UNM facing Colorado State, a team the Lobos have struggled against
Would the real Lobo football team please stand up?
After watching the University of New Mexico football team hammer favored UNLV in a road game last week, Lobo fans are probably wondering what team will show up when UNM travels to Colorado State for a Saturday matinée against the Rams.
The Lobos (3-2 overall, 1-0 in the Mountain West) have alternated wins and losses through the first five games, looking like an offensive machine in the three wins and just plain offensive in the losses.
If form holds, it’ll be a long Saturday against a Colorado State team that has owned the longstanding rivalry in recent years. The Rams (2-4, 1-1) have won eight straight against the Lobos and have done most of their damage in the rivalry by dominating the game up front.
In short, CSU tend to do whatever it wants against New Mexico. The Rams also have what tends to work exceptionally well against the Lobo defense; a taller receiver with big-play capability.
Preston Williams, a 6-foot-4 senior who transferred to CSU from Tennessee, is one of the top receivers in the country. He had 188 yards on nine catches in the season opener and had 121 yards in the first half against Arkansas.
The Lobos played their best defensive game of the last two years in last week’s blowout of UNLV. They didn’t allow a first down until the final two minutes of the opening half, and held the Rebels to just three successful conversions on third down.
On the flip side is a Lobo offense that went over 500 yards against UNLV. Head coach Bob Davie said the upside to quarterback Sheriron Jones getting the full time job as the starter is the additional reps and time with the first team, which allows him to play faster than he ever could have than he would have with the backups.
“He can just react and let his athletic ability carry him instead of thinking so much,” Davie said. “It’s fun to watch. The biggest thing is Sheriron didn’t turn the ball over.”
The extra time and added speed has actually an unusual effect on Jones. In many ways it has slowed the game down, giving him time to process the action and not feel forced to make plays.
Davie pointed to a pair of deep touchdown passes in last week’s win at UNLV when Jones stood in the pocket just long enough to let his receivers get some separation — while allowing the defensive front to get in his face and lower the boom.
Both times he got the ball off just in the nick of time, two sure signs that he’s settling nicely into UNM’s newfangled pass/run offense that no longer depends on the triple option to chew up real estate.
“We turned a guy loose and he stood in the pocket and delivered,” Davie said. “He’s getting better.”
Audition for 2019: Davie said the plan has been to redshirt quarterback Trae Hall this season. That idea hasn’t stopped even though injuries have officially made Hall the backup to Jones.
Under a new NCAA rule, players can appear in up to four regular-season games and still redshirt. That means Hall, who made his debut last week against UNLV with a cup of coffee off the bench, can get into three games before shutting it down for the season.
He will return next season as a freshman and, assuming all goes to play, would be third on the depth chart behind Jones and Tevaka Tuioti.
Plus side of .500: Six MWC teams enter play this weekend with winning records, including UNM. Of the six, five are undefeated in conference play. The only exception is perennial power Boise State, whose only loss in league play came to San Diego State.
Regardless of what happens this weekend, UNM will be the only MWC team not to play a home game in conference. Fresno State and San Diego State will have league gamed while the Lobos’ first two game in the conference will have been on the road.
No motivation: There was a time when being scheduled as an opponent’s homecoming game was an insult to the visiting team. Not so much anymore, Davie said.
The Lobos are Colorado State’s homecoming opponent and the UNM coach said he might mention it to his guys to get a little extra umph out of them in the pregame speech, but there’s not much point in trying too hard to get leverage out of it.
“It’s a little more random now,” he said of the scheduling. “But I might sneak that homecoming one in there a little bit, just try to get any advantage I can get.”
Bowling: Only six teams have reached bowl eligibility: Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Cincinnati. Another 18 can pick up the requisite six wins this weekend.
One Mountain West team, Hawaii, is already 6-1 but needs a seventh win to become postseason eligible since the Warriors play 13 games in the regular season and all bowl-bound teams must finish .500 or better.
Hawaii heads to Brigham Young on Saturday and then finishes with three of its final five games on the island.
Saturday: New Mexico (3-2 overall, 1-0 MWC) at Colorado State (2-4, 1-1), 2 p.m. in Fort Collins, Colo.
TV: AT&T Network
Radio: KVSF-AM and KKOB-AM
Live stats: www.golobos.com