Winless NM faces No. 14 Utah Saturday
New Mexico coach Mike Locksley knows things won't be any easier for his winless Lobos on Saturday when they facing No. 14 Utah in their Mountain West opener.
''Utah is a top-10 caliber team,'' said Locksley, whose squad has been outscored 124-17 its first two games, including a 72-0 rout at Oregon.
''Utah is a combination of what we saw between Oregon and (Texas) Tech. They have tremendous speed out on their perimeter, whether it's at receivers, or (defensive backs), skill players. But also, I think they have two quarterbacks, both have shown they have the ability to lead.''
One of those, Jordan Wynn, has a thumb injury and his status is day-to-day, coach Kyle Whittingham said. Wynn did not play in the Utes' game last week against UNLV and was replaced by Terence Cain, who completed 13 of 20 passes for 207 yards and two TDs without an interception.
''They have two quarterbacks, both have shown they have the ability to lead,'' Locksley said. ''We faced athletic quarterbacks against Oregon and then we faced a drop-back quarterback this past weekend in Potts, so I believe we're prepared for both types of quarterbacks.''
No matter who takes the snaps for Utah (2-0, 1-0 Mountain West), what concerns Whittingham the most is the Utes' performance at New Mexico (0-2).
''Albuquerque has been a tough place to play for us,'' he said. ''There's no answer as to why. Even in 2008 it was down to the wire (13-10).''
There's something about Utah that seems to bring out the fire in the Lobos.
''New Mexico has played us tough perennially and it's been a tough matchup,'' Whittingham said. ''It's been a good series since I've been at Utah.''
For the Lobos to keep that tradition going, they will have to clean up the many mistakes that have been made in the first two games, particularly on special teams.
''That's an area that obviously we haven't played well in either of our first two games,'' Locksley said.
To correct the problems, that have included bad snaps, blocked punts and long returns, New Mexico will be using more of its starters on special teams.
''We've had to adjust some personnel,'' Locksley said. ''I thought going into this season as we evaluated us on special teams last year, we had a bunch of our starters playing a lot of plays. We tried to give some young guys and guys who haven't played a lot an opportunity to create a role for themselves on our team. They didn't get the job done.''
Inserting players like offensive lineman Byron Bell, defensive lineman Jaymar Latchison, linebacker Joe Stoner, defensive back Anthony Hooks and wide receiver Chris Hernandez should pay an immediate dividend
''I expect to see our special teams improve because of the personnel changes that we made,'' Locksley said. ''What you're seeing now is our best 11 guys on the field. And they're just going to have to go. We're not afforded the luxury of not playing them as we found this past weekend.''
The Lobos, however, did show some improvement offensively, with quarterback B.R. Holbrook throwing for a career-best 323 yards and receiver Ty Kirk collecting a career-best 119 yards.
''With our offense, I think there is a comfort level with our guys now that have been in the system,'' Locksley said. ''I'm really excited about B.R. and the way he played for us. I thought he threw the ball well and I thought he made good decisions. But I also thought the players around him kind of picked it up a little bit.''
Still, Locksley knows it's going to take a special effort to pull out a victory.
''The thing we need to continue to work to correct is to play smart football,'' he said. ''That's the missing piece for this inexperienced team. I'm very hopeful that we can put together a game in which we give ourselves the opportunities to win by playing smart.''