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September 15, 2011

Expert: Lobos are improved

To get the inside scoop on New Mexico, we went to the expert on Lobo football -- Albuquerque Journal beat writer Rick Wright -- with five questions about the team and this weekend's game in Albuquerque.

How's the mindset of this team after letting one slip away against Colorado State in the opener and then coming off of a big loss against Arkansas?
RW: "They seem fine. They're late teens, early 20's, they're looking forward to the next game. They don't seem down or discouraged. They certainly were -- the kids at least that I talked to -- Saturday night, they were pretty down. But, you know, this is another week and they seem fine."

There's a lot of talk in Lubbock about how improved this UNM squad is compared to the past two seasons. Have you seen that so far this year?
RW: "If you had asked me that question a week ago, I would have said yes, for sure. After watching them against Arkansas, it seemed like they had a lot of the same weaknesses they had the last two years. They're certainly improved. I think they're improved everywhere except possibly the offensive line. The o-line actually performed pretty well against Arkansas despite the three points that they got on offense. They're certainly better across the board but whether they're improved enough to win games or just lose by less remains to be scene."

How much has Tarean Austin developed and improved over the last year?
RW: "He's doing pretty well. He's not terribly consistent as a passer yet. He sees the field better than last year before he got hurt, but is still a work in progress on that. He's a much improved runner this year. Last year, he didn't seem all that comfortable running the ball even though he has that ability. This year, he looks very comfortable running it and has done a very good job doing that. Before you strike the sack yards, he had right around 100 yards against Colorado State, that wasn't the case against Arkansas but he did make some pretty amazing escapes from sack possibilities against Arkansas. He's looking pretty good. Hopefully from the Lobos' standpoint he'll keep improving."

How has the Lobo secondary fared over the first two games?
RW: "Pete Thomas, the Colorado State quarterback, completed a really good percentage but he didn't really accomplish that much if you look at third-down conversions and average per play and that sort of thing. The secondary actually tackled quite well against Colorado State. Against Arkansas, when the passes were caught, they were usually with a defender real close and the secondary just wasn't able to make the first tackle on those guys. I think Arkansas gained something like 200 yards after catch. According to George Barlow, UNM's defensive coordinator, Tech's approach to the passing game is kind of similar to Arkansas'. I don't know if they have as many good receivers as Arkansas does, but I know they have at least one really good one. I think the New Mexico secondary is facing some of the same problems and certainly I can understand why Texas Tech is kind of licking their chops after what they saw against Arkansas."

How do you see the game this weekend playing out?
RW: "New Mexico competed pretty well in the first quarter against Arkansas and into the second. If they hadn't given up a kickoff return for a touchdown, it would have been 7-3 at the quarter break. They were moving the ball pretty well. They were doing okay defensively. If they can take that momentum farther into the game, to halftime, and gain confidence going into the locker room and coming back out, I could see them making a game of it. Certainly, Tech is a heavy favorite for a reason."



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