Three Keys to a Lobo Victory
GET THE OFFENSE ON TRACK EARLY
It goes without saying that the Lobo offense has been really bad this year. The Lobos’ offense ranks very low in total yards per game at just 245.3 yards per game.
The bottom 25 this year, putting up just 16.0 points per game, ranking them fifth worst in the FBS.
New Mexico’s passing game has been almost absent this year, ranking sixth-worst in the FBS with 107.1 passing yards per game.
This Lobo offense has thrown 2,283 passing yards in 20 games (just 114.2 YPG) since the 2021 season.
The Lobos rank 125th of 131 NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision teams in passing offense, 126th in pass efficiency, and going against the Falcons ranked 2nd nationally in pass defense.
This is the fourth-worst among FBS offenses and will be going against a Falcon Defense that is ranked 2nd nationally against the pass, so something has to give!
The Lobos have to figure out the passing game if it hopes to beat the Falcons at home in Colorado Springs; there is simply no other way of defeating them without a balanced offense.
The third quarter will say a lot about the game’s outcome as Air Force has outscored its opponents 79-7 in the third quarter. New Mexico has been outscored 79-16 in the third quarter.
The Lobo offense has shown the ability to run the ball at points during the season and now will have an opportunity to compete against the very good rush defense
The Falcons rank 30th in FBS and 9th in total defense and play physical as well.
Danny Gonzales gave Quarterbacks Coach Heath Ridenhour the interim position of Offensive Coordinator, and it has helped as far as better play calling or spreading the field better and more variety of sets in specific situations against defenses.
The problem has been this offense is on the same page as far as playmakers at the wide receiver position in Luke Wysong and Geordan Porter are concerned.
Over the last three games, this Lobo offense has scored only 28 points. A bright spot last week was running back Nate Jones had a huge game rushing 21 times for 146 yards and a touchdown.
For the Lobos to compete and potentially pull the upset, this offense has to stay on the field and score points with both passing and rushing.
Air Force losses to Wyoming (17-14), Utah State (34-27), and Boise State (19-14), the opposing teams were physical up front and balanced in passing and rushing.
So this should be a recipe for the Lobo offense to be balanced, but that has not happened this year, hence the challenge.
Interim Offensive coordinator, who has shown more looks and kept defenses from simply loading the box and becoming so predictable.
He must find ways to get the ball to the more athletic explosive players, like WR Luke Wysong, Geordan Porter, and Bobby Wooden.
The Lobos also have one of the best offensive freshmen in the MWC, running back Christian Washington, who returns kicks along with Wysong.
2) DEFENSIVE PRESSURE
There is no doubt that Defensive Coordinator Rocky Long has his hands full, but if history indicates the Lobos’ success against the Falcons, it should give the Lobo fans some hope.
The Lobo Defense has been more productive than the offense giving up 197.7 passing yards, which ranks them 29th in FBS.
It has been more productive on the defensive side of the ball, surrendering 197.7 passing yards per contest (29th-ranked).
On defense, it ranks 54th, surrendering 135.3 rushing yards per game.
It has been shutting down opposing offenses in 3rd down conversations on the other side of the ball, ranking 18th-best in third-down rate surrendered (31.5%).
New Mexico’s defense has allowed just 10.5 Yards per Reception this season — fourth-best among non-P5 Defenses.
Air Force’s WRs have gained 668 yards on 26 receptions (25.7 YPR) this season — the best among FBS Wide receivers, so look for them to throw long when they throw the ball.
That yards per reception is eye popping at 25.7 and something the Lobo secondary must be aware of and ready for.
Falcons Wide receiver David Cormier is a big NFL-size receiver who leads the Falcons with 11 receptions for 337 yards, three touchdowns, and an impressive 30.6 average.
He is from Albuquerque and is well known for his athleticism at Volcano Vista High School before heading off to the academy, a massive incentive for the big game against the Lobos.
This writer knows his family well and remembers him doing slam dunks in the PIT at State Championship games, so the Lobo secondary must keep an eye on #7 anytime he is on the field.
New Mexico owns a +2 turnover margin this season, which ranks 51st in the FBS. This could be something the Lobos could capitalize as the Falcons have given up the ball more than usual this year with nine fumbles.
Defensive players who must have big games against the Falcons, Cody Moon (38 tackles, 5 Tackles for loss, and 3.5 sacks); Freshman AJ Haulcey (38 tackles, two tackles for loss, and two interceptions in nine games)
Senior Safety Jerrick Reed II has 35 tackles and three tackles for loss, and LB Reco Hannah has 21 tackles, two tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, and one interception.
PLAY SMART FOOTBALL AGAINST A SMART ACADEMY TEAM
When playing a disciplined Air Force team at home, the Lobos must maintain their composure and focus mentally on the game. The Lobos cannot afford a letdown in the mental games against a brilliant Falcon team.
The third quarter for the Lobos has been their Achilles heel this year, and they must turn this around, or it could get ugly as the Air Force offense will try to run the ball down their throats and wear them out.
If the Lobos want to compete against one of the strongest MWC teams, they must stay on the field offensively and not have a lot of three and outs, or it will get ugly going from the third to the fourth quarter.
All the MWC teams that have beaten the Falcons have had a physical play in the trenches and were balanced on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.
They must win the turnover battle and have young players step up, play like seniors, and use their athleticism against the Falcons.
The Lobos must maintain composure during heated moments and be situationally aware of down and distance, time, and the game’s score, or it could be a long quiet flight back home to Albuquerque.
It’s hard to predict based on if the offense shows up or what players will step up, especially on a young team on the road in a hostile environment.
There is no doubt that the Lobos will play hard as they have for most of the season but so much has to go right for them to beat a very balanced team.
Having watched this team as a fan at the age of 12 when the Lobos would wear turquoise uniforms, a Lobo Player father, Lobo team Chaplain…so I have seen lots of history and players with this team.
This is one of those games where it looked like there was no way the Lobo team could come away with a victory but managed to get a win somehow with turnovers or unexpected players who stepped up.
This could be that game, but the Lobos must prove and believe they can win and show it on the football field to build on next year’s Lobo team with the season coming to a conclusion in a few weeks.
Prediction Air Force 38 New Mexico 14