Pro-style UTSA, option-based New Mexico in New Mexico Bowl
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The pro-style offense of UTSA will try to out-duel the triple-option threat of New Mexico in the New Mexico Bowl on Saturday.
It’s the Roadrunners’ first bowl appearance in their brief six-year history. The Lobos have only won two bowl games in the last 55 years.
Both coaches said a bowl win will give their programs a needed push in branding and recruiting. “How we play will define us,” UTSA head coach Frank Wilson said. “We came here to win.”
New Mexico head coach Bob Davie said although he knows the coaching staff and UTSA athletic director Lynn Hickey, the friends have opted not to make friendly wagers on the game. “We very competitive,” Davie said. “It’s not, ‘let’s bet a taco on the game.’”
Players could see 25 mph wind gusts and high temperatures hovering around the mid-40s on Saturday. That could affect the Roadrunners’ game plan since UTSA relies heavily on a deep receiving crew who can grab a big play. But Wilson said he didn’t think it would be too much of a factor. “Whatever the weather is, it’s UTSA weather,” he said.
Davie said the high winds also could affect how the Lobos’ pitch in the option. New Mexico leads the nation in rushing yards per game with 360.9.
Here are some other things to watch for in the New Mexico Bowl on Saturday:
GROUND ATTACK: The Lobos have racked up 4,331 rushing yards, the most in school history. New Mexico has two running backs — Teriyon Gipson and Tyrone Owens — with 1,000 rushing yards each and rarely turns the ball over. Gipson has 131 carries for 1,209 yards and 12 touchdowns. His 9.23 yards per carry average leads the FBS. Owens is second with 1,084 rushing yards. Both led the Mountain West in rushing yards.
UTSA has its own rushing threat in senior running back Jarveon Williams. The All-Conference USA selection rushed for a team-leading 775 yards on 191 carries. He rushed for 100 yards or more seven times in his career as a Roadrunner.
AIRING IT OUT: Wind or not, the Roadrunners will need a mistake-free passing game to keep the Lobos from controlling the tempo and clock. Quarterback Dalton Sturm, who threw for 2,052 yards and 18 touchdowns this season, will have to spread the ball around UTSA’s speedy receiving corps. Junior wide receiver Josh Stewart leads the Roadrunners with 36 receptions for the school’s single-season record of 682 receiving yards.
Even if Sturm can’t get the ball to Stewart, he has junior receiver Kerry Thomas Jr. as a nice back up. Thomas set a program single-game record with 145 receiving yards in the Nov. 26 win against Charlotte that clinched a bowl appearance for UTSA.
ASSIGNMENT FOOTBALL: Stopping New Mexico’s quick and speedy ground game will rest with a defense anchored by UTSA senior safety Michael Egwuagu. He ranks third on the team with 76 tackles — 6.5 have come behind the line of scrimmage. The 6-foot, 200-pounder plays the “Lion” safety in UTSA’s 4-2-5 defensive scheme. He believes everyone will need to play “assignment football” for the Roadrunners to be able to stop the Lobos.
Wilson said that means all defensive players will have to stay disciplined and make individual tackles. “It’s not a time to get cute,” Wilson said.
BY A FOOT: Should the game come down to the wire, Davie will turn to kicker Jason Sanders. He is currently the national leader in touchbacks and has made 81 extra points in a row. This year, the junior went 11-for-12 on field goals and 59-for-59 on extra points.
Follow Russell Contreras on Twitter at http://twitter.com/russcontreras . His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/russell-contreras .
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