New Mexico football preview for 2016, including keys to success for the Lobos, best players and season prediction.
What You Need To Know About New Mexico’s Offense
You know exactly what’s coming. The Lobos are going to run and run some more after finishing ninth in the nation on the ground. Working around the small but savvy veteran quarterback Lamar Jordan, New Mexico has the spark plug – watch out for plenty of rotating quarterbacks, though – but the line has to come together quickly with three starters gone. The receiving corps needs work as well, even though it’s along for the ride, playing the role of deep threats when defenses load up against the ground game.
Key To The New Mexico Offense
What’s the quarterback situation going to be like? Bob Davie has said for years that the Lobos need more passing in the attack, but he doesn’t have one quarterback who can do a little of everything – so he’ll be rotating the talent. Lamar Jordan is the best option to run the ground game, but Austin Apodaca is a decent passer and JaJuan Lawson can see some time, too. The whole idea is to throw defenses a curveball once in a while and maybe even get the right player on the field for the right situation. It’s an experiment, but it’s part of the deal for the quarterbacks going into the season.
What You Need To Know About New Mexico’s Defense
It’s been a work in progress. The Lobos might be able to run the ball, but they couldn’t slow down anyone’s ground game and got crushed by any passing game with efficiency. There hope with all the experience across the board, getting ten starters back with only cornerback Cranston Jones finished. Middle linebacker Dakota Cox is the star in the middle, but the pass rush will be the key with the pressure coming from all sides. New Mexico cranked up 30 sacks last season and should be even stronger, but the secondary has to take advantage of the help.
Key To The Nevada Defense
Can the run defense do even more? New Mexico’s offense did its part by grinding out drives and owning the clock for stretches, but the defense couldn’t stop anyone with a ground game, allowing 220 yards or more seven times. However, that’s a massive improvement from the last few seasons – the Lobos allowed 80 rushing touchdowns in 2013 and 2014. The front seven returns intact, and while this might not be the toughest group, everyone swarms and attacks well – the Lobos can get into the backfield. However, they got gouged by Nevada and San Jose State because they couldn’t get into a groove – the Wolf Pack ran for 351 yards and the Spartans for 317. Take another step forward, and the run defense will once again become a big positive.
New Mexico Football Will Be Far Better If …
The interceptions start coming. The pass rush was good enough to make quarterbacks uncomfortable, but there were still plenty of ugly moments with Boise State throwing for 503 yards and two touchdowns, and Wyoming bombing away for 366 yards and four scores. But a funny thing happened on the way to the statistical nightmares – New Mexico won. The Lobos came up with two interceptions against the Cowboys and three against the Broncos.
In all, they picked off 13 passes in the seven wins and just one – the bowl game against Arizona – in the six losses. 0-5 when not coming up with an interception and 0-for-the-last-13 games when not picking off a pass, this year the secondary has to be a bunch of ball hawks.
Best Offensive Player
QB Lamar Jordan – This really isn’t all that simple. Again Apodaca is a nice option under center, and he’s not the only one. Jordan, though, is the one who makes it all go, taking off for 807 yards and nine touchdowns while hitting 52% of his throws for 1,045 yards and five touchdowns. However, he threw eight picks and he’s not built to take much of a pounding – that’s why the quarterback rotation works. When he’s on, though, like he was against Arizona in the bowl game, he can be the best player on the field.
Best Defensive Player
LB Dakota Cox – The run defense improved, but Cox has always been terrific. He led the team with 96 tackles last season, but that’s par for the course considering he came up with 99 as a freshman and a ridiculous 116 in nine games as a sophomore. The unquestioned leader of the defense in the middle, he’s the quarterback who cleans up everything funneled his way. But with five sacks and 11 tackles for loss, he can get behind the line, too.
Key Player To A Successful Season
OT Reno Henderson – Considering he has to be one of the stars and leaders at left tackle, trying to get past a shoulder problem that kept him out this offseason is a concern. The offensive line needs a whole bunch of help and it’ll be trial by fire to come up with the right starters, much less any depth. Henderson has to come back healthy along with guard Aaron Jenkins to anchor the front. If these two aren’t great, there getting back to seven wins could be impossible.
The Season Will Be A Success If …
It’s another winning season with a bowl appearance. There’s too much missing – the offensive line really is a concern – to reasonably shoot for the championship stars, but the Lobos have the defensive experience and the skill position talent to at least come up with another winning campaign. As long as they win the games they’ll be favored in, six wins are built in right there. That’s not a given, and it’ll take a few upsets, but anything less than a bowl game will be a disaster.
Nov. 5 vs. Nevada – The Wolf Pack have been a big problem for the Lobos, losing the last three games including a 35-17 battle last season. This year, coming off a trip to Hawaii and with dates at Utah State and Colorado State to follow, they’ve got to take advantage of the home game or it could be a brutal November.
Fun Stats For 2015
– Sacks: New Mexico 30 for 183 yards – Opponents 13 for 91 yards
– Penalties: New Mexico 89 for 840 yards – Opponents 68 for 537 yards
– Fourth Down Conversions: New Mexico 16-of-22 (73%) – Opponents 8-of-23 (35%)
Prediction For 2016
What’s going to happen to New Mexico football this season? Check out what the final record is going to be …