Who’s bad? Lobo football seeks to moonwalk over Colorado State curse

Game 6: New Mexico at Colorado State
Time: 2 p.m.
Location: Canvas Stadium, Fort Collins, Colo.
TV: AT&T Sports Network
Radio: KKOB 94.5 FM, 770 AM
Line: Pick ’em

By Greg Archuleta
Enchantment Sports Assistant Editor

The University of New Mexico football team currently has an eight-game losing streak against one particular Mountain West foe.

And, according to a source, that opponent currently is a bad football team.

If the foe were Boise State, the skid would make sense. The Broncos have been a Top-25 program for the last 15 years. UNM, however, beat BSU 31-24 in 2015.

San Diego State also would make sense. Former Lobo coach Rocky Long has turned the Aztecs into MW royalty, and UNM hasn’t beaten SDSU since Rocky left the South Campus in 2008.

But the Aztecs and Lobos have not played every year since Long’s departure, and SDSU’s winning streak is six games.

It seems like forever since UNM has defeated Fresno State; actually, it’s been almost a quarter century. The Lobos last toppled the Bulldogs 49-32 in 1994. But the teams have played only six times since.

Thus, Fresno State’s streak is six games.

Somehow, the Colorado State Rams own an eight-game winning streak over the Lobos. The same Rams who have gone a combined 51-57 over those eight seasons.

The same program who was the first of only two Mike Locksley victims when he was at the UNM helm (the Lobos beat the Rams 29-27 in 2009).

That stands as the last New Mexico win in the series.

The Lobos (3-2, 1-0 MW) travel to Fort Collins on Saturday to face the Rams (2-4, 1-1) in a pivotal conference game for both teams’ 2018 bowl-game hopes.

Current UNM coach Bob Davie knows only too well the difficulty of beating the green- and gold-clad Rams. He is 0-6 against CSU.

Colorado State has owned New Mexico by being the physically superior team.

“They have been that team that’s been able to line up and maul us,” Davie said this week of CSU. “Some of the statistics individually by their tailbacks, really back-to-back seasons — I mean huge seasons rushing the football. And then one year, three rushers over 100 yards, and they rushed for 400 yards on us. And two of those running backs are still there.

“But it is pretty startling to look at the statistics they’ve had against us, particularly running the ball.”

Particularly, the last two games between the teams in Fort Collins.

CSU ran for 412 yards and a 9.8-yard average vs. the Lobos in 2016 during a 49-31 win. The Rams had three 100-yard rushers on the day. Two of those — Izzy Matthews and Marvin Kinsey — will be in uniform for the Rams on Saturday.

In 2014, Colorado State ran for “only” 292 yards in a 58-20 thrashing. Dee Hart went for 230 yards and five touchdowns on 20 carries. Quarterback Garrett Greyson also happened to throw for 389 yards.

The Rams have had a 100-yard rushing against Davie’s teams in every year except 2015. Matthews enters Saturday’s game with 312 carrier yards against UNM for a 104-yard average.

At the turn of the century, Colorado State was the class of the MW, and Long and UNM spent the next several seasons trying to match the Rams’ physicality.

The Lobos caught up with CSU in 2003 and won four of the next five games.

But the Rams recaptured their physical edge after Long’s departure, leaving Davie to play catch-up once again.

In 2018, CSU is averaging only 113.7 rushing yards per game, giving UNM its best chance to match the Rams’ physicality.

If the Lobos are able to control CSU’s run game, they still have to contend with quarterback K.J. Carta-Samuels (brother of former Wyoming QB Austyn Carta-Samuels), who has 1,623 passing yards with 15 touchdowns and six interceptions on the season.

Wide receivers Preston Williams and Olabisi Johnson have combined for 74 receptions, 1,030 yards and 10 TDs.

As statistically adept as their offense has been, the Rams’ defense has been as porous. They’re allowing 38 points and 470 yards per game and have not held any of their six opponents below 27 points — and that came in a 34-27 win at home vs. Arkansas.

That may be part of the reason CSU coach Mike Bobo described his team in the following manner during his weekly news conference.

“Basically, we’re a bad football team,” Bobo said. “We’re not going to go from a bad football team to an elite football team. We want to have a chance to be elite and have a chance to win … but we’re a bad football team.

“So we’ve got to get a little bit better and work our way, and hopefully win games to have a chance to do what we want to do.”

It’s fair to say New Mexico got a little bit better, and more, after its 50-14 win over UNLV last week.

Quarterback Sheriron Jones ranks second in the MW in passing efficiency with a 161.6 rating that is due in large part to his 15.8 yards per completion. He has eight touchdown passes in his last two games.

Lilly UNLV
PHOTO CREDIT UNM ATHLETIC COMMUNICATIONS: UNM WR Elijah Lilly strolls into the end zone after a 76-yard touchdown in the second quarter of the Lobos’ 50-14 victory at UNLV on Saturday.

Bobo singled out Lobo receiver Elijah Lilly as a player the Rams have to watch.

UNM’s defense looked decidedly sharper against the Rebels than it did in its 52-43 loss to Liberty on Sept. 29.

UNLV’s inability to throw the ball behind backup QB Max Gilliam assisted the Lobos in their defensive effort; the task is expected to be tougher vs. Colorado State.

Saturday’s game will determine who’s bad, who’s streaky and who will remain in serious contention for a bowl game invitation.

 

 

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