Maine vs. New Mexico: Game Preview, How To Watch, Odds, Prediction
The Lobos look to begin 2022 with a win at home against the FCS Maine Black Bears. Here’s how to watch and what to watch for.
A solid test for a team looking to make moves.
WEEK 1: Maine Black Bears vs. New Mexico Lobos
WHEN: Saturday, September 3 — 6:00 PM MT/5:00 PM MT
WHERE: University Stadium; Albuquerque, NM
WEATHER: Sunny, then possible scattered thunderstorms, high of 90 degrees
TV: My50-TV (local in Albuquerque)
STREAMING: Mountain West Network
The Mountain West Network should also be available for streaming on a handful of smart TV platforms, as well as through the mobile app available on Apple and Android. You can learn more about how to access all of those at this link.
RADIO: The Maine broadcast can be found on the affiliates of the Black Bears Radio Network. The New Mexico radio broadcast can be found on the affiliates of the Lobo Radio Network, including flagship 770 AM (KKOB) in Albuquerque.
SERIES RECORD: This is the first meeting between Maine and New Mexico.
SP+ PROJECTION: New Mexico by 3.3
FEI PROJECTION: N/A
PARKER FLEMING PROJECTION: N/A
The road starts here…IT'S TIME TO GO!!!!
— New Mexico Football (@UNMLoboFB) August 29, 2022
New Mexico head football coach Danny Gonzales’s mantra since he took over at his alma mater, the University of New Mexico, has been #win5. If there is such a thing as irony, Gonzales has only won five games in his first two years as the face of the Lobos program.
But this is a program he took over months before the COVID-19 pandemic ravaged the world and he was able to win two games in 2020. That season, UNM did not play a home game in Albuquerque. Players and coaches were relocated to Las Vegas because of restrictions set forth by New Mexico’s governor, Michelle Lujan Grisham. Last season, hopes were higher for Lobo football but, after a 2-0 start, UNM finished the season 3-9.
Those same expectations are more or less in place headed into 2022 for Gonzales, the program, and the school, but will the community support the UNM football team?
“I love the city of Albuquerque,” Gonzales said at his weekly press conference this past Tuesday at University Stadium. “We’re almost a million people. We’re at 950,000 if you include the greater metropolitan area. There is no reason why we can get 39-to-40000 people (in University Stadium).”
The Lobos’ first opponent in 2022 is FCS’s Maine. A program that – much like Gonzales – is led by a familiar face with first-year head coach Jordan Stevens, who was a defensive end for the Black Bears from 2006-10. UNM has won seven straight against opponents from the FCS level and this is the 11th time in the last 12 seasons the Lobos will open at home.
Can they get the season off to another strong start, though? Here’s what UNM can do to make that happen.
Three Keys to a New Mexico Victory
1. Score points and keep the defense off the field for a while.
Despite having the nation’s 44th-ranked total defense in 2021, which included giving up a solid 5.34 yards play, UNM averaged only 12.2 points per game in Mountain West play last season. They found themselves down double digits early and often during the later part of 2021 and could never seem to muster meaningful and long offensive drives, in equal parts due to extensive youth and poor injury luck.
Little surprise, then, that the Lobos finished dead last in averaging 0.79 points per drive, the worst such figure of any FBS team in a non-COVID season since 2015.
Needless to say, there will be a lot of pressure right away for new starting quarterback Miles Kendrick, running backs Sherod White and Christian Washington, and a more seasoned group of pass catchers to get things going in the right direction sooner rather than later. Drives that can take time off the clock and keep the Lobos defense fresh over sixty minutes will pay dividends this Saturday and in future weeks, as well.
2. Get a strong performance from the offensive line.
Maine’s pass rush wasn’t a particularly strong one last year, as the Black Bears only managed 12 sacks on the year, and though they return defensive end Khairi Manns, who had three of his own in 2021, it should be a good opportunity for a rebuilt UNM offensive line to find its footing.
And, really, they need it. The Lobos ranked dead last among all FBS teams in allowing a stuff rate of 25.5% and 125th by allowing a sack rate of 11%, meaning it may not be a bad thing they have to break in four new starters, including sophomore center CJ James and redshirt freshman guard Shannco Matautia. If the group has come together like Gonzales has claimed, it’ll be a huge boost.
3. Put the clamps on the Black Bears passing game.
One bit of good news for Maine is that starting quarterback Joe Fagnano has a clean bill of health after missing most of 2021 with injury. He’ll be working with a remade group of pass catchers who, by and large, weren’t major contributors last year, though, meaning that the defense’s strength, the secondary, should have a major advantage.
It isn’t guaranteed, though, so Donte Martin, Jerrick Reed II, and the rest of the UNM defensive backfield won’t want to take the likes of tight end Shawn Bowman, who had 24 catches and four touchdowns last fall, and wide receiver Kobay White, who transferred to Maine from Boston College after missing nearly all of the last two years with injury, lightly.
Last year wasn’t pretty in Albuquerque, but progress has been made, especially on the defensive side of the ball, and Maine is a manageable early test for a Lobos team hoping to make major strides in 2022. It may not be the weekend’s prettiest result, but UNM should be able to take care of business at home.
New Mexico 30, Maine 10