The schedule shake up with the lighter, 10-team Big 12 left Tech with a bye week in the second week of the season in between Texas State and the Lobos. Unfortunately, that leaves the Red Raiders with 11 consecutive games without a break in 2011 – including the three-game stretch in November at Texas (Nov. 5), home against Oklahoma State (Nov. 12) and at Missouri (Nov. 19). Tech has not won in Austin since 1999 and has never won in Columbia. The Cowboys beat Tech at home for the first time since Barry Sanders was roaming the field in orange and black in 1988.
So it will be on Tommy Tuberville and the Red Raiders to start the 11-game stretch on a good note as they hope to play cleaner against New Mexico than last season. The Red Raiders, in their new white helmets, pulled out in front quickly, 21-3 with a touchdown pass from Taylor Potts to Austin Zouzalik on the fourth play of the game. Then Aaron Crawford blocked a punt that led to an Eric Stephens touchdown. Stephens ran back a kickoff 93 moments later to lead to another score. Then things slowed down as Tech turned it over twice before the half and New Mexico scored twice to get within 14. But when the dust settled in the end, Tech rolled off 21 unanswered points for the 52-17 win.
So here's a look at this season's bout with the Lobos, where there should be plenty of heated fans in the stands who would love nothing more than to repeat what happened in 2004 – a 27-24 win for New Mexico over Tech for the first time in 20 years.
TEAM BREAKDOWN – NEW MEXICO LOBOS
Head Coach: Mike Locksley (Third Season, 2-22 at New Mexico and overall)
2010 Record: 1-11 (1-7 in Mountain West Conference, 9th place)
Returning Starters: 19 (6 – offense, 9 – defense, 4 – special teams)
Offensive Style: Pro Style Spread
Defensive Style: 4-2-5
It was anything but the type of season New Mexico was hoping for in 2010. The Lobos not only repeated their 1-11 season of 2009, but finished last or near the bottom in every statistical category. New Mexico was dead last in total offense (266 yards per game), scoring defense (44.33 points per game), and in run defense (250 yards per game). Specifically toward the offense, they were just a hair shy of the triple crown for finishing last in the three big statistical categories with scoring just 15.83 points per game. Funny thing is, quarterback B.R. Holbrook had one of his best games when the Lobos face the Red Raiders, completing 30 of 50 passes for 323 yards and one touchdown with two picks. The Lobos will have three options at quarterback with Holbrook, Tarean Austin and Stump Godfrey. Austin and Godfrey are the more athletic two that can provide mobility around the offense and open an option-style attack in the fast-paced offense. With both teams defenses practicing in the 4-2-5, neither should have a big advantage against the other in offensive schemes – just talent vs. talent. But don't forget about 6-foot-6, two-time all-American tight end Lucas Reed, who was the team's second-leading receiver with 33 catches for 459 yards and five touchdowns.
Remember all those stats in last place – the Lobos defense felt that more than anyone last season. It was arguably the worst but youngest in the country last season but now has nine returning starters who look to turn 2010's misfortunes into success this season. The tricky part will be utilizing the team's best three players – linebackers Spencer Merritt, Carmen Messina and Joe Stoner. The three will be learning a new defense in the 4-2-5, just like Texas Tech, but has four returning starters in the secondary. Improvement would mean holding teams to less than 20 points more than just one time all season – a 16-14 loss to New Mexico State – and stopping the run more often. Teams almost always had more rushes installed in the game plan against New Mexico than other teams, which is why the Lobos gave up more than 250 rushing yards and 469 yards of total offense each game. Texas Tech found a way to make the ground game work last year, rushing 36 times for 152 yards and four touchdowns – even using quarterback Taylor Potts on an option-read.
EARLY BOLD PREDICTION
Texas Tech 56, New Mexico 24