Sunday, February 12, 2017

Farewell to 2016: New Mexico Lobos

2016 was a season of recurrent dominance on one side (San Diego State), and a resurgence on the other (Wyoming). The strength of the MWC was once again on the Mountain Division side of the league, as both Boise State and Air Force finished with 10 wins after bowl season was over with, and New Mexico finished with 9 wins. Wyoming, finished with 8 after being one of the worst programs in America in recent seasons. The Cowboys made it to the MWC title game after holding off charges from both Boise State and New Mexico, and while the season could have finished better for the Cowboys, the surge in success in Laramie had to be recognized as a huge move forward for Craig Bohl and his Cowboy program. In the West, Hawaii showed signs of life under Nick Rolovich, but the rest of the division, not including San Diego State, tanked once again, that side of the league will have 3 new head coaches in 2017. Here is a look back at the season that was in 2016.

New Mexico Lobos
9-4 (6-2)

2016 Schedule
Beat South Dakota 48-21
Lost to New Mexico State 32-31
Lost to Rutgers 37-28
Beat San Jose State 48-41
Lost to Boise State 49-21
Beat Air Force 45-40
Beat Louisiana-Monroe 59-17
Beat Hawaii 28-21
Beat Nevada 35-26
Beat Utah State 24-21
Lost to Colorado State 49-31
Beat Wyoming 56-35
Beat UTSA 23-20 (New Mexico Bowl)

MVP Offense: RB Teriyon Gipson, RB Tyrone Owens, RB Richard McQuarley
Bob Davie has slowly turned the Lobos into a rushing super power out west with his triple option offense, and it paid off in 2016 after a slow start to the season. Gipson managed to post a rushing line of 145-1269-13, which led the team in rushing despite missing 2 games during the season. That is where Owens came in, as he more than filled the gap, posting 137-1097-7. Gipson averaged 115.38 yards per game on just over 15 carries per contest, while Owens averaged 91.42 yards per game on just over 11 carries per game. McQuarley only rushed for 656 yards on 11 carries per game, but his value came in scoring, as he led the team with a rock solid 18 scores on the ground. In all, the Lobos rushed for 350 yards per game, which led the nation. They also ran for a total of 48 TDs.
MVP Defense: LB Dakota Cox
If New Mexico had a downfall in 2016, it was defense. The Lobos averaged 31.5 points allowed per game, and while Cox led the team with 91 tackles on the year, he did not do a ton else, but still, across the board, was probably the best defender they had on staff. The Lobos allowed 172.46 yards rushing per game, and 222.3 yards passing per game, and they also managed to give up 29 rushing scores on the season, all numbers that I find somewhat troubling. 
Others of Note: If the Lobos bog down in the run game, they are in trouble, as not one of their QBs attempted 100 passes on the season, and were not very effective when they did try to pass. As a team, UNM completed just over 53% of their passing attempts, and only one receiver (Dameon Gamblin) caught more than 20 passes (23). Q' Drennan showed promise, averaging 25.82 yards per grab, but he was hardly ever targeted. 
Defensively, LB Nick D'Avenzo led the team with 9 TFLs, Nias Martin broke up 11 passes, and Garrett Hughes finished with 6.5 sacks. 
Best Win: Air Force 45-40, Wyoming 56-35
After starting just 2-3, the Lobos looked to be in trouble. More on that in a moment. They traveled to Dallas for a neutral site game in the Cotton Bowl against Air Force, and suddenly, a switch flipped, and the Lobos came away with a much needed win that boosted them to 2-1 in MWC play, and they flew from there finishing the season 7-1, which culminated with wins over Wyoming and UTSA in the bowl win at home. 
Worst Loss: New Mexico State 32-31, Rutgers 37-28
The Aggies and Scarlet Knights were two of the worst teams in college football in 2016, and the Lobos lost to both in a two week span. The NMSU loss hurts worse because of the serious nature of that rivalry, and the Rutgers loss hurts because of the nature of Rutgers just being Rutgers. Those losses also put the Lobos into a must win mindset moving forward out of the Boise State loss, and may have spurred the effort in the Air Force win. 
2017 Non Conference Schedule: 9/2 Abilene Christian, 9/9 New Mexico State, 9/23 at Tulsa, 11/11 at Texas A&M
The season should open with two relatively easy wins, despite the fact that UNM lost to NMSU in 2016. I do not see a repeat of that happening. Abilene Christian is a struggling former D2 team still trying to break through in FCS football, although they did hire one of the best coaches in the nation from the ranks of D2 football in Adam Dorrell, the former coach at Northwest Missouri State. The non con stretch gets tougher after that. Tulsa is improving rapidly under Phillip Montgomery, but must replace some key parts. That will be a true test of this Lobo team, and of course the Texas A&M game could be a late season non con loss on the road. 

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