New Mexico (2-3) at Wyoming (3-2)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 12, 3:30 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: War Memorial Stadium (29,181) -- Laramie, Wyoming. Television: ROOT-NW, RM. Home Record: UNM 1-2, Wyoming 2-0. Away Record: UNM 1-1, Wyoming 1-2. Neutral Record: UNM 0-0, Wyoming 0-0. Conference Record: UNM 0-1, Wyoming 1-0. Series Record: Wyoming leads, 35-30.
GAME NOTES: The New Mexico Lobos try to follow up their easy win over New Mexico State last weekend with another positive outcome as they pay a visit to the Wyoming Cowboys for a Mountain West Conference showdown on Saturday afternoon.
Last weekend, the Lobos sized up NMSU in the annual Rio Grande Rivalry and ended up blowing the doors off the Aggies in a lopsided 66-17 final in Albuquerque. The scoring outburst for UNM was the highest since the team opened the 2012 campaign with a 66-21 romp over Southern. With two wins now, UNM is halfway to its entire win total from a season ago when it finished 4-9 and was just 1-7 in conference play.
As for the Cowboys, they caught their first break in the schedule last week, perhaps not a bad thing since the team was having to pick up the pieces after being thumped by Texas State on the road on Sept. 28 by a score of 42-21. The defeat snapped what had been a three-game win streak for Wyoming.
New Mexico lost to the Pokes by just five points last season, 28-23, which means UNM now trails in the all-time series by a 35-30 margin. Wyoming has won two straight and three of the last four in the series, including the last two in Laramie.
Kasey Carrier ran for 126 yards and scored three touchdowns as the Lobos topped New Mexico State by seven touchdowns last Saturday night. Carrier was credited with 14 rushing attempts for the Lobos, as the team snapped a two- game slide while taking a break from their Mountain West Conference schedule. Quarterback Cole Gautsche completed half of his four pass attempts for 48 yards and a TD, while also posting a team-best 127 yards and scoring once on 12 carries. One of the top running teams in the nation heading into the weekend, ranked third with an average of 324.5 ypg, the Lobos dialed up a staggering 541 yards on 56 attempts, compiling 608 yards of total offense.
Considering the Lobos permitted 56 points to UNLV a week earlier, the stand against New Mexico State, even though the Aggies own a share of the longest losing streak in the nation right now, is nothing something that should be taken lightly. SaQwan Edwards notched a fumble return and an interception, while Brett Bowers responded with three sacks and a forced fumble as the latter earned MWC Defensive Player of the Week honors.
Bowers has a total of just 21 tackles on the season, yet he leads the program with seven tackles for loss and five sacks, not to mention coming up with two of their four forced fumbles.
Not surprisingly, after last weekend's rushing attack the Lobos are now tops in the nation with 367.8 ypg. Just as important, the team is averaging a substantial 6.9 yards per rushing attempt and has tallied 21 rushing touchdowns to shoulder most of the load. Carrier is responsible for eight of those TDs and a team-best 685 yards, while Gautsche checks in with an average of just over 100 ypg on the ground and five TDs of his own.
The Cowboys have one glaring deficiency that will most likely work in UNM's favor and that is the run defense that is put on the field by Wyoming. Granted, the team has gone up against run-heavy programs such as Nebraska and Air Force, but with 236.2 ypg allowed on the ground (114th nationally), the Lobos know that their primary attack mode will work against the hosts this weekend.
Eddie Yarbrough will be crowding the line of scrimmage for sure as he tried to build upon his eight TFLs and 4.5 sacks, both of which lead the Cowboys through five games. Surely there will be plenty of opportunities for stops behind the line of scrimmage, but sacks will be tough to come by since UNM rarely passes the ball.
The offense works only as well as quarterback Brett Smith these days. The school's all-time leader in passing touchdowns with 61, Smith has tossed 14 scoring passes this year alone and is averaging 321.4 ypg through the air. His 65.0 percent accuracy means the team can rely heavily on the passing attack, but thanks to Shaun Wick (362 yards, five TDs) and Brandon Miller (238 yards, three TDs) that doesn't always have to be the case.
But make no mistake Smith, who is second on the team with 282 rushing yards, would like nothing better than to connect with Dominic Rufran (36 catches, 415 yards, six TDs) over and over again in order to spread the field and mix up the defense.
New Mexico knows full well that the scoring opportunities will be far more rare this weekend, but that doesn't mean the Lobos should be counted out altogether. However, if Smith is on his game and the hometown fans are fully behind their Cowboys for an entire 60 minutes, assume there will be a win awaiting Wyoming in Laramie.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Wyoming 31, New Mexico 21
10/09 10:35:19 ET