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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Nex Mexico looks to get first season win vs. Wildcats

    Opponent Analysis

    On paper, this game appears to be a mismatch.

    Arizona (2-0) is ranked among the top 25 teams for total offensive production and New Mexico (0-2) is in the top 10 for total defensive ineptness. The Wildcat defense allows an average of 8 points per game while the Lobos muster only 12.5 points per contest.

    Not a lot is going in the Lobos’ favorÿ- except for the fact they won in Tucson last season 29-27.

    Last year New Mexico was an underdog, too, but managed to pull off the win by making big plays when they needed them.

    “”We were just a fraction away. They made all the plays at critical times. They played very well in those tight situations,”” said UA head football coach Mike Stoops, pointing to the Wildcats’ two fumbles inside the red zone and the Lobos’ 11 deflected passes in the 2007 game.

    The Lobos’ chances of beating the Wildcats this season, however, appear to be bleak if quarterback Donovan Porterie has similar stats to the first two games of the year. Against TCU and Texas A&M – both home games for the Lobosÿ- Porterie threw for a combined 191 yards and three interceptions in the two losses.

    “”(Porterie) has got a good arm, a good release,”” Stoops said. “”I think he played probably the best game of his career against us a year ago. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a guy throw more accurately than that.””

    If New Mexico wants to be competitive in Saturday’s showdown, Porterie must have a performance similar to his 327-yard, three-touchdown effort against Arizona last year.

    One reason Porterie had such a big game last season was because Arizona committed so many players to stopping the Lobos’ talented running back, senior Rodney Ferguson. Although Ferguson was held to less than 100 yards rushing, he could explode for a big gain at anytime. Last week against Texas A&M he gained 135 yards, including a 45-yarder for a score. Ferguson is currently fifth on New Mexico’s all-time rushing list with 2,653 yards.

    “”Ferguson’s an excellent player,”” Stoops said. “”He’s a great runner, strong, physical, finds creases. He’s a very complete running back.””

    Ferguson amassed 96 yards on 26 carries – including 32 yards in the fourth quarter – which helped the Lobos seal the game against the Wildcats last season. He expects another close contest because he knows the Wildcats will be invading the Lobo Nation with nothing less than a win on their minds.

    “”It’s looking like we’ve just got to play our game, and if we play our game, we’ll do very well,”” Ferguson said. “”We just need to play New Mexico-style football, it doesn’t matter if we run it or throw it.””

    The Lobo style of defense, known for its unpredictability, could play a significant role in the game,especially if it keeps disguising its coverage and blitz packages as well as it has recently, Stoops said.

    “”They’re going to come (with pressure) and come from a lot of different places,”” Stoops said. “”You’ve got to be able to hit them on some screens.

    “”It’s not something that you’re going to be real methodical with,”” he added. “”You’ve got to be patient and try to set up some things.””

    One of the biggest challenges for New Mexico’s defense will be its ability to slow down Arizona’s red-hot running back, Nic Grigsby. The UA sophomore ranks eighth in the country with 152 yards per game and already has five scores this season – three more than his season total from last year.

    “”On film (Grigsby)’s very athletic and we definitely have a tough challenge ahead of us,”” said UNM senior linebacker Zach Arnett. “”We have to just have relentless effort and pursuit. We need to have all 11 guys flying to the ball, and we need to cut down his run angles.””

    No matter how the game is dissected, it appears that Arizona should be 3-0 as it begins conference play against UCLA on Sept. 20. But those who don’t learn history are doomed to repeat it, and the Wildcats hope to avoid another embarrassing loss to their Mountain West Conference foes.

    “”Anything can happen, and I’m not predicting anything, but if we play as well as we’re supposed to we might have a win,”” Ferguson said. “”If we don’t play good we can lose just as well.””

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