Saturday: Fresno State at New Mexico
Time: 5:30 p.m.
Location: Dreamstyle Stadium
Radio: KKOB 94.5 FM, 770 AM
Line: Fresno State favored by 14
By Greg Archuleta
Enchantment Sports Assistant Editor
Another week; another opportunity for the University of New Mexico football team to stop a streak.
Another opportunity for quarterback Sheriron Jones to gain experience.
After narrowly missing a chance to end Colorado State’s eight-game winning streak in that series, the Lobos come home this week to face the Fresno State Bulldogs, whom UNM hasn’t beaten since 1994.
Fortunately for New Mexico (3-3, 1-1 Mountain West Mountain Division), the teams have not met each season since 1994, and the Bulldogs streak stands only at six games.
Despite Saturday’s game being a home game as opposed to a road game as the CSU game was, the Lobos figure to face a more daunting prospect of halting this particular skid against Fresno State.
The Bulldogs are 5-1, 2-0 in the MW West Division. Their only loss came on the road against Big Ten rival Minnesota 21-14 in a game that came down to the last minute.
UNM is a 14-point underdog, and a reporter asked coach Bob Davie during his weekly news conference on Tuesday whether his team reacts any differently to being listed as an underdog as opposed to a favorite.
“I don’t think particularly a whole lot,” Davie said. “The game is so much technical, but there is an element of ‘chip on the shoulder.’ There is an element of momentum. … Whatever it is, we ought to have it this week as coaches and players because we got whipped up there last year.”
Davie referenced Fresno State’s 38-0 victory over UNM after its bye week in 2017 that marked the beginning of the Lobos’ seven-game losing streak to finish the season.
“But, we all do this with one eye on improving each week and getting better,” he added.
Which is why all the talk of consecutive wins or losses against a certain foe in a series falls by the wayside. UNM may have whatever revenge factor from last season, but the Bulldogs have a program on the rise under second-year coach Jeff Tedford, who is 15-5 in his 1 1/2 years at Fresno.
Senior quarterback Marcus McMaryion does it all for the FS offense. He has 1,578 passing yards with a 71.4 completion percentage and 11 touchdowns to just two interceptions.
He also has seven rushing touchdowns among his 30 carries on the season.
The Bulldogs’ other offensive weapons include senior wide receiver KeeSean Johnson (38 receptions, 510 yards, four TDs), and sophomore running back Jordan Mims, who has 244 rushing yards and four TDs on 71 carries as well as 236 receiving yards and one score on 16 catches.
As powerful as their offense is, the Bulldogs defense might be better. They’re No. 2 in the nation in scoring defense (13.5 points allowed per game. They’re No. 2 in passing efficiency defense, No. 3 in turnover margin per game and No. 9 in total defense at 301.2 yards allowed per game.
Davie lamented the Mountain West scheduling that prevented the Lobos and Bulldogs from meeting in 2015-16, when Fresno State went a combined 4-20.
When UNM played Fresno State in 2012 and 2013, the Bulldogs had the combination of quarterback Derek Carr (now with the Oakland Raiders) and wide receiver Davante Adams (Green Bay Packers).
By the time the series resumed in 2017, the Bulldogs have won 75 percent of their games under Tedford.
“The two years we missed them on the schedule, they were down,” Davie said. “We’re going to miss them the next two years (after Saturday’s game); I doubt they’re going to be down.”
Davie noted that Jones, who statistically did not have a bad game against Colorado State (12 of 20 passing, 165 yards with two TDs and no interceptions, and nine carries for 35 yards), still has room to grow in having command of the offense.
“I don’t think our quarterback, from a read standpoint, played as good as we can play moving forward,” Davie said. “Again, he’s still young.”
Case in point: UNM’s third-down play on its last possession against CSU. The play was designed to go to the running back in motion on a swing route. Davie said had Jones been able to get the ball to the back, the play would’ve gone for 10 yards and a first down, likely clinching the game for the Lobos.
Instead, Jones tried to go over the middle to third-string tight end Jeffrey Jones, who had his hands on the ball but could not complete the catch.
“I’m not blaming the quarterback,” Davie said. “That’s just what football is.”
INJURY UPDATE: Davie said tight ends Marcus Williams (toe) and Brayden Dickey (illness), both of whom missed the CSU game, leading to Jeffrey Jones being in the game for the third-down incompletion, are expected to play against Fresno State.