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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Lobos D likes to frustrate

    At first sight, tomorrow night’s final nonconference game for the Arizona football team is a yawner.

    It’s just another lesser opponent from another lesser conference – the Mountain West Conference.

    Then again, after comparing the New Mexico Lobos’ recent successes to those of Arizona’s other opponents this season – as well as the Wildcats’s – the game is no longer a sleeper.

    “”Last week’s game will give us some carryover for what they do this week, but this week will be a much more downhill game,”” said UA head coach Mike Stoops.

    “”There’s no lack of aggressiveness in the way they play, and we just have to make sure we have a really solid game plan. …It’s a little bit like a feast-or-famine-type deal with them.””

    New Mexico is the only school in the MWC with at least six wins each of the last six years. It’s second in the conference with 23 wins since 2002 and has graduated 18 players to the NFL since then.

    The most telling number of all of them is that in four of the last five seasons the Lobos have made a bowl game, including last year, when they played in the New Mexico Bowl in Albuquerque.

    And everyone knows about the tacit bowl expectation for the Arizona program this season.

    “”The coaches are saying that they’re tough all-around,”” said tight end Rob Gronkowski. “”They have tough players who like to do a lot of blitzes. They’ll try to get us off track.””

    The last game between Arizona and its neighbors six hours to the east came nearly 10 years ago at Arizona Stadium, when the Lobos – then in the Western Athletic Conference – lost 20-14 in the Insight.com Bowl, as then-sophomore linebacker Brian Urlacher roamed the field.

    This season, the Lobos return 18 total starters, including 10 on defense. The team already has five sacks for a loss of 45 yards through two games.

    “”It’s a very unique defense, to say the least,”” Stoops said. “”I don’t know if I can always figure out what they’re doing, but they’re coming.

    “”They take their chances. We ain’t gonna play conservative.””

    Quarterback Willie Tuitama added: “”It’s kind of a tricky defense. They have some people here and some people there. It’s not really ever the same.””

    Offensively, running back Rodney Ferguson ð- who led the MWC in rushing yards (1,234) last year – already has 250 rushing yards through two games this season.

    The receiving weapons include Travis Brown and Marcus Smith, who have been the leading catchers for the Lobos thus far.

    Quarterback Donovan Porterie’s career has somewhat paralleled Willie Tuitama’s, when he showed flashes of brilliance his freshman year last season.

    Porterie didn’t start playing until midseason, but once he took over full-time, he got into a groove, throwing six touchdowns on 967 yards. A late-season injury kept him out of two of the final three games, as well as significant time in the bowl game.

    “”You’re going to see a lot of play-action boot passes on the perimeters,”” Stoops said. “”They want to run the football, play-action and boot you on the early downs. Those teams have given us problems in the past. We just have to make sure we can not turn any receivers loose and give them big plays.””

    In week one, the Lobos won the time of possession battle against Texas-El Paso, running 91 plays in 38:23, although they only had six points to show for it.

    Last week the team executed quite a bit better, winning 44-34 against intrastate rival New Mexico State. Porterie had 342 passing yards and two touchdowns, while Ferguson added 118 rushing yards and two touchdowns.

    Still, the Lobos defense allowed 581 yards of total offense, prompting Stoops to say New Mexico changes quite a bit between weeks with a squad that can attack in different ways.

    “”Having to play against New Mexico is always tough,”” said offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes. “”You have to do a great job with pass protection. … They can make you look foolish sometimes when they blitz you.””

    In four of the last fi ve seasons the Lobos have made a bowl game, including last year, when they played in the New Mexico Bowl in Albuquerque.

    And everyone knows about the tacit bowl expectation for the Arizona program this season.

    “”The coaches are saying that they’re tough all-around,”” said tight end Rob Gronkowski . “”They have tough players who like to do a lot of blitzes. They’ll try to get us off track.””

    The last game between Arizona and its neighbors six hours to the east came nearly 10 years ago at Arizona Stadium, when the Lobos – then in the Western Athletic Conference – lost 20-14 in the Insight.com Bowl, as then-sophomore linebacker Brian Urlacher roam ed the field.

    This season, the Lobos return 18 total starters, including 10 on defense. The team already has fi ve sacks for a loss of 45 yards through two games.

    “”It’s a very unique defense, to say the least,”” Stoops said. “”I don’t know if I can always fi gure out what they’re doing, but they’re coming.

    “”They take their chances. We ain’t gonna play conservative.””

    Quarterback Willie Tuitama added: “”It’s kind of a tricky defense. They have some people here and some people there. It’s not really ever the same.””

    Offensively, running back Rodney Ferguson – who led the MWC in rushing yards (1,234) last year – already has 250 rushing yards through two games this season.

    The receiving weapons include Travis Brown and Marcus Smith, who have been the leading catchers for the Lobos thus far.

    Quarterback Donovan Porterie’s career has somewhat paralleled Willie Tuitama’s, when he showed fl ashes of brilliance his freshman year last season.

    Porterie didn’t start playing until midseason, but once he took over full-time, he got into a groove, throwing six touchdowns on 967 yards. A late-season injury kept him out of two of the fi nal three games, as well as signifi cant time in the bowl game.

    “”You’re going to see a lot of play-action boot passes on the perimeters,”” Stoops said. “”They want to run the football, play-action and boot you on the early downs. Those teams have given us problems in the past. We just have to make sure we can not turn any receivers loose and give them big plays.””

    In week one, the Lobos won the time of possession battle against Texas-El Paso, running 91 plays in 38:23, although they only had six points to show for it.

    Last week the team executed quite a bit better, winning 44-34 against intrastate rival New Mexico State. Porterie had 342 passing yards and two touchdowns, while Ferguson added 118 rushing yards and two touchdowns.

    Still, the Lobos defense allowed 581 yards of total offense , prompting Stoops to say New Mexico changes quite a bit between weeks with a squad that can attack in different ways.

    “”Having to play against New Mexico is always tough,”” said offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes . “”You have to do a great job with pass protection. …They can make you look foolish sometimes when they blitz you.””

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