The start of the 2012 football season for the New Mexico Lobos may be the most contradictory genesis in recent years.
The Lobos kicked off the year with a dominating performance a 66-21 beating of the Southern Jaguars.
Amassing an unprecedented 347 yards on the ground, New Mexico scored almost half as many points as they scored all season last year.
Then they played Texas.
Two turnovers and only 35 yards through the air prohibited the Lobos from putting up a single point on the Longhorns’ stingy defense. Relying primarily on its running game, Texas put up a modest 45 points, 28 of which were scored in the second half.
New Mexico Coach Bob Davie said he felt his team played better than the score showed, despite the obvious lack of offensive production.
“I’ve always kind of laughed at people or coaches who say that shouldn’t have been a 45-0 game, but that shouldn’t have been,” he said. “Mack Brown will tell you the same thing. But as long as we know, as long as the coaches know and the players know, then we’re able to say, ‘Listen, here’s what we can correct right now. This had nothing to do with those guys in the orange shirts; this had to do with us.’”
Going into the game against Texas Tech, New Mexico will likely be without starting senior quarterback B.R. Holbrook, who was injured and helped off of the field in the Texas game.
Replacing the veteran quarterback will be freshman Cole Gautsche.
Gautsche played a little more than two quarters against the Longhorns, failing to complete a pass on four attempts with an interception.
“He started out pretty good against Texas,” Davie said. “I think when the game started sliding a little bit, when they started to impose their will a little bit on us and the magnitude of the situation caught up to him in the third quarter a little bit.”
The best and most reliable target for Gautsche is senior receiver Lamaar Thomas, who also will inconveniently be on the sidelines Saturday, according to the Albuquerque Journal.
Thomas averaged 17.3 yards per reception last year, despite missing eight games because of injury.
“Lamaar was our most valuable player, most explosive player, in the spring, but B.R. is really the critical, critical part of that,” Davie said. “We have some other receivers that can go in there and do some things.”
Davie is in his first season as coach of the Lobos, but has a rich background in the college football world.
He coached the likes of current and former NFL players such as Justin Tuck, Arnaz Battle and Ryan Grant during his tenure at Notre Dame from 1997 to 2001.
Since then, Davie worked on TV as a college football analyst for ABC and ESPN.
“He brings experience,” Tech Coach Tommy Tuberville said. “There is nothing like the experience of being a head coach and understanding how to build a program, set a program up, recruit, hire coaches.”
A heavy emphasis has been placed on the running game for the Lobos, with Davie’s offense already picking up 553 yards on the ground in just two games.
“It’s going to be a big test for our run game,” Tech senior safety Cody Davis said. “Critical issue last year was run, so this will be another test for our run game. A lot of big personnel, we have to fit up the right gaps and play assignment football.”
A big incentive for running the ball is the amount of clock it chews up, which benefits the rushing team’s defense by giving them more rest and hurting the opponent by making their defense stay on the field longer and tire out quicker.
“With running teams, they try to control the clock, that also just wears down your defense and keeps the offense cold,” Davis said. “You can’t get in any rhythm. So we have to get off the field on third down and get as many three and outs as we can.”
The ability of the Lobos to dominate the time of possession category will force Tech to take advantage of every time it gets the ball, senior quarterback Seth Doege said.
“It’s very important that we get off to a good start and get rolling early,” he said, “because in a normal game, we’ll get a lot more series than we would against Texas State and New Mexico who might only get 10 or 11 series, and you need to take advantage of those.”
If history says anything, the Lobos will run the ball nearly every play of the game. However, Davie still believes the quarterback play will be important if New Mexico wants a shot at an upset.
The absence of Holbrook could be detrimental to the offense if the Lobos can’t find a way to get Gautsche involved in a positive manner, Davie said.
“With (Holbrook) we’re fairly balanced, we’re pretty good schematically, he said. “All of a sudden, when it’s just (Gautsche), we’re not as balanced. So we really have to be creative in ways that Cole can throw the ball and have success.”
The Lobos are looking for something special out of their freshman quarterback Saturday to help them pick up their seventh win out of 46 games all-time against Tech.
The game kicks off at 6 p.m. Saturday at Jones AT&T Stadium.