Texas Longhorns Football: 5 Keys to Beating the New Mexico Lobos
Contrary to conventional thought, Boise State isn’t the only viable team in the Mountain West Conference—at least for now.
Facing a MWC foe in consecutive weeks, some would say the Texas Longhorns might want to take their opponent to the West a bit more seriously from the get-go.
Mack Brown’s football team came out of the gate in lackluster fashion in Week 1 against Wyoming. The defense surrendered 158 yards passing in the first quarter, including an 82-yard touchdown.
Their next opponent, the New Mexico Lobos, threw for 70 yards against Southern University, but they feature a prolific rushing attack in an option-style offense. They racked up 347 yards, spread out primarily amongst four players, including freshman quarterback Cole Gautsche.
While passing for only 13 yards, Gautsche rushed for two scores, 88 yards and an impressive 11 yards per carry. The team stomped Southern University 66-21.
Texas rallied after its disappointing first quarter performance to rout the Cowboys, 37-17. It put on a rushing clinic of its own with 280 yards and four touchdowns on the ground.
Now it’s time to game plan for the Lobos.
Let’s highlight five keys for a Texas-sized defeat of New Mexico.
The New Mexico Lobos or not, Texas needs to come firing out of the gate this weekend.
Whether from simply respecting every opponent or from a point of pride as a formidable Big 12 team, Texas needs to implement an effective game plan from the start of the first quarter.
Last week’s matchup against Wyoming showcased what happens when a team plays soft and down to its opponent.
Cowboys quarterback Brett Smith connected with Robert Herron on an 82-yard bomb. That score, along with other long completions, created a deficit for the Longhorns at the end of the starting frame.
Yes, Texas did indeed overcome that scoring disadvantage, but it should have not been in that position in the first place.
Said safety Kenny Vaccaro, "Honestly, we need to get our head out of the magazine and start to play hard and fast” (via ESPN).
Do What You Do Best
Simplistic sports truisms exist for a reason: they generally hold true every time around.
For Texas, doing what it does best on offense entails a steady dose of pounding the rock.
Joe Bergeron led the rushing barrage last week. The sophomore tailback tallied 15 carries for 110 yards and two touchdowns. Fellow sophomore Malcolm Brown was nearly as productive, totaling 105 yards and a score on 14 rushes.
And senior back D.J. Monroe rushed for the pivotal touchdown that extended the Longhorns lead by multiple scores. It effectively put the game out of reach.
They must employ that same triple-headed rushing attack against the Lobos on Saturday. Combine that with a mistake-free day by quarterback David Ash, and Texas will be sitting pretty.
Stop the Run
The duality of both developing a run game and stopping the run is a fundamental one-two tenet at all levels of football.
In the NCAA ranks, teams often utilize run-intensive offenses due to subpar passing talent at the quarterback position. That certainly applies to the passers in the New Mexico system.
Senior B.R. Holbrook and freshman Cole Gautsche totaled just 70 yards through the air on 7-of-10 passing. On the other hand, they combined for two touchdowns and 92 yards on 10 rushes (yards accrued primarily by Gautsche).
But the Lobos running backs were the ones powering the ground game. Junior Demarcus Rogers and freshmen Jhurell Pressley and David Anaya teamed up for 243 yards and two scores. Carlos Wiggins—yet another freshman—added one more touchdown.
Texas undoubtedly faces an offense predicated on running the ball with multiple dynamic backs.
After stopping the run, the next defensive assignment should come clearly into focus…
Play Assignment Football
Yet another seemingly banal football platitude presents itself.
Texas squares off against a Lobos club that operates behind a multi-faceted option offense. Sticking with and maintaining one’s assignment against this system is as critical as any in the game.
Head coach Mack Brown underscored that need when asked about this particular matchup (via ESPN).
We've gone from four or five wideouts (against Wyoming) to coaching against a triple option that looks like the modern day version of the wishbone. It will be a week of discipline and assignment football that our defense will really have to try to figure out.
Some would dismiss this as trite coach speak that gives too much credit to a lesser opponent. Perhaps that holds some validity, but the fact remains that Texas did not play disciplined assignment football in the first quarter of its season opener.
They must do that now against a team that utilizes such a fast, diversified and often complex attack—limited passing game or not.
The same also applies to offense and special teams for Texas. New Mexico had a fumble, interception and kickoff return for a touchdown in Week 1.
The final slide functions as a preventative measure against this article being perceived as a laugher.
As with the basic principles of “do what you do best” and “play assignment football,” keeping a proper perspective on the opponent at hand is a necessary undertaking.
Texas is playing New Mexico, a much-maligned team for the past few years that many would deem as a hopeless club unfit for Division I play. It has compiled a mere 3-33 record over the past three seasons.
So, why would Texas have to “maintain perspective” on such an ostensibly feeble opponent, you might ask?
Because the past is the past, and fully underestimating an opponent based off previous standings so often comes back to bite the team doing the overlooking. Texas must not take this foe for granted; it must play as if the opposition was nationally ranked.
The Lobos are under a new coaching regime with former success at a reputable Notre Dame program. Bob Davie and his staff comprise said regime.
With new coaches come new schemes, new recruits and a sense of invigorating hope. The 66 points and 347 yards rushing from a multitude of freshman talent are indicative of what new coaches can do for a team.
Texas has no business losing to New Mexico—that is implicitly understood. Yet, we’ve seen inferior teams defeat powerhouse programs before (a la Appalachian State over No. 5 Michigan in 2007).
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