Know Wyoming’s foe: New Mexico Lobos
LARAMIE -- Albuquerque has been nothing short of a quarterback graveyard since Danny Gonzales took the reins in 2020.
Twelve have stepped under center during those three-plus seasons.
That has equated to just 27 touchdown passes to go along with 26 interceptions. The revolving door under center has produced just 4,875 yards through the air.
And you thought Wyoming had it rough.
It has -- but not quite that bad.
During that same timeframe six signal callers have been called into duty in Laramie. Those guys tossed 32 touchdowns and the same number of picks. Andrew Peasley, Evan Svoboda, Jayden Clemons, Sean Chambers, Levi Williams and Gavin Beerup also accounted for 5,271.
The biggest difference has come in the QB run game.
New Mexico has rolled up 836 rushing yards and nine scores
Wyoming, 1,276 and 19 touchdowns.
Things, however, have drastically changed in the Land of Enchantment. Newly installed quarterback Dylan Hopkins has already thrown for 827 yards through four games. The Alabama-Birmingham transfer has added six touchdown tosses while also completing nearly 60% of his throws.
The option days are over in New Mexico, and Hopkins is spreading the love.
Duece Jones, Caleb Medford and Andrew Erickson all have more than 140 receiving yards. Fellow wideout Luke Wysong has 99. All four have a touchdown grab.
The Lobos are still effective in the running game, too. Jacory Croskey-Merritt is averaging 6.8 yards per carry. The Alabama State transfer has rushed for 328 yards on just 48 carries. The senior has tacked on seven touchdowns. Dorian Lewis and Sherod White have also eclipsed the 100-yard mark on the ground.
* Head coach: Danny Gonzales (4th year) 9-26 overall record, 3-20 in MW play
* Offensive coordinator: Bryant Vincent (1st season); Defensive coordinator: Troy Reffett (1st season)
* Record in 2022: 2-10 overall, 0-8 in Mountain West Conference
* Offense in 2023: Average 29.2 ppg, 384.5 ypg (169.2 rush, 215.2 pass)
* Defense in 2023: Allow 30 ppg, 395.8 ypg (151.5 rush, 244.2 pass)
* Key Returners - Offense: Dylan Hopkins (QB - 57-97, 827 yds, 6 TD, 2 INT; 18 rush, 39 yds, TD), Jacory Croskey-Merritt (RB - 48 rush, 328 yds, 7 TD), Dorian Lewis (RB - 23 rush, 122 yds), Duece Jones (WR - 6 catch, 159 yds, TD), Caleb Medford (WR - 5 catch, 142 yds, TD), Andrew Erickson (WR - 10 catch, 140 yds, TD), Luke Wysong (WR - 6 catch, 99 yds, TD)
* Key Returners - Defense: Tavian Combs (S - 33 tackles, PBU, FF), Syaire Riley (LB - 26 tackles, sack), Alec Marenco (LB - 19 tackles, PBU, ), Christian Ellis (S - 19 tackles, PBU), Noa Pola-Gates (S - 18 tackles, PBU)
* Overview: New Mexico has won just three Mountain West games since Gonzales came back to his alma mater in 2020. Two of those three victories have come against the Cowboys, including a 17-16 setback inside Sam Boyd Stadium during his first season on the sidelines. That venue is on the outskirts of Las Vegas. The Lobos were displaced during the COVID-19 pandemic, relegated to Sin City if they wanted to play football games. They even stayed in a casino and did walkthroughs in the parking lot. The next one came a year later in Laramie. A heavy underdog, New Mexico held Wyoming to just a single field goal in a 14-3 snoozer on the high plains. The Cowboys offense amassed just 255 yards, only 108 of those on the ground. They turned the ball over twice and were just 3-of-13 on third down. Rocky Long was the defensive coordinator in Albuquerque in those days. To say he has been a thorn in Wyoming's side would be a gross understatement. To make matters even worse, he used to be a defensive coach in Laramie from 1981-85 and remained in the same conference for three decades, 22 as the head coach at UNM and San Diego State. His record as the head man against the Cowboys: 11-5. Long is 3-1 against current head coach Craig Bohl, including a 27-24 victory over the Pokes in the 2016 Mountain West Championship. Long left UNM this offseason and is now the defensive coordinator at Syracuse. That's not bad news. Unfortunately, though, new DC Troy Reffett comes from the Long coaching tree and also implements the unorthodox 3-3-5 defense. The Lobos defense, through four games, has tallied just five sacks, zero interceptions and two fumble recoveries. That unit is allowing nearly 400 yards per game, 244 through the air.
* Thoughts on New Mexico: "Coach Gonzales has got New Mexico playing in the right direction. They came up with a heck of a win -- It's a long road trip to go out to UMass -- and they really dominated them. You know, (they've had) significant improvement on offense. (Dylan) Hopkins, a transfer, has really lightened up their offense. He's got a strong arm. They've got a host of receivers -- some transfers there -- and they're huge upfront. On defense, obviously, it's kind of still the 'ghost of Rocky (Long)' that's out there. This mafia tree that he has. They play a really stingy defense and that's been a real challenge for us over the last several years. So, we're certainly excited about this game, excited about another opportunity, and then also excited about opening Mountain West play ... I would say (their offense) is significantly different. It was probably a tough decision Danny had to make, but that's one of those decisions that you make as a head coach. I think the world of coach Gonzales and, like I said, he's got this program going the right way, offensively. They can throw the ball down the field. The quarterback, I saw him toss the ball over 60 yards against UMass. They've got some great receivers, too. So, that's an element that last year they did not have."
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