New Mexico Football: Preview Of The Abilene Christian Wildcats
New Mexico football kicks the year off at home against the out-of-conference Abilene Christian Wildcats
New Mexico Football Looks To Start The Year Off With A Win
The New Mexico Lobos will open up the season with a home game against the Abilene Christian Wildcats. The Wildcats are coming off a disappointing 2016 season in which they finished 2-9, with seven of the losses coming by double digits.
The Cats took 10th place in the Southland Conference.
Abilene Christian has shown some signs of being able to piece together a solid football squad, but a baffled defense that allowed almost 38 points a game last fall has proven to be the Achilles heel.
There will be 11 seniors leaving Abilene Christian this year, seven of which are former starters. Despite this, their top three players will be returning for the 2017 season: linebackers Sam Denmark and Bryson Gates, along with quarterback Dallas Sealey.
Location: Abilene, TX
Mascot: Willie the Wildcat
Conference: Southland Conference
2016 Record: 2-9, 2-7 in conference
Head Coach: Adam Dorrel (first year at ACU). Dorrel will make his coaching debut at the FCS level when the Wildcats set foot on the field in Albuquerque, but he built a dynasty at Division II Northwest Missouri State, going 76-8 and winning three national championships in his six years at the helm.
QB Dallas Sealey
The Wildcats will look to lean on the redshirt junior, who had an impressive sophomore year with the squad. In 2016, Sealey totaled 2,773 passing yards in just ten games along with 19 passing touchdowns and six rushing touchdowns. Sealey represents the bulk of the Wildcats offense, averaging 39 passing attempts a game and over eight rushing attempts a game.
His quick strike accuracy is a strong suit to his play. He excels in the read/pass option-style offense and does not make many costly mistakes for his team. Another strong aspect of Sealey’s game is his vision; being able to read defenses like a book is a huge reason for their offensive success. On the road against Stephen F. Austin last season, Sealey was able to total a season-high 400 yards passing. If the Wildcats stick to the script similar to last season, expect to see a ton of air explosive offense and quick downfield strikes.
OLB Sam Denmark
There is no hiding the fact that the Wildcats defense needs some help, but outside linebacker Sam Denmark is a force on the field. Last season, Denmark earned first-team all-Southland recognition by tallying 111 tackles, including five tackles for loss, and a team leading three interceptions. Denmark is able to keep up with his offensive assignment with ease.
A running back or a slot wide receiver going up against number 34 is no mismatch. Denmark will break up passes (he had four in 2016) and corral the ball in no time. Keeping everything in front of him is a strength to Denmark’s game. There is no doubt that he will have to play a huge role if the Wildcats plan on stopping the powerful Lobos offense.
The Wildcats will have their work cut out for them. Their defense will have to play exceptionally well if they plan on beating the Lobos on the road. On the offensive side of the ball, the Wildcats could excel against a Lobo defense that lost several starters over the offseason. If the Wildcats are able to create turnovers and limit the Lobos scoring, their offense will take care of the rest.
Stopping a powerful Lobo offense, who may add a solid passing game to the ground arsenal, will be much easier said than done. The Wildcats will be able to put up some points against the Lobos, but a shootout will favor UNM. Abilene Christian will need several lucky bounces to go their way, but ultimately the Lobos will start out the season with a win.
New Mexico 41, Abilene Christian 24.