Taking A Look At The Lobos

New Mexico hosts the MWC defending champion BYU for the Lobos' conference opener, and for their 83rd homecoming game, which is expected to have a sellout crowd of 40,094.

The Cougars have yet to win on the road this year, having lost to both Tulsa and UCLA, and the Lobos just came off a 58-0 victory over Sacramento State, their largest shutout in 57 years. The task for the Cougars in Albuquerque will be to get their first road win, and do it against a 3-1 conference opponent.

"It's kind of the same thing we had last year," said Van Sweden. "We played Arizona away and lost. We played Tulsa at home and we won, and then we played Boston College away and lost. It's kind of the same thing with the first three games, with us winning at home but losing two away. Those are just the little things we have to work out of our system. We are a really good team whether we are away or at home. It's football and we just need to play it the same no matter if we are at home or away."

The Cougars will face a talented Lobo team in possession of skill players that, to some of these Cougar defenders, reminds them of players they've already faced on the football field.

"What we've seen on film is that [Rodney] Ferguson is a very good runner," said outside linebacker Chris Bolden. "He's a power runner and a downhill guy. I'm sure they're going to try and pound the ball at us.

"Their running back is very similar to the running back from UCLA. He runs a lot like Kahlil Bell where he runs hard and is tough to bring down. [Ferguson] is the kind of running back that will make you work for the tackle, kind of like how Kahlil Bell did."

After four games, Ferguson leads the MWC in rushing with 118.2 yards per game, while the Cougar defense is currently giving up 95 rushing yards per game.

"[Ferguson is] a power back and he has good hands too," said Van Sweden. "Coach Lamb said he is one of the better backs that we'll play in conference this year."

Ferguson will be running behind an offensive line that differs from what the Cougars faced with Air Force.

"They're bigger guys but not as fast as Air Force," said defensive end Judd Anderton. "They're a little more sound and we think they're better blockers up front than Air Force. What we are watching is how they do their runs. We want to defend against the run first."

"They're a big, physical team," said defensive end Jan Jorgensen. "That's pretty much the best way to describe them. They're just a big, physical offensive line. They're not as fast or execute as fast as Air Force, but they're much bigger and they just like to line up on you and go after it. They're not finesse guys but they are physical and that's the best way to describe them. Their whole offensive line isn't much different than what we saw from them last year."

The Lobo coaches use 250-pound fullback Matt Quillen as a lead blocker for Ferguson. Quillen is considered one of the top blocking fullbacks in the conference.

"[Quillen] may be one of the bigger backs that we face all year," said Van Sweden. "He can catch out of the backfield like Manase Tonga, so that's something we have to keep under control and make sure we play our assignments."

The Cougar defenders are expecting the Lobos to play some smash mouth football this coming Saturday. Ferguson had 129 yards rushing and a career-high four touchdowns last week, which were the most by a Lobo since former New Mexico running back DonTrell Moore scored four touchdowns against Texas State in 2003.

"Their offense is based on power," Jorgensen said. "They're not at all like Tulsa. They want to run the ball and they're big back there in the backfield. They want to first establish the running game, and they do it through the run zone and the power peel where they can use the big fullback to come through to lead the way for the running backs."

However, BYU fans shouldn't just expect quarterback Donovan Porterie to simply hand the ball off to Ferguson.

"With their quarterback, they're going to also try and throw the ball on us a lot," Bolden said. "For the most part they're going to try and establish the run first and then pass second. We're expecting a balanced offense from New Mexico."

"We watched some film today and in looking at their quarterback, he's pretty good," said Van Sweden. "He's a very quick runner and can run the ball out of the pocket. He's a mobile quarterback and the coaches said he ran a lot more last year. They're trying to keep him more in the pocket to throw."

Porterie has a lot of weapons to throw to if he so chooses. One such weapon is 6-foot-3-inch, 202-pound senior receiver Travis Brown, who caught seven passes for 115 yards last week for his third-straight 100-yard game. On the year, Brown has 18 receptions for 342 yards.

Another threat at wide receiver is 6-foot-2-inch, 214-pound senior Marcus Smith, who hauled in seven passes for 69 yards last week to move into 10th place at UNM in career receptions. Smith averages 14.4 yards per catch.

"The New Mexico receivers are a lot like the Tulsa receivers," Bolden said. "They're the bigger receivers who are very athletic and fast. They are the same receivers we've seen last year, so we know what to expect from them though. We learned our mistakes from Tulsa and came back and worked on those things for the Air Force game. We played within our defense and got after Air Force, and I'm pretty sure we'll do the same thing against New Mexico."

"We just have to stay focused," said Jorgensen. "If we stay focused, then we will win. That's what it comes down to, so if we do that, then we will win."

To ensure that the Cougars stay focused on the road, Coach Mendenhall may utilize a new practice that was started this previous weekend in preparation for the Air Force game.

"This past week we had an extra walkthrough that we had later at night that we don't usually have," Jorgensen said. "We usually do it every morning before the games, but this is just something that is a little extra at a time when we aren't doing anything. I think [Coach Mendenhall] said that this might become a norm for us.

"At night before the Air Force game, we left the hotel room when we were all just relaxing. We all went to a place and walked through the plays to see and make sure we all knew what we were going to do so we could all be sharp the next day. If we are on the road we'll just go out into the parking lot and have guys stand as offensive linemen and just walk through the plays. If Coach Mendenhall can do that, I think it's great because it's just another small adjustment that will help us stay focused in what we are going to do."

Van Sweden also liked the new practice started by Coach Mendenhall.

"We left the hotel and came out here to the [Student Athlete Building]," said Van Sweden. "I don't understand why we don't utilize that time more. We just sit in the hotel room with nothing to do. I would rather come out and utilize that time and do little things like that than just sit in our rooms at the hotel. Mendenhall said he wants to do things like he did last week, so we could have another late walkthrough down in New Mexico like we did the night before the Air Force game."

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