New Mexico vs. Wyoming: Keys For A Lobos Victory
Can UNM get its first win of the year?
New Mexico looking for some positives.
WEEK 14: New Mexico Lobos (0-5) vs. (0-4) vs. Wyoming (2-2)
WHEN: Saturday, December 5th —830 P.M. MT
WHERE: Sam Boyd Stadium; Las Vegas, Nevada
TV: CBS Sports Network
SERIES RECORD: Wyoming leads the overall series 39-33
ODDS via BetMGM: Wyoming favored by 17.5
The New Mexico Lobos (0-5, 0-5) are still searching for a win this season and take on the Wyoming Cowboys (2-2, 2-2) in Las Vegas, Nevada, Saturday at Sam Boyd Stadium.
There is no sugar coating the Lobo football record: UNM has lost 20 straight games in the Mountain West Conference, the nation’s longest current conference losing streak.
The Lobos relocated its home games to Las Vegas, Nevada, in response to the high prevalence of the COVID-19 virus in Bernalillo County, New Mexico.
They have been there as a team since November 2nd staying at the Hilton Lake Las Vegas and have stated how well the staff has treated the Lobos during their stay.
Redshirt freshman walk-on Connor Genal will lead the Lobos against the visiting Wyoming Cowboys this Saturday at Sam Boyd Stadium on CBS Sports Network.
When Genal takes the opening snap, he will become the first walk-on quarterback to start for the Lobos in 20 seasons. It marks the second straight year that UNM will start at least three quarterbacks during the season.
This has been an enormous challenge for the Lobos offense, now down to their fourth-string quarterback playing an excellent Wyoming Cowboys team.
The Cowboys are seeking to climb past the .500 mark. They returned to action with a convincing road win against UNLV 45-14 last week to even their MWC record to 2-2.
It will be up to Genal, the fourth-string quarterback, to lead this OC Derek Warehime’s offense for the Lobos against a good Cowboy team.
UNM enters the game 0-5 on the season, have come close to winning a few games this season, losing a pair of games by two scores, and leading at the half in three of the five games.
Their achilles heel this year for UNM has been getting outscored 62-21 in the third quarter.
Here are the three things that the Lobos must do to have a shot at winning this game.
1. Slow down the Cowboys offense
At 6’5, 221 lbs, Starting Cowboys QB Levi Williams is a load and prefers to run versus passing and has 759 yards passing in four games.
Junior RB Xazavian Valladay (listed as questionable with a leg injury) leads the team with 491 yards rushing and an impressive 5.6 yards per attempt.
Valladay, from Matteson, Illinois, is undoubtedly one of the top running backs in the Mountain West Conference and projected 2nd or 3rd NFL Draft pick my many sports draft projection sites online.
He has swift feet and acceleration and can stretch the defense out to make big plays for the Cowboys!
Look for Trey Smith (292 yards) to get the bulk of runs if Valladay does not play, and their top receiver is Senior Ayden Eberhart with 215 receiving yards this year. Last week, Smith took over for Valladay and had career day vs. UNLV by rushing for 164 yards.
The Cowboys are a big, physical offensive line, coached by former Lobo player Bart Miller who now serves the Cowboys as the offensive line coach and run game coordinator.
There are many familiar coaching faces when these two teams match up Saturday with coaching friendships that go back far, at least 17 years.
Bart Miller a UNM graduate, played for the Lobos from 2003 to 2007 when Rocky Long was there as the head coach.
Miller played with current offensive line coach Jason Lenzmeier as Lobo players, and the two also coached together later after their college playing days were over.
Simultaneously, coach Danny Gonzales was the Video Coordinator (2003-2005) for the UNM football program. before heading to the coaching world following Rocky Long to SDSU.
This writer officiated Miller’s Wedding to his wife many years ago to his wife Amy, another former Lobo Softball player and graduate.
Miller is a big part of the Cowboys’ success, and if you watch his offensive line play, it’s self-evident, the Cowboy rushing attack is averaging 238 rushing yards per game in 2020 to rank No. 13 in the nation in rushing offense
But with all the long-time friendships between the coaches, you still can bet all competitive war come game time. These coaches all hate to lose, and there is a lot of pride at stake.
Miller will be all Cowboys come game day and leave the friendly greetings till after the game.
He has won and lost games to Defensive Coordinator Rocky Longs Defenses over the years, so this will be fun to watch.
2. Score points against the Cowboys
The Lobos are in the middle of the pack offensively in the Mountain West Conference, averaging 20.2 points per game. They have shown the ability to move the ball, averaging 389.2 yards per game, but it has not added up to many points each game as they rank 10th in scoring offense in the MWC, scoring just 20.2 points per game.
QB Connor Genal, a 6′ 5 213 lb walk-on redshirt freshman, will take the helm for the Lobos against Wyoming for this OC Derek Warehime offense. QB Tevaka Tuioti who started the Lobos season is still experiencing concussion symptoms from a hit against Hawaii three games ago.
Backup Trae Hall has bruised ribs, practiced this week, but both are not expected to be available for Lobo offense Saturday.
Playing in his first game in over two years, Genal led a long scoring drive to get UNM within a touchdown late, and he survived a brutal late helmet-to-helmet hit to finish off an 87-yard scoring drive.
“He came into a bad situation on Thursday night and brought us to within a touchdown of tying the game, and if we could make a play on defense on third and five, we’re going to get the ball with a chance to score and tie or go for two and try to win,” said Gonzales.
Walk-on freshman Isaiah Chavez, who led Rio Rancho to the New Mexico state title game in the top division last year, is Genal’s backup.
Junior running back Bobby Cole leads the New Mexico rushing attack averaging 4.9 yards per carrying for 279 yards and three touchdowns need to have a solid game for UNM.
One of the issues the Lobos have had with the offense is getting the offensive line on the same page to give the Lobo Quarterbacks time to throw the ball downfield.
So it critical for the Lobo offense to get the ball into the hands of their playmakers in the Defensive Secondary to make plays.
3. Play all four quarters.
As mentioned earlier, the Lobos have been awful at finishing the game, being outscored 62-21 in the third quarter.
At some point, they have to clamp down and not allow teams to run roughshod over them in the third quarter and play lights out for four quarters.
It’s on the players to step up for the Lobos to make plays when it counts the most. Coaches can’t go out and play for the players.
When a team consistently repeats behavior coming out, it’s a mental thing. The Lobos must break this mental stronghold or gain a belief to win the game and make plays when it counts the most.
They must get over this mental barrier, and Lobo players need to respond to the adversity in the 3rd quarter to prevent a repeat of many games they have played.
When the Lobos play all four quarters and put a full game together, they will enjoy a level of success.
After some of the tough losses, Coach Danny Gonzales has said that the Lobos are their own worst enemies in allowing opposing teams to make big plays versus making big plays themselves.
So it will be interesting to see if the team puts it all together on both sides of the ball and plays all four quarters to get that first victory.