WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi did a question-and-answer session with Rick Wright, who covers New Mexico football for the Albuquerque Journal, about Saturday’s season-finale with the University of Wyoming. Kickoff is at 1 p.m. at University Stadium in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
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Now in his third season, coach Bob Davie is 10-26. In your opinion, is the building and development of the program going in the right direction? Is Davie the right guy for the job, and what are the major issues that still must be dealt with?
Progress is being made, but slowly — too slow to suit a disgruntled and shrinking fan base. Davie knew coming in that roster attrition was going to be a big problem in 2013 and 2014, but obviously was hoping to win more games regardless. I thought Davie had a solid plan coming in, and still think so. The triple option out of the pistol formation has been successful, though the passing game has lagged badly. But there’s no equivalent of the triple option on defense, and that remains the burning question. The defense must improve, vastly, if Davie’s vision for the program is to succeed.
How would you explain the Lobos’ run game, which is among the top four in the nation? How have teams stopped it or slowed it down this season?
Only San Diego State has basically shut it down for four quarters. Rocky Long crossed the Lobos up; UNM prepared for Long’s 3-3-5 blitzing defense and instead got a conservative four-down look. New Mexico generally has not run the ball as well in the second half as in the first as opponents adjusted to the speed with which it runs the triple option. I know that when (Wyoming coach) Craig Bohl was at North Dakota State, his defense stuffed the Sam Houston State offense — which is what New Mexico runs under offensive coordinator Bob DeBesse, who came to New Mexico from Sam Houston State.
Has New Mexico found its quarterback of the future in redshirt freshman Lamar Jordan, and if so, what are his strengths and weaknesses?
The jury’s out. Jordan has been borderline brilliant at times, but also has made some poor decisions on the option. On option keepers, he tends to dance around looking for big yardage instead of taking the yards that are right in front of him. While he certainly throws the ball better than Cole Gautsche, Davie has pointed out a flaw in his delivery — he sometimes lifts his back foot off the ground before release, losing velocity — that needs to be corrected. Next year, Jordan will be competing with Gautsche and a couple of current redshirts, JaJuan Lawson and Patrick Reed.
Why have the Lobos struggled on defense this season? Is it youth, overall numbers, a lack of talent or a combination of all those factors?
Davie insists the problem is not a lack of talent, but youth and immaturity that lead to frequent breakdowns. Again, there’s no magic formula, scheme-wise. Davie’s hoping that experience and maturity — recruiting class on top of recruiting class on top of recruiting class — will solve the problem.
Is the interest level in football in Albuquerque changing? What kind of interest in Saturday’s game is there? And, how do you see this game unfolding?
The interest level is low, and sinks with each successive loss. Attendance has hovered just over the 20,000 mark the past few home games. Given good weather — the forecast looks good — maybe they’ll get a few more than that on Saturday. Regarding the game, Davie said he’ll approach the season finale with Super Bowl intensity. I’m sure Wyoming is equally hungry, but (Wyoming quarterback) Colby Kirkegaard’s injury would seem to tilt things in New Mexico’s direction.
Cowboys game day
Game: Wyoming (4-7 overall, 2-5 Mountain West) at New Mexico (3-8, 1-6)
When: 1 p.m. Saturday
Where: University Stadium, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Radio: KFBC (1240 AM) Cheyenne; KOWB (1290 AM) Laramie