After an opening week loss for New Mexico, still much is unknown. A new quarterback will be under center, and their running game would presumably look to be more effective. We'll have to wait for Saturday to see, but for now have a read of our Q&A session with the Mountain West Connection.
MinerRush: Coach Bob Davie got things headed in the right direction in his first year. Despite the opening loss, what does that fan base/people who follow the program expect out of year two?
Jeremy Mauss: Some were bullish on this team that they could get to a bowl game, but that is almost certainly not going to happen since a lot of people marked down the UTSA game as a win. They should get some more wins then last year which was four, and maybe five depending on how this UTEP game goes. The running game of Kasey Carrier is a huge concern since he was pretty much shut down last week with a poor performance, and he was to be the leader of this team to possibly lead them to a bowl game. Also, there was the assumption that quarterback Cole Gautsche was able to throw better but that has not proved to be the case so far. This could be an overreaction after just one game, but it does not seem that the Lobos will be that much improved.
MR: Cole Gautsche has been ruled out of Saturday's contest, will there be any dropoff between him and Clayton Mitchem?
JM: Not much is known of Mitchem as he is a JUCO transfer and barely played in last week's game. He is a dual-threat quarterback so he should fit into the pistol offense for Davie. The drop off seems to come in the running game because Gautsche is very good at running ball in the pistol offense, and Mitchem did not really seem to get that down. New Mexico doesn't pass much but if Mitchem is any better of a passer then Gautsche then the offense might actually show some signs of life.
MR: Kasey Carrier had a breakout junior year, rushing for almost 1,500 yards. He was sluggish in the opener, what can we attribute that to, and should we expect different in game two?
JM: Not sure what happened to Carrier but this really should have seen this coming since UTSA was pretty good at stopping the run last year. UTSA found a nice formula to stopping the run attack by a pair of 300-pound defensive tackles who too away and running play up the gut, and that forced the Lobos to be one-dimensional in the rushing attack. If UTEP can mimic what UTSA did on the defensive front then they too could slow down Carrier, but if not then I expect Carrier to have a much better game.
MR: After jumping out to a 13-0 lead early in the second, the Lobos struggled offensively. Was that solely a product of UTSA's defense, or is this just not the same offense from a year ago?
JM: A combination of both. Head coach Larry Coker had a great defensive game plan for UTSA as they shutdown the rushing attack of New Mexico, and with the passing game non-existent for the Lobos the game was pretty much over when they had to start throwing the ball. Gautsche is not a great throwing quarterback so if he is forced to sling the ball then New Mexico is in trouble. Mitchem was not too much better throwing or running the ball in the UTSA game. New Mexico had to know that UTSA was going to try to stop any inside play on the ground and they did not adjust for it, so some of the blame has to go on the New Mexico coaches for not trying to find another way to move the ball on the ground.
MR: Despite allowing less than 400 total yards, the UNM defense was a bit suspect. Do you expect any changes to be made, either strategically or personnel wise, and do you expect any improvement against the Miners.
JM: New Mexico's defense was expected to be the sore point of the team, but they did play all right against UTSA and did much better than the 2012 season. The defensive front seven has a handful of young talent that were three star recruits, a rarity for New Mexico, so another game under their belt should help them get even better. Personnel will stay the same and with so many young players getting their first action last week it just comes down to getting more reps to improve. As for strategy, UTEP has a new system under the new coaching staff, plus they have a new Jameill Showers so look for New Mexico to play their style of defense.
MR: What are New Mexico's keys to winning the game?
JM: They must get Kasey Carrier going on the ground if they are going to win. New Mexico is playing a backup quarterback whose only FBS experience was last week, so they need to get Carrier going early on and get the offense in a groove. I guess I'll mention it again, run the ball and do it well. That is how New Mexico was successful last year. The defense needs to hold their ground and not give up too many points, similar to what they did last week against UTSA. They also need to find some sort of passing game this week. The Lobos can not simple run the run-based pistol attack on every play and when it gets to be third and long they need a quarterback who can complete a seven yard pass. The nuts and bolts of it is that Carrier needs to get on track and have Mitchem be able to complete some passes.
MR: Final thoughts and predictions.
JM: New Mexico will win if Carrier gets on track running the ball. If he has another week of less than 50 yards then it is highly unlikely that New Mexico can get the win. However, if Carrier gets back to averaging over five yards a carry then that will go a long way for New Mexico. New Mexico is still hurting from always losing games and their confidence level is not all that great, despite actually playing quite well last year. That could be their issue where if they start off slow the team doesn't think they can come back and win. That takes years to get over by winning games.
In the end I think UTEP will win by seven to 10 points, but it will be close the entire way.