LOGAN – After earning bowl eligibility with a win over Nevada, the New Mexico football team is coming to Maverik stadium for a late-night matchup against the Aggies. With a shot at the conference championship game still alive for UNM, the Lobos want to keep winning.
Utah State lost its chance at a conference championship weeks ago, in fact, it could be looking at a last-place finish in the Mountain Division if nothing improves. If the team wants to keep its bowl streak alive, it has no choice other than to win its last three games, and that starts with New Mexico.
A bowl game, while unlikely, would go a long way in salvaging an otherwise disappointing season. Redshirt sophomore safety Gaje Ferguson said he feels his team’s backs are against the wall.
“We just need to regroup, forget about our record and the way things have been going, and just go out there and enjoy what we have left as a brotherhood and as a team, and just play football and have fun,” he said. “It seems like when we do that and we just play together, we play well.”
Senior tight end Wyatt Houston said he is going to do whatever he can to finish the season the right way and get into a bowl game.
“We can pout, we can complain and talk about how this isn’t fair, or we can do something about it,” he said. “Put our heads down, go to work, take it one game at a time and get ourselves in a bowl game.”
New Mexico comes into town with a 6-3 overall record and 3-1 in conference, with its lone conference loss coming against Boise State. It is a team that likes to keep the ball on the ground and score. Its 38.1 points per game ranks first in the league. Its 358.8 average rush yards per game ranks first in the country.
“They’re going to run the ball in triple and double-options,” head coach Matt Wells said. “And a lot of different variations of it.”
The running backs are No. 1 and No 2. in average yards per carry nationally. Teriyon Gibson is averaging 9.61 yards per touch, while Tyron Owens is averaging 7.95 yards. It’s a system that gets the quarterback some yards on the ground as well.
“Both quarterbacks are playing well and both of them have played, whether it’s Lamar Jordan or Austin Apodaca,” Wells said. “They have very good running backs who can hit home runs.”
The passing game is a different story. The 106.1 pass yards per game is last in conference, so the Aggies will be focusing more on the rush. Ferguson said a focus will be on stopping explosive play.
“They’ll just inch they’re way down the field and hope that someone gets out of their assignment and they create a play that goes for 40, 50 or however many yards,” he said. “So, the key emphasis this weekend, again, like we’ve been talking about, is just doing our jobs, being consistent, getting off the field and trying to put them in long-down situations.”
The Lobo defense ranks third in the conference, but is a little bit tougher against the run.
“They pressure a lot and do a nice job of forcing you into stuff, bringing pressure and covering you up out on the perimeter,” Wells said. “They know who they are and they’ve done a nice job.”
It is still unclear who USU will start at quarterback. Kent Myers has started every game this year but went down with injury against Laramie. Damion Hobbs finished the game.