Nevada (6-4) at New Mexico (4-7)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 17, 3:30 pm (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: University Stadium (39,224) -- Albuquerque, New Mexico. Television: Local. Home Record: Nevada 2-3, UNM 2-3. Away Record: Nevada 4-1, UNM 2-4. Neutral Record: Nevada 0-0, UNM 0-0. Conference Record: Nevada 3-3, UNM 1-5. Series Record: New Mexico leads, 2-1-1.
GAME NOTES: Hampered by a three-game losing streak, the Nevada Wolf Pack hits the road this weekend to take on the New Mexico Lobos in Mountain West Conference action at University Stadium in Albuquerque.
Nevada, which joined the MWC after leaving the Western Athletic Conference like several other schools, appeared headed for big things in 2012 when it won six of the first seven games. But since slipping by in-state rival UNLV in Las Vegas by just five points last month, the Pack has hit a dry spell and is in danger of playing itself right out of a postseason appearance.
Last weekend Nevada took on a familiar foe in Fresno State and was dominated by the Bulldogs at home in Reno by a score of 52-36. The defeat dropped the Pack to an even 3-3 in league play which means they are sitting alone in fifth place in the 10-team league.
Meanwhile, the Lobos also had a bright outlook for the new season with a new head coach in Bob Davie. During the first half of the campaign his run-heavy approach paid big dividends with four wins in seven tries, but more recently the defeats have been piling up. In fact, last Saturday UNM suffered a fourth consecutive loss as it fell to Wyoming at home in a 28-23 final.
The Pack won the most recent meeting by a score of 49-7 last season, but still the team trails in the all-time series, 2-1-1.
Stefphon Jefferson scored three rushing touchdowns in the first 26 minutes of action against Fresno State, but he finished with just 95 total yards, which was a far cry from the 261 yards logged by his counterpart, Robbie Rouse, for the Bulldogs. Cody Fajardo tried to keep the hosts close as he completed 21- of-39 passes for 214 yards and a score, but he also tossed a pair of interceptions and was sacked three times.
FSU ended up scoring three defensive TDs in the meeting which means not all of the blame should be laid on the Nevada defense either. In fact, the unit held Derek Carr to just 220 yards and two touchdowns, which is rather good considering how much the signal-caller has been carving up the competition this year.
The bottom line however is the Nevada offense, and more specifically Fajardo, has to keep from giving up the ball too easily. The quarterback has been completing his passes at a 66.4 percent clip, but with just 14 TDs while throwing for 243.8 ypg, he's not scaring too many secondaries. Everyone can see that Jefferson is a bruising back who continues to lead the nation with 143.6 ypg and is among the leaders in TDs (19) as well, but at some point he's going to break down.
While the Wolf Pack tends to lean on Jefferson almost exclusively coming out of the backfield, New Mexico has opted to throw several players into the mix as they generate 311.6 ypg on the ground to rank second in the conference and fifth in the nation in that category.
Granted, Kasey Carrier has the overall numbers (126.5 ypg) to indicate that he's a featured back for the Lobos, but in reality he's had one incredible game (338 yards, three TDs), a few good outings and then a host of meager efforts for a team that is still trying to create some sort of identity for itself.
Against Wyoming, the Lobos again moved the ball almost exclusively on the ground with a whopping 396 yards and a score of 63 carries, but it was the passing of Cole Gautsche that made things interesting in the end as he converted 8-of-15 passes for 155 yards and a pair of TDs. Unfortunately, New Mexico couldn't get a handle on Wyoming quarterback Brett Smith who threw for 374 yards and four touchdowns.
Unfortunately, the production by Gautsche is somewhat of an anomaly given that the so-caller passing attack for the Lobos is by far the weakest in the country with a paltry 62.7 ypg. With just as many passing TDs (four) as INTs over the course of 11 games, the Lobos are clearly one-dimensional, save for a few chance moments when Gautsche can find some open space.
Because UNM's pass defense is rather questionable, this might be the right time for Fajardo to fine-tune his aerial accuracy and go up over the top of the Lobos, en route to leading the Pack into the win column.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Nevada 41, New Mexico 24
11/14 10:41:47 ET