August 29, 2014

New Mexico Preview: Lost Lobos

After a workmanlike 51-7 victory over Missouri State, the Razorbacks turn their attention this week to the New Mexico Lobos.  The game will be the first of two in Little Rock this year, with the 6:00 kickoff televised by ESPNU.

All things considered, the Hogs first team offense was pretty sharp for the first game of the year.  No turnovers by that group coupled with Tyler Wilson’s accuracy (75 percent completion percentage) made for a clean showing.

Not so much for the Lobos in their 14-10 loss to Colorado State.

New Mexico ended up with more first downs (22-12), more rushing yards (150-92) and more total yards (329-270) than CSU.  But six fumbles (three lost), nine penalties (for 65 yards), and 10…count ‘em…TEN SACKS allowed left the Lobos scratching their heads.

“I think we played well enough on defense to win the game.  There is great disappointment by our players because we know this is a game we should have won.” — New Mexico Head Coach Mike Locksley

It’s understandable why the Lobos would be disappointed, especially head coach Mike Locksley, who is 2-23 in his third year at the school.  He has landed on most “Hot Seat” lists for 2012.  By most accounts, however, Locksley has improved the talent level over the last two years.

For the Lobos on offense, everything runs through sophomore quarterback Tarean Austin (6-2, 205).  Austin is a dual-threat player, with great speed and an above average arm.  The Hogs will have to be wary when rushing Austin to maintain good rush lanes on Saturday night.

UNM is pedestrian at running back.  Because of this, they try to do what they can to get the ball into the hands of their playmakers:  Wide receivers Deon Long (6-0, 190) and Ty Kirk (6-2, 180), and All-MWC tight end Lucas Reed (6-6, 232).  Long caught eight for 79 yards against Colorado State, while Kirk has the most NFL potential.  Reed led the team in 2010 with 5 touchdown grabs.

On defense, New Mexico’s base defense is a 4-2-5 look.  With three safeties, and nary a starter over 280 pounds up front, the Lobos are light and will likely get pushed around by the Hogs.  Senior All-MWC linebacker Carmen Messina (6-2, 236) is a star and will play on the next level, but that’s about it.

Senior James Aho (8-9 field goals, long of 51 in 2010) is a quality kicker.  Punter Ben Skaer (40.5 YPP in 2010) get lots of opportunities.  ;)

The focus Saturday night should and will be the Hogs rushing attack.  Coach Petrino said in his post-game comments that Missouri State employed several run blitzes, forcing the Razorbacks to pass more than they wanted.  (The Bears employed that same strategy against the Hogs in 2009 down in Little Rock, if you recall.)

With the Lobos being undersized up front, this is a perfect opportunity for the Razorbacks to get the running game on track.  A repeat of the 3.1 yards per carry number that they posted against Missouri State would be a huge disappointment and cause for concern.

Weather for Saturday looks sunny with temps in the low 80s…perfect for a party in “The Rock.”  The Hogs are favored to by 36 points.