New Mexico Lobos
Offense: F | Defense: B+ | Special Teams: C+ | Meeting/Exceeding Expectations: C
The story of the Lobos season so far is one of a competent defense attempting to drag a moribund offense up toward respectability. Stop me if you’ve heard that before. For the most part, there isn’t much doubt that Rocky Long’s unit has held up its end of the bargain, but a recent coordinator switch on the other side of the ball didn’t pay any dividends against rival New Mexico State in Week 7.
The offensive woes start in the trenches, where the Lobos offensive line has allowed a stuff rate of 20.2% and a sack rate of 13.7%, which rank 102nd and 130th, respectively, among FBS teams. That’s in spite of a remarkable amount of continuity up front — four players have started every game at the same position — but it’s been frustrating for a trio of running backs (Nate Jones, Christian Washington, Sherod White) that’s shown promise here and there but has averaged 4.07 yards per carry to date.
It’s not immediately clear whether new coordinator Heath Ridenour will be able to turn things around. If the Lobos are going to claw their way to a bowl game, though, he’ll have to: New Mexico has averaged 0.99 points per drive (127th in FBS), earned 26.4% of available yards per drive (130th), and averaged 4.03 drive yards per offensive play (127th).
If he can, it’ll be a tremendous boon to a defense that’s done just about everything it can. Right now, Rocky Long’s unit ranks 39th in points per drive allowed, 35th in available yards percentage allowed, and 64th in drive yards per opponent offensive play. That’s in addition to forcing 13 turnovers and allowing a third-down conversion rate of 28.6%, both of which rank second in the Mountain West. The Lobos also lead the conference with ten forced fumbles and 39 passes defended, and they’ve done this despite losing Tavian Combs for the year to injury and playing without Donte Martin the last two weeks.
Contributions on special teams, meanwhile, have been more or less the same as they were a year ago. Aaron Rodriguez has been only slightly less busy than he was in 2021, but he’s improved by nearly two full yards per punt to 44.76. The kicker tandem of George Steinkamp and Luke Drzewiecki hasn’t been as reliable, however, combining to make just 7-of-13 field goals so far. Christian Washington had a kickoff return touchdown against Boise State but has otherwise been quiet, but he may be the long-term solution on that front.
Head of the Class: Jerrick Reed II, DB
The veteran defender has been asked to do more in 2022, seeing lots of snaps at safety and as a slot corner, but he’s been just as productive as always. His 51 total tackles are the second-most among all Mountain West defensive backs while his eight pass breakups pace the conference at the midway point.
One Player Deserving of More Attention: A.J. Haulcy, LOBO
The true freshman was thrust into a difficult situation when he was asked to step and replace Tavian Combs, lost for the season to injury, but he’s thrived as one of the newest anchors in a tough Rocky Long secondary. He already ranks third on the team with 37 total tackles and has picked up an interception and forced two fumbles, one of which might have been the play of the year in the Mountain West, but it may still come as a shock to learn his 90.3 overall PFF grade is currently the second-best of all safeties in the nation.