Arizona State heads to Albuquerque in just a few days, and not playing in the Pac-12, New Mexico is still a mystery to most Sun Devil football fans. So we caught up with Ron Carrion, the New Mexico writer for our sister SB Nation site Mountain West Connection to continue our Behind Enemy Lines series.
House of Sparky: What can you tell us about New Mexico's triple-option attack?
Ron Carrion: The Lobos variation of the triple option has the Lobos lining up out of the Pistol formation. After the snap the quarterback reads the defense and will either hand to the Up back (which is traditionally a fullback but the Lobos use a halfback), pitch it to the running back or keep the ball. The triple option is difficult for defenses to game plan for because it requires everybody in the unit to play sound assignment defense. Coach Bob Davie calls the triple option a great equalizer that allows teams to close the talent gap. Last year the Lobos were fourth in the nation is rushing. The Lobos rushed for 410 yards on Saturday against UTEP which puts the Lobos at fifth in the nation.
HOS: Which New Mexico players should Arizona State keep an eye on?
RC: The Lobos leading rusher and starting quarterback Cole Gautsche and preseason All-American Carlos Wiggins will probably miss the game against the Sun Devils due to injury. Those are the Lobos' biggest threats on offense but the Lobos still have lots of capable plays to fill the void.
- Running back Jhurell Pressley- Pressley is a speedy combination back that can run in between the tackles or run to the outside. Pressley had 84 yards on nine carries last week.
- Running back Teriyon Gipson- Gipson is a speedy back that is a big play threat. Gipson ran for 71 yards on 13 carries last week.
- Quarterback Clayton Mitchem- with Gautsche out, Mitchem will start at quarterback for the Lobos. Mitchem is not the runner that Gautsche is, but with him in, Arizona State will have to be mindful of the pass. Mitchem is a much more accurate quarterback then Gautsche.
- Linebacker Dakota Cox- Cox was a Football Writers Association of America Freshman All-American and the first freshman to lead the Lobos in tackles in 20 years.
HOS: What kind of outlook are you expecting for the Lobos' season?
RC: My initial prediction was six wins and a trip to the New Mexico Bowl, but the UTEP game was one I had the Lobos wining. I still believe the Lobos can win at least five or six games.
HOS: How has New Mexico fared against Power Five teams in it's recent past?
RC: Since 2008 the Lobos are 1-10 against power conference teams. Their last win came in 2008 against Arizona. The Lobos lost to Pittsburgh last year 47-29.
HOS: What's one reason why Arizona State fans should be worries about coming to Albuquerque?
RC: Under Bob Davie the Lobos have been a very competitive team. And even though their record over the last three years does not reflect it, on any given Saturday the Lobos can play with anybody. The Lobos have the athletes on offense to put points on the board but they must get off to a fast start and implement their triple option attack as it is hard for them to play from behind.