New Mexico: 7-3 (5-1 Mountain West)
With only two chances left to grab a win and a bowl game, the Colorado State Rams face off with a New Mexico team that is in a three-way tie for first place in the Mountain division, and currently riding five game win streak.
“They are a very very good football team with explosive athletes on both sides of the football,” coach Mike Bobo said. “Coach (Bob) Davie has done an excellent job with that football team building it over the last few years.”
Colorado State prevailed in a 28-21 hard fought game when the two teams met last season in Albuquerque.
Last week, the Rams gave up 485 rushing yards to the second best running team in the conference. This week, they face the number one rushing offense in the conference and the country. The Lobos put their own spin on the triple-option offense, and they are currently running for 347.8 yards per game. The Lobos sit second in the conference in total offense at 458.7 yards a game.
“(Davie) has two quarterbacks that run that offense extremely effectively,” Bobo said. “One throws a little bit more, but both can run the option. Both have excellent vision and handle the ball extremely well.”
On their depth chart, the Lobos list co-starters in junior Lamar Jordan and senior Austin Apodaca. Apodaca is the quarterback who has thrown the ball more this season, but both quarterbacks can move the ball through the air and on the ground.
Jordan, who has started the last seven games, has thrown for 452 yards on 31-61 passing while also running for 450 yards and two touchdowns. Apodaca has run for 193 yards on his own, while also completing 49 of 85 passes for 603 yards and four touchdowns in three starts this year.
Earlier this week, Davie announced that Apodaca, a Longmont product, would get the start on Saturday, though Jordan should be expected to see the field.
Both quarterbacks have a wealth of talent in the backfield behind them.
Four different players have ran for over 400 yards this season, including Jordan.
Sophomore Tyrone Owens leads the rushing group with 927 yards on 122 carries to go along with six touchdowns. Senior Teriyon Gipson has put up a blistering nine yards per carry en-route to 924 yards and 10 touchdowns on 103 carries.
And not to be outdone, junior Richard McQuarley has scored 12 touchdowns while running for 445 yards on 104 carries.
“New Mexico is right up there in the top of the defenses that we will play,” offensive coordinator Will Friend said. “They have a lot of team speed. They bring pressure, they can cover and they can get to the quarterback without bringing pressure.”
New Mexico brings in the third ranked defense in the conference as they give up just over 374 yards a game. And the Lobo defense with 10 returning starters has been rolling the last four weeks, giving up just over 20 points per game in that span.
Like Air Force, New Mexico is stout up front.
12 different players have multiple tackles for loss, the team is tied of fourth in the conference in sacks with 23 and New Mexico has the third ranked rushing defense in the Mountain West, allowing 138.3 yards a game on the ground.
“They probably blitz a little bit less than they did last year,but they still have the ability to bring pressure and (they) like to cause havoc and force the issue,” Bobo said.
The defense is led by senior middle linebacker Dakota Cox and senior defensive end Nik D’Avanzo. Cox, 40 career starts, and D’Avanzo, 32 career starts, were both named Honorable Mention All-Mountain West performers a year ago.
Cox leads the team in tackles with 62 to go along with five tackles for loss, while D’Avanzo is second on the team in tackles with 50. D’Avanzo also leads the team in tackles for loss with seven and is second on the team in sacks with four.
Junior defensive end Garrett Hughes is the leading pass rusher up front. He is tied for fourth in the Mountain West with 5.5 sacks on the season.
Collegian sports reporter Eric Wolf can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Eric_Wolf5