Despite winning their season opener last week, the Texas Longhorns find themselves ranked 17th in the latest AP Poll, two spots down from where they were before they clashed with Wyoming in their own stadium. This weekend, the Longhorns hope to make up that loss and then some as they host the New Mexico Lobos in non-conference action.
Now in his 15th season with Texas, head coach Mack Brown had a fight on his hands last week when his squad was slow to heat up in what eventually became a 37-17 triumph over the Cowboys, the first of back-to-back foes from the Mountain West Conference for the 'Horns. Since 1990, Brown has produced more victories (209) than any other active head coach, so he knows a little something about getting a team to play better, but he also has to accept the fact that this particular group is lacking in experience.
"We played a lot of guys," coach Brown said of the Wyoming game. "We played 12 true freshmen, and more freshmen should play this week."
As for the Lobos, they kicked off the Bob Davie era in Albuquerque in fine style as they throttled Southern University last Saturday in a 66-21 final. The scoring barrage was the highest for UNM since the team crushed San Diego State in Mountain West Conference action back in 2008 by a score of 70-7. To put the effort into perspective, last season the Lobos ranked last in the Football Bowl Subdivision in scoring with an average of just 12.0 ppg and already they are almost half-way to their entire scoring total (144) from 2011.
"It feels great to get the first win of the season," said UNM linebacker Joe Stoner. "It sets the tone for the rest of the season. We know who we have next and it's not going to be easy. We proved today that we can play solid as a team."
With the lopsided victory over Southern, the Lobos have already matched their entire win total from a season ago when they finished 1-11, their lone win coming against UNLV (21-14) at home in the middle of November.
In terms of the all-time series between these two programs, the Longhorns have won both previous encounters, the most recent of which taking place back in 1988 with Texas crushing the Lobos, 47-0.
It was great seeing the Lobos come to life under new leadership, but watching New Mexico record an unprecedented 38 points in the second quarter alone is something the group will never be able to replicate.
The rushing attack did the majority of the damage for the Lobos as they recorded 347 yards and five TDs on the ground, which is a far cry from the mere 113.2 ypg the team averaged all of last season. Demarcus Rogers took the lead in that category with 13 carries for 103 yards and a score and Cole Gautsche also made an impression with eight carries for 88 yards and two TDs.
Considered the future at quarterback for UNM, Gautsche certainly made a name for himself right from the jump.
"I thought I would only get a few snaps. I ended up getting a lot more playing time than I originally expected."
Like the offense was last season, the defense was equally as poor for the Lobos, giving up at least 35 points during a stretch of eight straight games in 2011, so at least the team took a step in the right direction to kick off 2012.
There were plenty of tackles to go around for the Lobos against Southern, but the group recorded just two sacks and only six tackles for loss, which is rather surprising given that the opposition was forced to play from behind from the very start and probably was exposing itself on offense.
Both Joseph Harris and Cranston Jones scored defensive touchdowns for UNM, the former returning a fumble 15 yards to the end zone and the latter crossing the goal line with an interception from 39 yards away.
The Longhorns won their 13th straight season opener last weekend, but it wasn't nearly as easy as it should have been. In fact, Texas actually trailed Wyoming by a 9-7 score at the end of one period of play before coach Brown kicked his kids into gear.
From there the Longhorns rattled off 24 straight points to take command, thanks mostly to a running attack that Wyoming had a hard time slowing down as it generated 280 yards and four touchdowns for the hosts.
"We feel like that we can run the ball well right now, and should be able to run it against anybody," coach Brown admits. "We're really confident with our running game..."
And why shouldn't they be with Joe Bergeron and Malcolm Brown each going over 100 yards and combining for three touchdowns.
Quarterback David Ash made good decisions in the pocket as he converted 20- of-27 for 156 yards and a score. Jaxon Shipley reeled in seven balls for 45 yards and the lone aerial TD for the hosts. Shipley is the top returning receiver for the Longhorns after collecting 44 receptions for 607 yards and three scores a year ago.
Over on the defensive side, the Longhorns ranked first in the Big 12 and sixth in the nation in stopping the run, allowing a mere 96.2 ypg in 2011, an effort that was actually bettered against the Cowboys who ran for just 69 net yards. Only two players managed to run for double-digit yards for the Pokes and one of them was the quarterback.
Alex Okafor had the only sack of the game for the 'Horns as they allowed the Pokes to be a bit too productive passing the ball, although a closer look at the numbers show that 82 of the 276 yards passing for Wyoming came on a single play in the first quarter and after that Texas really buckled down.