Boise State opens its final 2012 Mountain West Conference schedule on Saturday afternoon as they travel to Albuquerque to face the new-look Lobos from New Mexico. Former Notre Dame coach Bob Davie takes over from Mike Locksley and has installed a new offense, and a new attitude. The Lobos come into the game 2-2 with wins over Southern and last week against rival New Mexico State bookending losses to Big 12 powers Texas and Texas Tech.
New Mexico enters conference play having won at least two games for the first time since 2008. To get to three wins, their new triple option offense will need to be more effective than the offenses Boise State has faced in the past two weeks. While an upset is extremely far-fetched, the struggling Boise State offense will need to find a way to score nearly every time they touch the ball as the Lobos’ ball-control offense will keep the Bronco defense on the field for the majority of the game.
Boise State has failed to score an offensive touchdown in two of their three games this season including their dramatic 7-6 victory over BYU last week. The only time quarterback Joe Southwick has looked completely comfortable this season was the 2nd half of the home-opening win against Miami (OH). Senior running back D.J. Harper has done the heavy lifting in the Boise State victories, rushing for over 100 yards in both wins and contributing four touchdowns against the Redhawks.
New Mexico presents a completely different challenge offensively as they vary their looks, running mostly a triple option running attack but sprinkling in a handful of passes to a trio of talented receivers. The Lobos attack is triggered by experienced quarterback B.R. Holbrook, a senior from Stevenson Ranch, CA.
Holbrook took over as the starter midway through last season and proceeded to complete just under 60% of his passes but struggled without a solid running game. The running game will be there this season with the emphasis on the option but Holbrook will need to stretch the defense and use his receivers down the field if the Lobos are to put points up on a defense like Boise State. There is virtually no depth behind Holbrook so he has to be smart about taking hits in the option.
One thing New Mexico does to keep Holbrook fresh is to utilize true freshman Cole Gautsche to run the ball. When Gautsche checks into the game, the Broncos need to be prepared for the physical 6’4” 220lb quarterback to run.
The primary running backs in the triple option attack are junior Kasey Carrier and redshirt freshman Jhurell Pressley. Carrier is the leading rushing with 196 yards in three games while Pressley leads the team with three rushing touchdowns. Junior Demarcus Rogers has also contributed with 105 yards and a pair of scores.
The Lobos have a group of solid receivers but the emphasis on the running game has neutralized some of their explosiveness this season. Seniors Ty Kirk, Lamaar Thomas and Quintell Solomon all have big-play potential and Kirk was the leading receiver a season ago. True freshman Carlos Wiggins has actually been the leading receiver with five catches for 50 yards which says a lot about how much the Lobos have been looking to pass in the opening quarter of the season.
Senior tight end Lucas Reed is a former 1st team-All Mountain West pick but has just one catch for four yards this season as the tight ends have been utilized almost exclusively as blockers this season. Former linebacker Chris Biren also contributes as a blocker in a hybrid tight end/fullback role.
New Mexico’s offensive line is thin but has some experience at the tackle spots in senior Korian Chambers and junior Darryl Johnson. Junior Dillon Farrell has played all over the offensive line but returns to center this season and will be flanked by sophomore LaMar Bratton at left guard and true freshman Garrett Adcock on the right side. Sophomore Jamal Price and junior guard Calvin McDowney provide the only experience from a group of reserves that includes a handful of true freshmen.
The Lobos transitioned to a 3-4 defense this year and have a lot of experience on the defensive line including a pair of transfers from Illinois, tackle Reggie Ellis and end Ugo Uzodinma. Junior defensive end Jacori Greer joins them on the starting defensive line and there is experience behind the first unit as well. Texas A&M transfer Rod Davis backs up Ellis in the middle and senior Jake Carr backs up both end spots.
The linebacking corps is the heart of the defense and most plays are funneled to the playmakers in the middle, junior Dallas Bollema and senior Joe Stoner. Bollema leads the team with 31 tackles while Stoner has contributed 15 tackles to go with an interception and fumble recovery. Outside linebackers Joseph Harris and Rashad Rainey each have 15 tackles as well and Rainey has emerged as a pass-rushing threat. There is a lot of experience behind the starters as well in senior A.J. Butler and a trio of sophomores, Tevin Newman, Javarie Johnson and Toby Ball.
Senior cornerbacks Destry Berry and DeShawn Mills are undersized but play physical football on the outside. The backups are very young and inexperienced with a pair of true freshmen seeing significant snaps so far this season. If Southwick and the Broncos can spread out the Lobo defense, they may be able to take advantage of the young supporting cast.
The safeties are young and could be exposed in the middle of the field by the Boise State tight ends and receivers. Sophomore Jamal Merritt is joined by redshirt freshman Brandon Branch but senior Matt Raymer and junior Dante Caro will see plenty of time as well.
Junior Justus Adams takes over as the placekicker and has connected on all three of his attempts so far this season with his long coming from 38 yards. Greg Rivara is the kickoff specialist and has put 13 of 19 attempts into the end zone for touchbacks so far this season which will be critical with Boise State’s electronic return game ready to break out. Junior Ben Skaer has a big leg and has already boomed five 50+ yard punts among his 16 kicks this season.
The Lobo return game has been exciting this year with reserve running back Chase Clayton already breaking off two kickoff returns for touchdowns. Clayton is averaging 43 yards per return thanks to his big returns and Boise State’s Trevor Harman will be trying to put the ball into the end zone in the thin Albuquerque air. Kirk has not had many opportunities in the punt return game but has shown potential as a playmaker in the past.
It is a new era of football at New Mexico as Davie hopes to return the Lobos to the top of the Mountain West Conference. They have played an astounding 18 true freshmen through four games which indicates that Davie is not scared of a rebuilding project and will try to put the best players on the field. New Mexico does not have the depth to run with Boise State for four quarters but if they can move the ball offensively, they have a chance to keep the game competitive.
The Broncos have struggled mightily on offense at times this season with really only one half of football out of six producing consistent offense. The red zone offense has been the primary culprit and will need to be cleaned up. The Broncos have moved the football almost at will but far too frequently have bogged down inside the 20-yard line and have come away with no points far too often. Their lack of faith in their placekickers and Southwick’s inability to finish drives has really hurt Boise State so far this season.
It would be surprising if the Broncos didn’t take advantage of a vulnerable New Mexico defense and begin to put some points on the board. Harper is destined to have another big game and Boise State’s receivers are due to break out and give Southwick some support. New Mexico’s running game should give Boise State some problems but the Broncos have been outstanding on that side of the ball this season and if they force some turnovers, it could get lopsided in a hurry.
Final Score Prediction: Boise State 38, New Mexico 13