New Mexico vs. UNLV: Three Keys to a Lobos Win
The New Mexico Lobos will have their hands full against the UNLV Rebels as they begin Mountain West play. Here’s how UNM can win.
Can the Lobos rebound once again?
WEEK 6: New Mexico Lobos (2-2) vs. UNLV Rebels (2-2)
WHEN: Saturday, October 6 — 2:00 PM MT/1:00 PM PT
WHERE: Sam Boyd Stadium; Las Vegas, Nevada (40,000)
TV: AT&T SportsNet. Check here for availability in your area.
STREAM: The game will be available on the Mountain West Network outside of the AT&T SportsNet footprint.
RADIO: The New Mexico broadcast 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: UNLV leads the series 12-11. In the last meeting on November 17, 2017, the Rebels defeated New Mexico 38-35 in Albuquerque.
One of the weekend’s most intriguing matchups will happen in Las Vegas, where the New Mexico Lobos will meet the UNLV Rebels in a crucial Mountain West game.
That might seem odd to say, but both teams have something to prove in their opener. For Bob Davie’s New Mexico squad, it’s about answering last week’s debacle against Liberty with a win against a less-than-100% opponent. Meanwhile, UNLV will face its first test without starting quarterback Armani Rogers. They’ll have a chance to prove they can continue their march to bowl eligibility while down a key contributor.
Here’s what New Mexico can do to get back in the win column against UNLV.
Three Keys to a New Mexico Win
Get stops up front.
Even without Rogers under center, the Rebels figure to rely heavily on their ground game. And why not? Lexington Thomas has received the lion’s share of the workload, but he and Charles Williams and Xzaviar Campbell, all of whom have at least 20 attempts, average at least 5.4 yards per carry each. They’re a top-ten unit by both efficiency and explosiveness, which could pose serious problems for UNM.
The Lobos defensive line ranks dead last nationally in Havoc Rate (percentage of TFLs, passes defended, or forced fumbles), so while the linebackers have been fairly adept at cleaning up behind them (they rank 58th by that same Havoc Rate measure), New Mexico desperately needs a little more from the trio of Cody Baker, Aaron Blackwell and Nahje Flowers.
Keep UNLV’s passing game down.
It is anyone’s guess as to how the UNLV passing game will perform without Rogers, but it’s hard to deny that it could get much worse. The offensive line has allowed a sack rate of 11.7%, while Rogers’ completion percentage was last in the nation. Even Air Force has a receiver that has cracked 100 yards on the season so far.
The good news is that the Lobos were able to exploit this weakness in last year’s close loss, sacking Rogers four times. And the secondary, despite getting torched here and there, has gotten more hands on the ball than you might think, breaking up 11 passes in the last two weeks. If they can prove yet again that they know how to take advantage of a shaky aerial attack, like they did against NMSU, that would be a huge step toward defying the odds.
Stop throwing interceptions.
Did you know that New Mexico currently ranks 4th in the Mountain West by team passer rating? It’s true, though the situational splits are all over the place: The #ThrowBos get better at throwing the football the closer they are to the opponent’s end zone, and they’ve been significantly better in the second half than in the first.
The big thing, though, is avoiding the backbreaking interception. The starting job is now firmly in Sheriron Jones’s hands now, but he already sports an interception rate of 9.2%. UNLV currently sports the third-best opponents’ passer rating in the conference, but they also haven’t been tested much (91 attempts) and allowed Arkansas State’s Justice Hansen to complete over 70% of his passes in inclement weather. New Mexico’s passing game has shown promise, and certainly taken a step forward; eliminating the big mistakes is the next move.