuioti is entrenched as the starter in the revamped offense, however, finding ways to get him easy looks on the first few drives would be a good way to keep the Cardinals defense off balance. Consider, too, that UIW allowed a whopping 9.5 yards per attempt in 2017, which might be good news for someone like Delane Hart-Johnson, who could easily go get a 50-50 pass or two if the Lobos choose to get aggressive down the field, or Jay Griffin IV, who could be a nightmare with some space in the slot.
Get to the quarterback.
Here’s a fun fact: In each of Morris’s last three years as TTU’s offensive coordinator, his starting quarterbacks (Mahomes and Schmonek) were sacked exactly 27 times. Besides being a weird quirk, it also suggests that if the Lobos can figure out how to apply pressure, they could make it a long evening for the Cardinals.
The big question: Who will lead the charge? Nobody returning to this year’s defense recorded more than two sacks last year, but the 6-foot-3, 278-pound Nahje Flowers, who steps into the lineup at defensive end, might be a name to watch.