Know Your Foe: New Mexico

Arizona State hits the road for the first time in the 2014 season, and will face the University of New Mexico. What can the Sun Devils expect from their next opponent?’s K.M. Rodriguez answers Sparky’s Huddle members’ questions regarding ASU’s next opponent.

What were your takeaways in the 31-24 loss to UTEP and did you feel that the Lobos played above or below expectations?

Rodriguez: The Lobos played well below expectations in the first half, and about to expectations in the second half. The fact that they rallied from a 17-point halftime deficit was a huge positive. But the fact that they played poorly enough to get into the predicament was just as much as a negative.

What is the status of quarterback Cole Gautsche and if he isn’t ready to go who will replace him and how will that affect the offense?

Rodriguez: As of Sunday, Coach Bob Davie said Cole Gautsche was out for Saturday's game and that back up Clayton Mitchem would be the starter with freshman QB Lamar Jordan possibly getting some snaps as well. Mitchem is a better passer but does not run the option as well as Gautsche - though he is reportedly faster. So the switch is both fraught with peril and possibility at the same time.

ASU head coach Todd Graham has already mentioned running backs Teriyon Gipson and Jhurell Pressley as the strength of this offense. What makes them such valuable contributors to the offense?

Rodriguez: Gipson and Pressley are both shifty runners with good speed, much in the mold of departed RB Kasey Carrier. They're both very versatile - they can run well between the tackles as well as outside and are both decent pass catchers out of the backfield.

Being that the Lobos are a triple option team is the offensive line one of the bigger strengths of the team? Because of the scheme do they cut block often?

Rodriguez: The offensive line has been a point of concern because the staff has had to replace some folks. They're a young group overall, which is an obvious concern. They don't do much in the way of chop blocking, based on the penalties they've picked up in the past few seasons.

What are the strengths and weaknesses of the New Mexico defense and who are some of the playmakers to watch on that side of the ball?

Rodriguez: The strength of the UNM defense so far is that they are good at swarming to the ball. But the team's tackling and assignments were sorely lacking in the first half against UTEP, so that's something that needs to be worked on. The defensive backfield has been a concern as well and will be this week as UNM is missing starting corner Cranston Jones, who injured his elbow. LB Dakota Cox led the Lobos Saturday 17 tackles. DB's David Guthrie, Daniel Henry and LB Kimmie Carson were among the other top tacklers. Another guy to watch is DL Cole Juarez.

Another player Graham mentioned as a strength for the Lobos is kicker/punter Zack Rogers. What does he bring to the table in terms of his contributions to the special teams?

Rodriguez: Rogers has a strong leg and is pretty consistent. Coach Davie has had a lot of praise for him through camp and his kickoffs were consistently deep against UTEP. Obviously he's had no game situation field goals.

Do you feel that Arizona State’s speed on both sides of the ball is the biggest challenge for New Mexico or are they are other aspects?

Rodriguez: ASU's speed is definitely a big concern for UNM, though being able to decipher the scheme the Sun Devils run is a concern.

How does the community feel about Bob Davie as a head coach? Has he been able to utilize his Texas ties and recruit that state well for the Lobos?

Rodriguez: The prevailing attitude about Coach Davie has been one of patience, but that patience is being tested now. The realization that the rebuilding process is not going to be overnight has been sobering. The recruiting into Texas has definitely improved with Coach Davie at the helm, which is important since it's such a hotbed and close enough for recruits’ families to come to ABQ for games.

Do you feel your program is trending up or down, and why? Are expectations for this season high or low?

Rodriguez: I think expectations before Saturday were very high. Which may have been optimistic. The program is trending up, but not to a great degree. And maybe not a quick enough trend for fans, who are definitely hungering for a winner.

Aside from an upset win of course, what outcome would be considered an achievement for New Mexico in this contest?

Rodriguez: I think being competitive with ASU will be seen as an accomplishment. Some folks thought this was a winnable game until the pre-season rankings came out and ASU was a Top 25 team. That seemed to tamp down the enthusiasm. Though a lot of fans are getting tired of the "moral victories" and want to see straight up wins. There's no denying that. But only the most hardcore fans are talking win or bust with the game.

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