New Mexico (1-1) at Pittsburgh (0-1)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 14, 12:30 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Heinz Field (65,500) -- Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Television: ACC Network, ESPN3.com. Home Record: UNM 0-1, Pittsburgh 0-1. Away Record: UNM 1-0, Pittsburgh 0-0. Neutral Record: UNM 0-0, Pittsburgh 0-0. Conference Record: UNM 0-0, Pittsburgh 0-1. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: Back in action after an early break in the schedule, the Pittsburgh Panthers again shoot for their first win of 2013 as they host the New Mexico Lobos in the first-ever meeting between the two programs.
Pittsburgh head coach Paul Chryst is coming off a 6-7 campaign in 2012 and not only watched the Panthers lose their 2013 opener to Florida State on Labor Day, 41-13, it also counted as one strike against a Pittsburgh squad which is now a member of the ACC as well.
While the Panthers are trying to bounce back from their season-opening loss to the Seminoles, New Mexico has already accomplished that feat and now sports a record of 1-1. Following a 21-13 setback at home in Albuquerque versus Texas- San Antonio, the Lobos hit the round and responded with a 42-35 overtime win against UTEP last Saturday.
While this may be the first-ever game between the schools on the football field, there is one significant connection between the two programs with New Mexico head coach Bob Davie having once been an assistant coach for the Panthers under both Jackie Sherrill and Foge Fazio.
A dramatic defensive stand in overtime, limiting Texas-El Paso from gaining a first down by barely an inch, preserved the seven-point win for New Mexico last Saturday.
The Lobos had lost 15 straight games played in the Lone Star State, but Kasey Carrier made sure that wouldn't happen again as he ran for 291 yards and four touchdowns on a career-high 41 attempts. The yardage total for Carrier, the most by an FBS player thus far in 2013, was second only to the 338 yards he logged versus Air Force last season when he averaged 122.4 ypg to rank 12th nationally.
New Mexico finished with 395 yards and a total of six scores on the ground, the other two coming from quarterback Clayton Mitchem who hit on 4-of-7 passes for 88 yards through the air.
Defensively, UNM didn't have any noteworthy performances other than David Guthrie who registered two of his four tackles for loss, one of those being the only sack of the game for the Lobos.
With Carrier, the Mountain West Conference Offensive Player of the Week, leading the nation in rushing with 172.5 ypg, it should not come as a surprise that New Mexico as a team is 18th in the country with 294.0 ypg. However, if the passing attack doesn't get on track, a meager 86.0 ypg through the air (121st nationally), it isn't going to be nearly enough to keep the Lobos in contention most of the time.
However, there are a couple of other positives UNM can take with it into the meeting with Pittsburgh, including an average of only two penalties per outing and a net punting average of 44.1 yards, both of which are some of the best marks in the nation right now.
Pittsburgh quarterback Tom Savage threw a four-yard TD pass to Manasseh Garner early in the first quarter against Florida State to give the hosts the lead in the opener, but from there the Panthers could muster only a pair of field goals, on their way to a four-touchdown loss in front of the hometown crowd. Savage finished the outing 15-of-28 for 201 yards and was picked off twice.
Devin Street, a Biletnikoff Award candidate, caught six passes for a career- high 141 yards, but even that efforts was not nearly enough to keep the Panthers competitive. Street is now only 22 receptions shy of becoming the all-time leading pass catcher in program history, but he'll more than likely draw that much more attention to himself as well.
Last season, Pitt ranked 20th in the country in pass defense with only 194.2 ypg allowed, but against Florida State the Panthers proved to be far too lenient in that area, permitting a hefty 377 yards, leading to four touchdowns, which means the squad needs to tighten the reins in that department.
If nothing else, the Panthers will be able to improve on their pass defense simply for the fact that UNM doesn't really bother to put the ball in the air all too often. However, Pittsburgh will have its hands full trying to regroup on defense after every run play and each time Carrier comes breaking through the line of scrimmage.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: New Mexico 28, Pittsburgh 21
09/11 10:32:18 ET