(Sports Network) — The only team left in the Mountain West Conference without a single victory in 2010, the New Mexico Lobos give it another go this weekend as they square off against the Colorado State Rams in league action at Hughes Stadium in Fort Collins.
Not only have the Lobos dropped all seven of their tests this season, they fell in their final game of 2009 which means they are currently tied with the Akron Zips for the nation's longest slide at eight games. New Mexico, which hasn't tasted victory since posting a 29-27 win over this same CSU squad a year ago, most recently suffered a 30-20 loss to San Diego State at home last Saturday and is now set to be on the road for three of the next four games.
As for the Rams, they too were a program searching for a winning attitude earlier in the campaign and still have just two victories to show for their efforts. After pummeling UNLV at home back on October 16th by a score of 43-10, CSU was taken to task by nationally-ranked Utah last week and was blown away in a 59-6 final in Salt Lake City marking the team's third loss in four outings.
Last season, CSU bowed by two points on the road against New Mexico, but overall the Rams still maintain a 32-25 edge in the all-time series. Three of the last four encounters have been decided by a last-second field goal, not to mention an average margin of just two points.
New Mexico head coach Mike Locksley has already noted that he and his program are in the midst of a rebuilding plan, but even he has to be scratching his head after the team's eighth straight loss. Lucas Reed tried to pace the offense against San Diego State with a couple of receiving touchdowns, but the fact that they were thrown by two different quarterbacks says there is still uncertainty at the most important position on the field. B.R. Holbrook and Brad Gruner combined to hit 15-of-36 for 193 yards and those two TDs but it still wasn't nearly enough to hold off the Aztecs. At this point it doesn't matter much who is under center for the Lobos because the end result is the same. The team has a collective 92.4 efficiency rating through the air which is eighth in the conference and 116th in the country, so expecting something big to happen via the pass is being extremely hopeful. Averaging a mere 89.6 ypg on the ground is just another reason why UNM is producing less than two TDs per game as well.
The top tackler in the nation last year, Carmen Messina was back to his old tricks on Saturday when he tallied a team-high 14 stops, nine of which were solo, but once again his efforts proved that winning a football game is more about a team effort than that of singular performers. Even though Messina was hitting his marks on a consistent basis, the Lobos as a whole were unable to slow down SDSU in the red zone as the visitors scored on all four of their possessions inside the 20-yard line. Messina, who has not been 100 percent this season, is second on the team in overall tackles with 53 at the moment, trailing only Bubba Forrest who has 60 stops. Neither player has a sack and in fact the Lobos are last in the conference and one of the weakest teams in the country (118th) in that department with just 0.71 sacks per game. Because of the lack of pressure, UNM's scoring defense has been taking some severe hits this season and is now permitting 44.1 ppg, most in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
Four the fourth time this season the Rams were held to a touchdown or less while being blown away by Utah over the weekend. Certainly you have to cut freshman quarterback Pete Thomas some slack considering he's still getting used to the knocks at the collegiate level, but the offensive line has to take some responsibility as well. Against the Utes Thomas completed 19-of-28 for 185 yards, but was intercepted once and sacked five times which means the running game was credited with just 28 net yards in the meeting. So far this season the Rams have been under whelming while running the ball, averaging a mere 106.6 ypg. Even worse, the team has generated just six touchdowns on 251 attempts and is averaging only 3.4 yards per carry. Thomas has taken every snap thus far and managed to put up some solid numbers given his level of experience, and is currently carrying an efficiency rating of 129.7.
Like every other team that has gone up against nationally-ranked Utah this season, the Rams were severely smacked around by an offense that doesn't miss many chances to exploit the opposition. Not only did CSU give up 221 yards and four TDs on the ground, the unit also permitted a pair of Utah signal-callers to roll up another 427 yards and four scores through the air. Granted, Ricky Brewer (14 tackles), Alex Williams (12) and Ivory Herd (11) all had solid numbers, but that's only because there were countless opportunities to try and slow down the Utes, which CSU never did. The pass defense for the Rams has been victimized time and time again by opponents this season, save for UNLV which was the only team not to toss at least one TD against the secondary. In fact, the team is carrying a rating of 173.77 in pass efficiency defense, due to the fact that they've surrendered 18 TDs and made just two interceptions. With one of the worst turnover margins in the country (minus-1.0 per game), it shouldn't come as a surprise that CSU is also one of the weakest scoring defenses in the nation (35.6 ppg) at this stage either.
If there was an opponent on the schedule that New Mexico could take advantage of it would be the Rams, simply because Thomas is still learning the ropes on offense and the defense for Colorado State is so weak this season.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: New Mexico 20, Colorado State 17
Saturday, October 30th, 6:00 p.m. (et).
TV: The Mtn.