ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) Bob Davie sees an opportunity entering his third season at New Mexico.
”We’re in a position for the first time to gain some traction and gain some momentum in this program,” Davie said. ”I really believe that. We know what the first year was. We know what the second year was. This is the third year and we have a chance to gain some momentum that will continue to multiply over the years.”
In the three years before Davie arrived, the Lobos had won a total of three games. New Mexico has won seven games since.
Davie said the past doesn’t loom over the program anymore.
”I am really excited with where we are,” Davie said. ”And that’s what’s fun about this. We’ve got some talent. We’ve got some talent.”
Five things to watch as the Lobos continue to look ahead:
THE OFFENSE IS THE THING: The Lobos had few problems moving the ball last season behind their spread/option offense that put a premium on quarterback Cole Gautsche’s decision-making ability. In the high-scoring Mountain West, however, teams tended to surge up and down the field nearly at will.
”Teams are going to move the ball in this league,” Davie said. ”I think we are very progressive on offense. I think we are ahead of the curve on offense.”
DEFENSIVE WOES: New Mexico ranked 119th nationally on defense last season, giving up an average of almost 517 yards a game, so getting that turned around is paramount.
”We don’t have much choice statistically but to be better,” Davie said. ”On defense, we have a lot of players. We have a lot of depth.”
Those players, however, are going to have to find a way to get the defense off the field, he said.
”It really does come down to creating some turnovers,” Davie said.
REPLACING CARRIER: New Mexico relied on the shifty moves of tailback Kasey Carrier the past two seasons to move the chains. But replacing him will be a large task, likely falling to recently reinstated Crusoe Gongbay as well as junior Jhurrell Pressley.
”The running back situation, we have some talent,” Davie said. ”But no one can say who is the guy. But when we came here two years ago, did you guys know Kasey Carrier? I heard he wasn’t tough enough, is what I heard. He was pretty tough. That’s us right now. I haven’t head of anybody, but I think there’s a chance someone can emerge. But it’s a little scary.”
GAUTSCHE’S HEALTH: While Gautsche has had significant success running the Lobos’ offense, he has found it difficult to stay on the field.
Two concussions last year limited him to nine games, and he suffered one in his freshman season, as well.
But the 6-foot-4 quarterback said he can’t see restraining his ground-and-pound style of play.
”I don’t want to stray too far from my play style because that’s how I love to play the game … and if I don’t do it I don’t feel like I am playing football anymore,” he said. ”It’s just something I will have to get used to a little bit, but it will be fine.”
BALANCING ACT: The Lobos rushing attack ranked fourth nationally with 309 yards per game last season but in five games the Lobos completed six or fewer passes.
”Everyone says we have to be balanced,” Davie said. ”Think about the games we’ve won around here. We’ve had 500 yards rushing on teams and threw the ball three times and we won. We don’t have to be anything. We can do just what we’re doing and win by doing it better than anybody can do it and by doing it better than anybody can defend it.”
Still, having a semblance of a passing game will help the ground attack, he acknowledged.
”Does it help us, and help our running game if we are more balanced? Yeah, but we don’t have to be,” Davie said.