The Bobcats traveled to the University of Houston on Sept. 1, where they won against the Cougars. They will try to do the same against the University of New Mexico (2-3) in Albuquerque.
This will be only the second time these two programs have met, the first in 2003 when the Lobos defeated the Bobcats 72-8.
The Bobcats will be the enemy in the Lobos’ homecoming game. However, New Mexico has been in a drought recently, losing all of their homecoming games since 2008 when they faced the University of Wyoming.
Coach Dennis Franchione will be making a “homecoming” of his own. He was the head coach of the Lobos’ football program for six years from 1992-97, his first job at the Division-1A level, now known as the FBS.
“In regards to going to Albuquerque, it’s kind of special for me since I coached there for six years,” Franchione said at Tuesday’s media luncheon. “I still have lots of great memories and great friends there that we are still very close to. We enjoyed our time there a great deal.”
First-year coach Bob Davie has led New Mexico to a 2-3 record and its first season-opening victory in six years, a 66-21 victory over Southern University. Davie has found a way to insert youth into his team. There have been 30 first-year players, including 18 true freshmen, who have played this season.
“I think Coach Davie is doing a good job,” Franchione said. “They are doing a nice job of running the football, draining the clock and keeping their defense off the field. They have been giving themselves a chance to stay in the game.”
The Lobos and Bobcats have played a common opponent in Texas Tech. New Mexico lost 49-14 after giving up 702 yards of total offense (325-rush, 377-pass), and 38 first downs. The Lobos battled back against Boise State University after trailing 25-0 at halftime, only to lose 32-29.
“(Texas Tech) is one of the games we’ve looked over (in film study),” said running back Marcus Curry. “We were looking to see how we stack up. The game plan should be alright. Whatever the coach calls, we just got to go out there and execute.”
There has been an instant upgrade in the rushing department for the Lobos from previous seasons. They are about to eclipse last season’s total rushing yards (1,358) through five games this season (1,269). For the second straight week the Bobcats will be facing a team that ranks among the best in the country in rushing. New Mexico ranks 10th nationally averaging over 250 yards per game.
Junior Kasey Carrier is the team’s leading rusher so far and has started three games for the Lobos with 278 yards on the ground. Freshman Jhurell Pressley has two starts under his belt and has scored a team leading four touchdowns.
The starting quarterback will be senior B.R. Holbrook, who is more of an engineer of the offense than a passer. Holbrook has only passed 57 times during the year with one touchdown, but does have 106 yards on the ground. Backup freshman Cole Gautsche (six feet four inches, 227 pounds) has 230 yards rushing with four touchdowns on the season, while also playing the entire second half against Boise State.
“We don’t underestimate anybody,” said safety Justin Iwuji. “We are expecting to go into this game and play hard and hopefully win. Both quarterbacks are athletes.”
The passing game has struggled for New Mexico so far. Yearly passing totals just 68 attempts, 284 yards and one touchdown. Senior Lamaar “Flash” Thomas, the primary “wildcat” quarterback, is labeled as a wide receiver but does his damage on the ground. He has touched the ball 16 times on the season for 143 yards.
Defensively the Lobos have had their struggles. They are surrendering 294 yards per game through the air, ranking them 108th in pass defense nationally. The inability to stop the passing attack has led them to ranking 119th in total defense by giving up over 460 yards per game.
New Mexico has a rather inexperienced secondary, buoyed by its upperclassmen cornerbacks. The two starting safety spots have been rotated among four players through their first five games.
The game Saturday will be the first of five upcoming road games during the next two months for Texas State. It is also the second straight WAC/Mountain West matchup. Texas State starts WAC play with its game against Idaho next weekend. Kickoff with New Mexico is set for 5 p.m. at Branch Field in Albuquerque.