New Mexico vs. Utah State: Keys For A Lobos Victory
Lobos, Aggies each looking for first win.
Who will be victorious?
Who: Utah State Aggies (0-4) vs. New Mexico (0-4)
Kickoff: Thursday, November 26 at 7 p.m. ET
STREAMING: FuboTV – Get a free seven-day trial
RADIO: Utah State | New Mexico
Odds via BetMGM: New Mexico -5.5
Game Notes: New Mexico | Utah State
— New Mexico Lobos (@UNMLOBOS) November 25, 2020
Well, we know one thing about the matchup between New Mexico Lobos and Utah State on Thanksgiving evening. One of these 0-4 teams will finally get their first victory.
The Lobos will visit Logan, Utah, searching for an elusive victory for first-year head coach Danny Gonzales.
The Lobos are 0-4 this year and because of the COVID-19 restrictions in New Mexico relocated to Henderson, Nevada, just outside of Las Vegas.
One has to commend UNM President Garnett S Stokes, AD Eddie Nunez, and coach Gonzales for this team’s commitment to play college football this year.
Make no mistake about it, this team has jumped thru many hoops to even play a college football game this year and its been a team effort from the President of UNM, the AD Nunez and head coach Danny Gonzales.
The Lobos are staying at the Hilton Lake Las Vegas In Henderson and paying $70,000 a week for their hotel bill and their only home game this year was two weeks ago against Nevada at Sam Boyd Stadium.
Coach Gonzales has he would much rather stay in Albuquerque in a hotel with their Lobo bubble to benefit the local economy with the money being spent in Las Vegas.
The New Mexico Lobos are 0-4 on the season and haven’t won a game since September 21 of last year. The New Mexico Lobos haven’t won a road game since October 6 of 2018.
The Lobos’ 13-game losing streak is the second-longest in the country. UNM (0-4) also extended its losing streak in the Mountain West Conference to 19 games. That is the nation’s longest current conference losing streak.
Kickoff from Maverik Stadium in Logan, Utah, is set for 7 p.m. ET. The all-time series is tied 13-13, although Utah State holds a 7-4 edge in games played in Logan.
It’s been a tough season for first-year head coach Danny Gonzales in getting that first win in the column for the New Mexico Lobo football team. It’s also been a rough one for Utah State interim head coach Frank Maile after Gary Anderson was fired after a 0-3 start to the season.
ICYMI: Head football coach Danny Gonzales puts a bow on the Air Force game and looks ahead to the Thanksgiving Day matchup with Utah State in this week's Lobo Coaches Show! #GoLobos | #Win5 | #WeAreNM
— New Mexico Football (@UNMLoboFB) November 24, 2020
Add to that the fact quarterback Jason Shelley was dismissed for an unspecified violation of team rules.
Three Keys to a Lobo Victory
This is an easy decision for the Lobos; they have got to move the chains and score points.
Last week Quarterback Trae Hall was rushed in the pocket and had very little time to connect to this very talented core of receivers. The Lobo offensive line was the beginning of the year to be a strength of this year’s team did a poor job of opening holes to running backs and protecting their quarterback.
Trae Hall will make his third straight start if Tavaka Tuioti is not cleared from concussion protocol after leaving the game against Hawaii two weeks ago.
He had a rough outing against the Air Force Falcons going 23 of 42 attempts for 221 yards with an interception. For the season is completing 52.5 percent of his passes.
A large part of his performance was due to being rushed in the pocket and not being able to connect with Lobo receivers.
Hall’s numbers were not super impressive. He managed to connect with eight different players, including Jordan Kress and Andrew Erickson. Emmanuel Logan-Green had 64 yards and led the team in overall receptions (21) for the season, while Kress is tops with 224 yards.
Erickson is now consistently a receiver that OC Derek Warehime can count on, right behind the Lobo’s two top receivers with 195 yards on 11 catches.
It will be very interesting if Tavaka Tuioti is able to start against the Aggies, as his numbers are substantial for this offense and could add a boost for them.
Before the concussion, he completed 56.1 percent of his passes for 475 yards, four touchdowns, and just one interception. Could be just what the doctor ordered from a production standpoint
In last week’s game against the Falcons, the Lobo offense finished with 304 total yards, including 83 rushing yards on 25 carries. Bobby Cole leads the team with 255 rushing yards, and Nathaniel Jones combined for 58 yards on 12 attempts against Air Force.
The Utah State defense has struggled this year, giving up 37.3 points a game that ranks them 113 nationally and giving up 525.8 yards per game (124th) in the country.
The Lobos should be able to score points on this defense if they play smart and physical football.
The Lobo defense struggled last week, giving up 422 yards on 68 plays against the Air Force Falcons and Falcons averaged 6.21 average yards per play and had four touchdowns.
“We have to get our pride back — I think it was taken,” first-year Lobos head coach Gonzales told reporters at his presser. “That was a terrible performance by everyone involved both coaching and playing. I don’t think we did a good enough job of coaching them to make them successful.”
Last week, the Rocky Long 3-3-5 defense was ranked 3rd in Rush Defense nationally, giving up an average of only 81 yards per game.
Air Force scored on its first three drives of the game, opening up a 21-0 lead on the way to defeating New Mexico for the ninth straight time at Falcon Stadium, winning 28-0
Gonzales had tried to prepare the Lobos for the triple offense’s speed and knew this would be one of the biggest challenges for his Lobo defense going into the game.
UNM’s defense struggled out of the gate but picked it up after the first three drives, forcing four fumbles, recovering three, and getting a fourth-down stop in the fourth quarter inside the five-yard line.
.@CoachGonzUNM, "We are going to get this thing turned around. I'm very thankful that I have the opportunity to be your head coach…We're going to do everything we can to give you a Lobo football victory on Thursday…" @UNMLoboFB @610KNML https://t.co/bEWnevl9pw
— J.J. Buck (@_JJBuck) November 23, 2020
Defensively, senior linebacker Brandon Shook leads the Lobos in tackles with 37, including 21 solo tackles, one pass breakup. At Air Force, Shook had a season-high 19 tackles, including 11 solo tackles, which is quite impressive.
He is a two-year All-Mountain West All-Academic selection, so he is getting it done in both the classroom and football.
Look for the Lobos to rebound on defense against Utah State after Coach Gonzales let it be known that the loss against Air Force was on the coaches not being prepared or ready to play last week against the Falcons.
Truth be told, the triple option creates issues for just about any defense it matches up against; it’s the reason teams use this highly potent running scheme.
This unit is often overlooked at how much it can make or break a team’s ability to win a game. Last week for the Lobos, who have had good, very good success between the punters and kickers, there was a letdown.
It got so bad against the Air Force that sophomore kicker George Steinkamp, a bright spot leading up to last week’s game, just could not hit a field goal. This was just one of those games where the kicking team could not get the ball between the uprights.
He had connected on his first seven field-goal attempts, to going 0-for-4 against the Falcons, missing 37, 40, 50, 51 yards last Saturday.
To add to kicking woes, Andrew Shelley, UNM’s starting kicker from last year, missed a field goal when he was brought in after Steinkamps missed. It was just one of those nights for the Lobos.
So expect a special teams rebound with either Steinkamp or Shelley ( they compete with each day at practice to determine the starter) or punter Tyson Dyer for the Lobos.
The Special team’s unit has been for many years a strength for the UNM Lobo program, either in the kicking game or punting game.