New Mexico Lobos at Wyoming Cowboys
When/Where: 1:30 p.m., Saturday – War Memorial Stadium – Laramie, Wyo.
On the Air: ROOT Sports (TV); 770-AM KKOB/Lobo Radio Network
By Richard Stevens – Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
The key to beating Wyoming was turned efficiently two Saturdays back by Texas State, but this solution to the Cowboys’ up-tempo offense clearly falls into that “easier said than done” category.
Slow down Brett Smith.
Texas State slowed down Wyoming’s multi-talented quarterback while not allowing the Cowboys to counter that strategy by hurting the Bobcats on the ground. It produced a 42-21 Bobcat win.
You really don’t stop Wyoming’s Smith. He’s too good, too versatile -- too complete a package out of the huddle. . But the Bobcats did slow down Smith and Wyoming’s quick-strike offense. Smith was sacked three times. He tossed for a single touchdown. He had minus 17 yards rushing. Wyoming had only 64 rushing yards.
Smith is an exceptional quarterback. He will enter the New Mexico game Saturday No. 3 in the nation in total offense averaging 384.4 yards per game. And that’s after his numbers dropped thanks to the Bobcats holding him to 275 yards in San Marcos.
The Lobos’ challenge is an obvious one: Don’t let Smith beat you. Easier said than done.
The Lobos don’t have the luxury of meeting Mr. Smith on Lobo turf. New Mexico must venture to chilly Laramie for this Mountain West encounter. It’s the Cowboys’ homecoming and Wyoming will have had two weeks to simmer in frustration, waiting for someone to hit in hope of erasing the taste of that loss to Texas State.
“It’s a good time for a bye,” said Wyoming Coach Dave Christensen. “We’ll get a jump on the game plan for New Mexico.”
That jump could be vital to the outcome of this game. The Cowboys gave up 256 rushing yards and five rushing scores to Texas State. Wyoming faces a better running team this Saturday. The Lobos come into War Memorial Stadium as the No. 1 ranked running team in the nation rolling out a staggering 367.8 yards per game.
New Mexico (2-3, 0-1 MW) is coming off a 66-17 win over New Mexico State. The Lobos ran for 541 yards in that romp completely dominating the line of scrimmage.
For sure, it will be the pass vs. the run in Laramie. The Cowboys probably have the edge in balance as they average 193.4 yards on the ground and 322.8 over the top. UNM is ranked No. 122 in passing (76 yards) out of 123 teams.
Wyoming averages a solid 516.2 total yards and that mark also came down after the Cowboys’ visit to San Marcos. Wyoming went to Texas State with a 556.2 average. UNM is No. 109 in total defense.
Wyoming did not run the ball well at Texas State – 64 total on the ground, a number cut into by Smith’s sacks. Brandon Miller had 72 yards on 14 carries in that loss.
The ‘Pokes are a lot like the Lobos in that they lean to their offense to produce wins. The winning score in Laramie probably won’t be 10-7. The 66 points scored vs. NMSU allowed UNM to pass Wyoming on the scoring charts: 38.0 point a game to 37.6. (Baylor averages 70.5). The winner in Laramie might be the first team to 45.
The Wyoming offense is designed to take advantage of Smith’s skills. The ‘Pokes line up with wide splits on the line and give Smith a variety of formations in an up-tempo attack. The Lobos might be better off working the clock, but Wyoming wants Smith to have as many touches as possible.
Eventually, he will hurt you. If he can hurt a defense a lot, the Cowboys have a good chance at winning. The Cowboys did not play well at Texas State, but looked good in losing 37-34 at then-No. 18 Nebraska in front of 91,185. Wyoming then beat Idaho 42-10, Northern Colorado 35-7 and Air Force 56-23.
The Falcons ran for 346 yards vs. Wyoming and added 127 passing, but couldn’t stop Smith and Wyoming. The ‘Pokes had 622 total yards with Smith passing for 373 and running for 138. This is exactly how you lose to Smith and Wyoming. You don’t slow him down. Smith had 383 passing and 92 rushing at Nebraska.
Wyoming likes to establish a running threat. The Cowboys ran for 249 vs. Air Force. On the season (3-2, 1-0 MW), Wyoming has run the ball 184 times and has tossed it 219 times. That’s a good balance, but the Cowboys’ running attack is there more to keep a defense honest and to take occasional pressure off Smith.
The wide splits push a defense wide and there are gaps for the Wyoming runners. Shaun Wick averages 72.4 yards a game, Smith averages 56.4 yards and Brandon Miller averages 47.6 yards.
If Wyoming can run it, it makes it easier for Smith to hurt a team over the top. Wyoming’s strategy is not complicated. They want Smith to hurt the enemy.
One of the Lobos’ keys to spoiling Wyoming’s homecoming is simple, too. Don’t let the 6-foot-3 junior wearing No. 16 beat you. Easier said than done.