(Sports Network) - With their lengthy losing streak now a thing of the past, the New Mexico Lobos shoot for back-to-back wins this weekend as they clash with the Air Force Falcons in a Mountain West Conference showdown in Colorado.
Suffering from one of the longest losing streaks in the nation, the Lobos finally put all the pieces together last Saturday and slipped by the Wyoming Cowboys at home in Albuquerque, 34-31, on a last-second field goal by James Aho. The victory was the first of the season for UNM and the first since the team defeated Colorado State by a 29-27 score on November 21, 2009. In fact, the triumph was so rare that it was just the second in the last 25 outings for the program.
As for the Falcons, a squad that at one point this year was actually among the AP's Top-25, they finally snapped a three-game slide last Saturday by tearing up Army in New York, 42-22. Not only was it the team's sixth win of the season, making the academy eligible for the postseason, it also brought the Commander-in-Chief's trophy back to Air Force for the first time since 2002. In all the Falcons have claimed the trophy, awarded to the best of the three service academies, a total of 17 times.
Air Force posted a lopsided 37-13 win in last year's matchup and that now has the Falcons leading the series by a count of 17-10.
When it was all on the line, James Aho stepped up to be the savior for the Lobos as he knocked through a 38-yard field goal at the gun to give the team its first win of the season. But it wasn't all about the kicker as first-time starter Stump Godfrey converted 16-of-20 passes for 211 yards and two touchdowns, while surviving five sacks. The signal-caller also carried the ball 23 times for another 69 yards and a score for the home team. Lucas Reed accounted for seven receptions for 100 yards and both aerial TDs. The presence of Godfrey may give the New Mexico faithful something to cheer about, but the youngster is still fighting an uphill battle when it comes to how this offense performs. Right now the squad is 114th in the country in total offense with just 283 ypg and ranks similarly in points scored with a mere 15.9 ppg to their credit.
Sporting one of the worst run defenses in the nation heading into the weekend, the Lobos looked even worse as they permitted the Cowboys, a team that was averaging a paltry 77.4 ypg rushing heading in, to produce a ridiculous 392 yards on 45 rushing attempts. Clearly the Pokes saw something they could exploit and did so with skill and precision. With all of that action happening in front of him, it should come as no surprise that Carmen Messina was again the top tackler for the squad with 12 total stops, adding a forced fumble as well. Messina led the entire nation in tackles last year with an average of 13.5 per game, but this time around he's been far less dominant with under nine stops per game. Whether or not that's a significant reason for why the Lobos are so bad is debatable. The bottom line here is that UNM can't help but give up massive point totals on a regular basis, to the tune of 42.0 ppg which is higher than all but two other teams in the nation.
Tim Jefferson was a one-man wrecking crew for the Falcons over the weekend as he not only ran for 57 yards and two touchdowns, he also converted 3-of-7 passes for 124 yards and a pair of TDs in the win over Army. Both of Jefferson's TD strikes went to Jon Warzeka who tallied an impressive 116 yards on his two catches. As usual the running game took top-billing for the Falcons as they gained 277 yards on 53 attempts. Jefferson has been doing it all for the Falcons this season, second on the team in rushing with 627 yards and first with a total of 11 TDs on the ground. But more than that, Jefferson has managed to put together a decent passing attack that, in past years has been dormant and non-existent. Even though the squad is ranked ninth in the conference and 116th in the nation with 123.5 ypg, the fact that Jefferson has tossed nine TDs and just six picks means opponents have to prepare for him now.
Like the Falcons, Army also focused its efforts on running the ball on Saturday, to the tune of 244 yards, but in the case of the Black Knights they scored just a single TD on the ground compared to three for Air Force. While Brady Amack was posting a game-high 13 tackles for the Falcons, nine of which were solo, Jordan Waiwaiole got himself noticed when he picked off a pass and returned it 52 yards for a score early in the fourth quarter. For a team that focuses so much on running the ball on offense, you would think the Falcons would be a bit more dialed in when it comes to stopping opponents on the ground, but that simply isn't the case. After 10 games the Falcons are sixth in the conference and 109th in the nation with 206.9 ypg allowed. Some of that might have to do with the fact that the team has had to face both Army and Navy who are ranked in the top-10 in that department.
As great as it was for the Lobos to finally win a game, the chances are slim that they'll be able to duplicate the feat on the road against an Air Force team that will slow the pace and eat the clock.