Air Force vs. New Mexico: Keys to a Lobos Win, How to Watch, Odds, Prediction
The Lobos look to upend Air Force in opening Mountain West play. Here’s how to watch and what to watch for against the Falcons.
The Lobos look to surprise the Falcons.
WEEK 5: New Mexico Lobos (2-2, 0-0 Mountain West) vs. Air Force Falcons (3-1, 0-1 Mountain West)
WHEN: Saturday, October 2nd — 4:30 PM MT/3:30 PM PT
WHERE: University Stadium; Albuquerque, NM
STREAMING: Fans can sign up to receive a free one-week trial of Fubo, which includes FS2, by following this link.
RADIO: The New Mexico broadcast will air on 96.3 KKOB (Lobo Radio Network), and The Air Force broadcast can be found in Colorado Springs at 740 AM (KVOR) or streamed via Air Force All-Access.
SERIES RECORD: Air Force leads the all-time series 24-14, winning the last three meetings.
LAST WEEK: Air Force defeated FAU 31-7, while New Mexico lost at UTEP 20-13.
ODDS (as of 9/29, via Caesars Sportsbook): Air Force -10.5
SP+ PROJECTION: Air Force by 11.8
FEI PROJECTION: Air Force by 19
The Air Force Falcons will travel to University Stadium in Albuquerque on Saturday evening to take on the New Mexico Lobos in a Mountain West Conference matchup. UNM looks to get back on track after two weeks of poor performance against the Texas A&M Aggies and UTEP Miners.
One would expect that against the top-ranked Aggies, but the UTEP game is a head-scratcher for Lobo fans as the Lobos were more talented in this writer’s opinion. Yes, six of the team’s top eight receivers were out because of COVID-19 contact tracing and you could expect the performance on the passing to be affected, but the Lobos offense, with one of the top quarterbacks in the Mountain West, Terry Wilson, has struggled to get any momentum going in both the run and passing games.
Despite the Lobos’ good size on the offensive line, they have not shown that they can flat out physically dominate defensive linemen and opens holes for two of the more talented running backs in the MWC. Bobby Cole and Aaron Dumas didn’t have a breakout game against the Miners as the offense had just 135 rushing yards the entire game while Wilson had just 160 yards passing.
The Lobos will attempt again to get the ground game going against the Falcons with both Cole and Dumas. Dumas, the true freshman, has looked good recently as he has 43 carries for 192 yards (4.5 yards per rushing attempt), but he hasn’t found the end zone yet. If the Lobos can get the run game against the Falcons, this will be huge as it will help them set the pass up.
Meanwhile, the Lobos defense under Rocky Long will play one of the top rushing teams in the country, as Air Force averages 357.3 yards per game. Fullback Brad Roberts leads the Falcons in rushing with 398 yards, quarterback Haaziq Daniels is second with 382, and wide receiver Micah Davis is third with 239 yards. This three-headed monster will face a New Mexico team that has been one of the best at stopping the run this year since Long’s 3-3-5 has allowed just 24 points per game and held opponents to just 2.7 yards per carry on the ground.
One very bright spot for the defense has been defensive end Joey Noble, who is tenth among FBS players in tackles for loss. He has made big plays for the Lobos at the right time when stops have been against whoever they were playing. The Falcons defense, meanwhile, has been solid as they are 28th nationally in total yards allowed per game (300.5 YPG, 5.05 YPP) and 46th against the pass (200.5 passing YPG, 6.6 YPA allowed). They’re definitely the more balanced team, hence the 3-1 record.
Three Keys to a New Mexico Victory
1. Run the ball with their very talented running backs.
The Lobos have got to see a running game to have a fighting chance against the very balanced Falcons. Keeping the offense on the field and moving the chains keeps the time-consuming triple option off the field.
One of the biggest strengths for Lobo teams of the past was some big linemen with nasty dispositions that could make some holes for the running backs. There is a reason all-time leading rusher DonTrell Moore had consistent 1,000-yard seasons, and the offensive linemen took it upon themselves to move smaller defensive linemen out of the way. They’ll have a size advantage here since the Falcons don’t have a single 300-pound player on the defensive line anymore, but if UNM gives up another eight tackles for loss, as they’ve done per game to this point, it may not matter.
Current offensive line coach Jason Lenzmier was part of that great group and must get his unit going for the Lobos to get wins this year, or it will be a long year for the Lobos. Just two yards gained on simple dive plays will not win many games in this talented conference. Bottom line, if you look at some of the top teams in the Mountain West, they are balanced and can run the ball.
2. Help Terry Wilson get more aggressive.
The Lobos quarterback must also play at an elite level for the Lobos to win games this year. So far, he has seemed a little tentative at times and, yes, he was under pressure in these games from poor protection from his offensive line. He must be more of a threat running the ball when pressure is coming at him or if the receivers can’t create separation; run the ball!
In addition, Wilson has not read the zone-read at times, giving the ball to the dive running back when there was space to run for big yards had he kept the ball. With his athleticism and speed, better decision-making would be a massive game changer for the Lobos as now the defense has to defend his running ability.
Finally, as balanced as the Falcons are, one spot that they are vulnerable is in the secondary. They have only allowed opponents to complete 51.2% of passes, but Utah State’s Logan Bonner picked on them left and right and Wilson could do the same if he makes good reads and accurate throws to his very athletic receivers who can make plays.
3. Step up and contain the triple option.
It’s no secret that Air Force is a heck of a running team, averaging 357.3 yards per game and 5.45 yards per carry. If there is one coordinator that can limit the big chunk yards or keeping it close, it’s Rocky Long.
Bottom line, the Lobos can contain this triple option and limit the big plays, enabling Terry Wilson and company can get back on track, if they’re disciplined and create turnovers. They’ve only allowed two running plays of 20 or more yards and created seven takeaways so far, while the Falcons have turned the ball over five times in their last two losses.
With the Lobos there is always that one big game where they seemed to be the underdogs when the heavens open up and everything goes right. The Lobos are due for that game, but will this be it? Time will tell the story.
New Mexico 26, Air Force 24