UTSA (6-6) vs. New Mexico (8-4)
- Start Time: 1:00 PM CST. Saturday, December 17
- Location: University Stadium, Albuquerque, New Mexico
- TV: ESPN
- Streaming: WatchESPN
- Live Stats: Here.
- Line: New Mexico -7.5. O/U: 57.5.
New Mexico is on vacation in…. New Mexico:
Talk about getting the raw end of the deal. You make a bowl and then you are told that you will be playing in your home stadium in that bowl. It is cool once or even twice, but this is the fourth straight time that the bowl eligible Lobos will play in the New Mexico Bowl. It loses a bit of the luster of making a bowl when you are not getting to experience the trip that others are experiencing. Two examples include Old Dominion heading to the Bahamas and MTSU heading to Hawaii.
That being said, there shouldn’t be any good reason that the Lobos don’t get a huge home field advantage.
UTSA’s first bowl trip:
It is always very telling about a fanbase when that team makes their first bowl game. Some are tough assignments like the previously mentioned trip to the Bahamas Bowl for Old Dominion. It is great for the players and coaches, but a majority of the fanbase is unable to make that trip.
UTSA does not have that excuse as a trip to the New Mexico Bowl is long but manageable and there will be tickets available. If the Roadrunner faithful can either come close or even take over the stadium during this game, that will be a huge feather in the hat for the program. Not only will it be a sense of pride for the program, it will make other bowls like the Heart of Dallas more willing to go after them in the future.
The rookie versus the grizzled vet:
On one sideline, the Roadrunners have one of the best rookie coaches of the 2016 season in Frank Wilson. He led the program to their first bowl berth and gave life to a program that needed a spark to finally reach its potential. He is one of the under the radar coaches that could end up taking over at LSU in a couple of years if the Orgeron experiment is deemed a failure.
On the other sideline is Bob Davie. The 62-year old has been coaching since 1977 with a career spike as the head coach of Notre Dame. Since leaving Notre Dame in 2001, he was a commentator before finally taking over the Lobos in 2012. Since then, he has turned the New Mexico run game into one of the best and most explosive in the nation.
How UTSA wins this game:
Resist the urge to go big play for big play with the New Mexico offense. The Lobos have an insane ability to break long runs in their option attack. They struggle when defenses force them to take four yards per play and methodically move down the field. That is when turnovers and mental errors pop up. The Roadrunners have four players with 6.5 or more tackles for loss, led by La’Kel Bass and Marcus Davenport with a combined 21.0 on the year.
On offense, ride that run game. UTSA has two very good running backs in Jarveon Williams and Jalen Rhodes, so there is no reason they should combine for fewer than 35 carries in this game. Take some chances with Dalton Strum in the passing game, but don’t do anything needlessly aggressive that could result in a turnover.
How New Mexico wins this game:
Ride the horse that won the Lobos eight games. With a run game that averages 6.8 yards as a team and has rushed for over 4300 yards in 12 games, it is essential to just keep feeding the beast. Teriyon Gipson and Tyrone Owens are both explosive players that do not lose yards. Combined, they have lost a total of 21 yards on rushes all season long.
Basically, the Lobos have to attempt to outscore UTSA. They have some solid pieces on defense like Dakota Cox (80 tkl, 5 tfl), Nik D’Avanzo (9 tfl, 5 sacks), and Kimmie Carson (6.5 tfl), but they have struggled to stop anyone on a regular basis this season. They have given up 21+ points in all but one game this season.
Yannis Routsas, UTSA, Punter: With the huge assumption that UTSA can do a solid job of limiting the explosive plays, the play of Routsas could be a difference maker. The sophomore punter has been very good with a 41.9 yards per punt average and nearly 33% of his punts fair caught. If he can cork off a couple of 50+ yard punts an pin the Lobos back on a regular basis, UTSA will win.
It is hard to determine just how a team will play in their first bowl game. Nerves are wound tighter than at other times and the opening quarter tends to be a bit of a blur. New Mexico is the better overall team and many of the players on the Lobos roster played in a bowl game last season. That experience of playing in a 2015 bowl will allow New Mexico to jump out quickly and take control of the game in the first 15 minutes.
New Mexico 38, UTSA 24.