Saturday: New Mexico (2-5, 0-3 Mountain West) at San Diego State (3-4, 2-1)
Time/Location: 6:08 p.m. MT, Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, Calif.
TV: ROOT Sports (Comcast 261, DirecTV 683, Dish 414)
Streaming: Mountain West Network (subject to bloackout in areas that carry ROOT Sports)
Radio: Lobo Radio Network (770 KKOB-AM in Albuquerque); ESPN Deportes (1450 KRZY-AM and 105,9-FM Jose')
AT A GLANCE
It’s a battle of Lobos old and new. The refreshed University of New Mexico football team returns to action on Saturday after an open date and travels to San Diego, Calif., to take on the San Diego State Aztecs, coached by UNM graduate and former Lobo head coach Rocky Long. The matchup at Qualcomm Stadium is UNM’s second visit to an NFL stadium this season; UNM played Pittsburgh at Heinz Field last month.
UNM is No. 3 in the nation in rushing offense at 322.3 yards per game and tied for seventh in the country with 24 rushing TDs on the season. The Lobos have thrown five touchdown passes and only one interception on the season, which is the second best touchdown-to-interception ratio in the MW, behind only Utah State (22-to-4).
Running back Kasey Carrier leads the MW and is No. 10 in the country in rushing at 122.6 yards per game. He ranks third in the league and 30th in the nation with an average of 128.7 all-purpose yards per game. Carrier also is No. 5 on the school’s all-time rushing list with 2,969 yards. He recorded his first career TD reception on a 24-yard screen pass from quarterback Cole Gautsche vs. Wyoming on Oct. 12.
Kick returner Carlos Wiggins is the MW leader and ranked 17th nationally in kick returns with an average of 27.8 yards per return. He’s also second in the Mountain West and 24th in the nation in all-purpose-yard average at 134.0 yards per game.
Gautsche is No. 6 in the MW in rushing and No. 43 nationally at 87.2 yards per game. He secured his fourth 100-yard effort of the season vs. Wyoming on Oct 12. Gautsche is the No. 3 rushing QB in the nation. He had career highs in attempts (21), completions (11) and yards (156) vs. the Cowboys and ran for 113 yards.
UNM is nationally ranked in several categories. It is No. 1 in fewest interceptions thrown (1), No. 2 in fewest penalty yards per game at 28.9 yards per game and third in penalties per game at 3.3, No. 4 in net punting at 41.2 yards per attempt. The Lobos are No. 20 in time of possession at 32 minutes, 42 seconds per game and No. 25 in kickoff returns (24.2 yards per attempt).
The Aztecs had a three-game winning streak snapped last week in a tough, 35-28 overtime loss at home nationally ranked Fresno State. SDSU’s potential game-winning, 37-yard field-goal attempt as time expired in regulation was blocked. Long enters Saturday’s game as the winningest coach in Mountain West history with 82. Long is one of five coaches on the Aztecs’ staff also to have coached at New Mexico.
SDSU enters the game with the No. 1 ranked rushing defense in the league, giving up 124.9 yards per game. Walk-on quarterback Quinn Kaehler is fifth in the MW and 26th nationally with an average of 261.3 passing yards per game. Wide receiver Ezell Ruffin is fourth in the MW in receiving yards at 94.0 yards per game.
THE STARTING LINEUP
The University of New Mexico returns to play on Saturday when it travels to San Diego to take on former Lobos coach Rocky Long and the San Diego State Aztecs.
The series took a hiatus last season, ending a streak of 34 consecutive years that the two teams have met. The Aztecs have had the upper hand in the series of late, winning the last three meetings. UNM’s last win came when Long was on the other sidelines in 2008, a 70-7 Lobos triumph.
SDSU won 35-7 the last time the teams played at Qualcomm Stadium in 2011. The two previous meetings there were nail-biters. In 2009, the Aztecs won 23-20, scoring the go-ahead touchdown with 7:54 left in the game. UNM almost sent the game into overtime on its last drive. On fourth-and-20, quarterback Donovan Porterie threw a 43-yard pass to wide receiver Bryant Williams at the sidelines to the SDSU 20 that would’ve put the Lobos in field-goal range. Officials originally ruled the play a catch but on review said Williams was out of bounds when he caught the ball.
In 2007, the Aztecs led 17-13 late in the fourth quarter and needed to make one more first down to run out the clock. Facing third-and-11, SDSU QB Kevin O’Connell scrambled and appeared to have the first down until UNM linebacker Herbert Felder stripped him of the ball and safety O.J. Swift recovered with 1:46 left. The Lobos drove 65 yards and scored the game-winning touchdown with 15 seconds left on Rodney Ferguson’s 6-yard run.
The Lobos offense currently is averaging 422.1 yards per game, which would rank seventh on the school’s all-time list for yards per game in a season. UNM is on pace to surpass the 5,000-yard offensive mark for just the sixth time in school history, and its scoring average is just one point below the school record of 34.0 points per game set in 1982.
The 1994 UNM team averaged 472 yards per game and ranked sixth in the country in total offense. To put into perspective how the game has changed with greater offensive output, that 1994 team’s total offense average per game would rank just 31st in the nation this season.
The Lobos’ rushing offense (a 322.3-yard average) is just shy of the pace to reach the 4,000-yard mark for the season. Only the 1971 team, with 4,229 yards, has surpassed that mark in school history (a 384.5 yards-per-game average). The current Lobo rushing offense would finish with 3,868 yards at its current pace.