CFN Preview 2013 - New Mexico Lobos
New Mexico RB Kasey Carrier
New Mexico RB Kasey Carrier
Posted Jul 16, 2013 2013 Preview - New Mexico Lobo

New Mexico Lobos

Preview 2013

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By Pete Fiutak

Head coach: Bob Davie
2nd year: 4-9
7th year overall: 39-34
Returning Lettermen: 48
Off. 23, Def. 23, ST 2
Lettermen Lost: 20
Ten Best UNM Players
1. RB Kasey Carrier, Sr.
2. LB Dallas Bollema, Sr.
3. DE Jacori Greer, Sr.
4. OT Darryl Johnson, Sr.
5. OG LaMar Bratton, Jr.
6. LB Javarie Johnson, Jr.
7. P Ben Skaer, Sr.
8. QB Cole Gautsche, Soph.
9. WR Carlos Wiggins, Soph.
10. RB Jhurell Pressley, Soph.
2013 Schedule
8/31 UTSA
9/7 at UTEP
9/14 at Pitt
9/28 UNLV
10/5 New Mexico State
10/12 at Wyoming
10/19 Utah State
11/2 at San Diego St
11/8 Air Force
11/16 Colorado State
11/23 at Fresno State
11/30 at Boise State
Bob Davie pulled the program up out of the nosedive, but to go from damage control to contender might be even easier.

New Mexico had become a complete and utter disaster under former head coach Mike Locksley, but Davie was able to fix things right away by instilling more discipline, more of a steady hand, and running game that ended up cranking out huge numbers and providing a calling card to rely on. This wasn't the sloppy, mistake-filled team of the past; all of a sudden, things started to work.

The turnovers slowed down, the special teams were stronger, and the ground attack cranked out over 300 yards per game on the way to a nice 4-3 start. A six-game losing streak to close out the year might not have been fun, and the four wins were against the completely miserable, but the Lobos showed up in a tough loss to Nevada, battled well in losses to Air Force, Boise State and Fresno State, and ended up losing five games by seven points or fewer. After the Lobos went 1-11 in the previous three seasons, Davie did wonders. Now it's time to win more of those close battles and hope for 4-9 to turn to 6-6 and a bowl appearance.

The running game will once again be fantastic. Kasey Carrier is a proven workhorse who should be able to tear off yards in chunks behind a strong line that gets four starters back. The passing game is going to be an issue, but that's not the identity of the offense; the forward pass will be used to try catching defenses napping.

Davie's defense might not have been great statistically, but it took a huge leap up from previous seasons. It might be a work in progress with just three returning starters, but Davie knows how get his defenses to attack and hit. It might not be a brick wall of a D, but it should be able to get by.

But no matter what happens this year and going forward, this is just more fun. New Mexico couldn't do anything right going into last year – finishing 2011 last in the country in scoring, pass efficiency D and punt returns, and second-to-last in run defense and scoring defense – and now, with a little bit of luck, the rebuilding process should take another big step forward.

What to watch for on offense: If you thought New Mexico ran the ball last season, wait until you get a load of what's coming. Quarterback Cole Gautsche has good upside and potential, but he's at his most dangerous when he's on the move. The receiving corps is undergoing an overhaul, and the Lobos lose some nice tight ends, so it's going to be a steady dose of Kasey Carrier over and over and over again behind center Dillon Farrell and a terrific line that allowed just 12 sacks and pounded the way to the nation's fifth-best ground game. Ball control will be more important than ever, and the idea will be to handle the clock and the tempo to keep the defense off the field as much as possible because …

What to watch for on defense: Generating a pass rush might be a problem. It wasn't nearly as bad as 2011 when the defense came up with just ten sacks and was 109th in the nation in tackles for loss, but the D didn't do enough to get to the quarterback with just 21 sacks on the season while struggling to get behind the line on a regular basis. New Mexico finished last in the Mountain West in pass defense and pass efficiency defense, and while there's upside and talent in the secondary, finding someone other than Jacori Greer to hit the quarterback is a must.

The team will be far better if … the passing game isn't a total afterthought. Sometimes the running game is working so well that there's no reason to throw; the Lobos didn't complete a pass against Nevada, but they ran well with 352 yards and three scores in the tough loss. The air show doesn't have to be anything special, but there have to be a few home runs here and there to take advantage of teams that cheat up. Pure running teams like Navy and Georgia Tech are at their deadliest when they connect on one or two big plays a game, and New Mexico has to start doing the same.

The schedule: There are just enough winnable games to hope for six wins and a bowl appearance. The non-conference schedule isn't all that bad, starting out with UTSA and followed up with road dates at UTEP and Pitt and with the rivalry showdown against New Mexico State in early October – the Lobos can win at least two of those. It's a bad, bad break to get San Diego State and Fresno State from the West, but if those are likely losses anyway, they might as well be on the road. UNLV might have blown away the Lobos last year, but that's not a bad interdivisional game to deal with. Overall, with three home games in four weeks in the early part of the season, and with back-to-back home dates in November before finishing up with Fresno State and Boise State on the road, getting to six wins early is a must before the final kick.

Best offensive player: Senior RB Kasey Carrier. He's only 5-9 and 185 pounds, but he proved that he could occasionally handle the ball 30 times a game and he held up surprisingly well for his size. Dangerous when he gets into a groove, he ripped through Air Force for 338 yards and three touchdowns and was even a bit of a receiver in an offense that never, ever throws the ball. The key will be to find a good rotation to keep him fresh, but he'll be fed the ball early and often.

Best defensive player: Senior LB Dallas Bollema. One of the few bright spots in 2011, he came up with 68 tackles and improved as the year went on. Last season, he led the team with 89 tackles with a sack and three picks, coming up with an interception in each of the last two games. The 6-2, 230-pounder has good size, is a big hitter, and he's the right leader for a defense that's welcoming in a slew of new starters.

Key player to a successful season: Junior WR Carlos Wiggins. No one will ever catch 50 passes in the offense, but that's not what the Lobo receivers have to do. Even though he only caught nine passes for 83 yards, he finished fourth on the team. Only 5-8 and 157 pounds, he's not big, but he's an elite speedster with track wheels. He doesn't have to make a ton of catches, but he needs to hit a few home runs here and there and needs to stretch the field to take advantage of his deep speed after averaging just 9.2 yards per try.

The season will be a success if … New Mexico gets to a bowl game. If the running game works like it's supposed to, and the defense can quickly rebuild, beating UTSA, UNLV, New Mexico State and Colorado State at home is a must, and then the Lobos have to be on the right side of a few games they lost in close battles last year. Again, if everything is working, they can beat teams like Wyoming, UTEP and Air Force on the right day. To get to a bowl game, they'll have to.

Key game: Sept. 7 at UTEP. The Miners are going through a rebuilding process with a new coaching staff while dealing with a lack of top talents, and New Mexico has to take advantage early on. If New Mexico can do what it's supposed and beat UTSA in the opener, a win over UTEP and an expected loss at Pitt would still mean a 2-1 start going into a week off to prepare for winnable home games against UNLV and New Mexico State. A win in El Paso could make a 4-1 kickoff possible.

2012 Fun Stats:
- Third Down Conversions: Opponents 78-of-157 (50%) – New Mexico 66-of-168 (39%)
- Time of Possession: New Mexico 33:47 – Opponents 26:12
- Passing Yards: Opponents 3,500 – New Mexico 895
- 2013 New Mexico Preview | 2013 New Mexico Offense
- 2013 New Mexico Defense | 2013 New Mexico Depth Chart