Saturday, December 22

The Just-In-Time for the New Mexico Bowl Preview

The New Mexico was one of at least fifteen new bowls introduced last season, further strengthening the argument that a playoff would render the regular season meaningless (under the current system, bowl eligible is synonymous with "doesn't suck balls" -- only anymore, even that isn't necessarily true). It's played in New Mexico, and the bowl has conveniently invited their state's own university to EVERY NM Bowl so far. Interesting... Oh and also, the game trophy is a piece of pottery. It's not even from Pottery Barn, it's this homemade crap stolen from the Zia Pueblo Indian Reservation. I can't believe those white devils continue to just take and take from this land's native people.

New Mexico (by Coach Pendley)

New Mexico didn't really have a season that most people would term impressive. The best opponent they've played all year was BYU (a 31-24 loss); the best team they've beat is probably Air Force (34-31 win at home). They are who you think they are: a middling mid-major team that didn't really do a whole lot in the conference or out of it. A 29-27 win at Arizona is nullified by a 10-6 loss at UTEP (although 10 points was the lowest output on the season for UTEP). In-conference, they lost to the good teams (Air Force excepted) and beat the bad ones. It's only fitting that they're playing another team whose main distinction on the season was not having one - it's not like Nevada did much on the season, either.

That being said, the Lobos do boast Rodney Ferguson, who's the 4th leading rusher in the Mountain West; he averages nearly 100 yards a game and just over a TD on the ground. In addition to that, they possess one of the most potent 1-2 WR combinations that Nevada will see all year in Marcus Smith (7.2 catches/game) and Travis Brown (5.4 catches/game). Unfortunately, the aforementoned three guys are the New Mexico offense. Defensively, they don't do anything too well; their pass D isn't terrible, but they do allow a 56% completion rate. The only thing other than the aforementioned three players is PK John Sullivan, who's 26/29 on the season. In short, there's not a lot they do well, but they don't do anything terribly either. This is the kind of team that gets a bowl game?

Keys to Victory:
1: Win the last 10 minutes. Obviously the Lobos need to at worst keep it close for the first 50 too, but Nevada has been in a lot of close games this season (7 games within 7 points, 4-3 record). The last thing the Lobos want to risk is getting caught in a situation where the team they're playing has more experience than they do - especially given New Mexico's 0-4 bowl record this century. It's intangible hell. They also don't want to be caught down by 3, not having the ball, and watching Luke Lippincott's number get called 14 straight times. Don't get caught there.

2: Attempt a score on at least 67% of the possessions. John Sullivan is an excellent weapon, and Nevada's defense - especially on the ground - isn't much to phone home about. There's no reason that the Lobos can't average 30-40 yards a possession and dink and dunk Nevada to death here. If they get the ball inside the 35, no punting is allowed.

3: Play action. Ferguson is a legitimate weapon, the potency of which the Wolfpack haven't seen since practice - or against Idaho on gameday. Nevada's secondary isn't a threat to pick off a lot of passes, so don't be afraid to establish Ferguson early and start throwing it down the field.

Nevada Wolfpack (by Coach Lawrence)

In 2005, Nevada received their first bowl invitation in nine seasons - accepting a bid to play against UCF in the Hawaii Bowl - a thrilling multi-OT game which was won on a missed PAT! Last year, they again reached the bowl season to face off against the Miami Hurricanes in the MPC Computers Bowl, this time losing on an interception with only a few seconds remaining as they were nearing FG range down 21-20.

2007 has been a down year for the Wolfpack, with losses to Fresno State, Boise State, and Hawaii placing them clearly in the middle tier of the WAC. Despite a very potent and rounded offense, Nevada has been plagued by a suspect defense (they've lost games 69-67, 49-41, and 36-31) and inexperienced QBs - last year's starter, Nick Graziano, was replaced around midseason by redshirt Freshman Colin Kaepernick. The move worked out as Kaep has performed better statistically in every meaningful category, in part due to giving him on average five fewer attempts per game and relying more on the run. With CK in the Pistol, Nevada runs a modified read option and keeps the ball on the ground 61% of the time.

Defensively Nevada has been a team of two halves, performing well in the first half but coming out of the locker room (particularly the third quarter, where rushing is up 1.2 ypc and the opposing quarterbacks get their highest rating) not quite ready to resume play. This effect tends to compound itself, as Nevada performs better against both the pass and the run when they have the lead.

1. Mix the run and the pass. New Mexico is solid against both, so their best bet is to keep the defense on its toes.

2. Have a cushion at the half. Sometimes you can't change who you are... a 10 point lead would be insurance against the halftime doldrums.

3. Don't be afraid if it gets ugly. Three of New Mexico's four losses have come when they've scored 10 points or less. Despite being involved in more low-scoring games, the Lobos aren't really that good at them.