Bob Davie returns to Austin as the head coach of the New Mexico Lobos. For some insight on the Lobos, I turned to Jeremy Mauss of MWC Connection with some questions.
PB: Whenever Texas' game with New Mexico was first announced, I barely shrugged, but during this past offseason I've grown totally fascinated by the Lobos. First of all, they have been just monumentally atrocious over the past few years -- like, Aggies-making-YouTube-videos bad. We could talk about their 3-33 overall record the past three years, or their 13-game out-of-conference losing streak, or the fact that they've been outscored by an average of 40-14 since 2010, but not even that could convey the horribleness that has been New Mexico football more powerfully than this: the program reached so low a point that... hiring Bob Davie seemed like a good idea.
After years of wondering what it would take for a program to become so desperate that it would decide to break college football's favorite relic of the 1930s out of his glass booth casing and release him into the wilderness of modern college football, we finally have our answer. And he's coming to Austin!
He's coming back to Austin, I should say (Davie is 6-1 as a defensive coordinator against Texas). But right now I want to ask if you'd be so kind as to provide us with a status report on Davie's return to head coaching. I'll be honest: I was really looking forward to seeing how awkward it would be watching Bob Davie try to implement the forward pass, but I should have known better than to get my hopes up. The clever bastard went out and hired the architect of a prolific spread rushing offense, Bob DeBessee from Sam Houston State. It's actually kind of perfect, when you think about it. Talk to us about the challenges at New Mexico, and your early impressions of Bob Davie's efforts to try to turn things around.
Jeremy Mauss, MWC Connection: Hiring Bob DeBessee was so brilliant for Bob Davie, because, let's face it: can you imagine Davie trying to teach modern spread concepts to an offense? Davie would be fine just calling off tackle left, off tackle right and then maybe pass on 3rd-and-5. Seriously, it was a good move, because running a Big Ten-style ground-and-pound offense is not going to work in the Mountain West, and at New Mexico he does not have the players to run that offense. So he went out and brought someone in to run the pistol to be an equalizer and create mismatches in hopes of giving his team an edge.
The first thing I noticed about Davie was at Mountain West media days when he showed up with looking orange as George Hamilton, and all I could think was that only Bob Davie would move to New Mexico and still use a tanning bed. And I'm not sure which was worse: his fake tan or the "joke" he tried to tell when he said that following Chris Petersen at MWC Media Days was like following Lou Holtz. Get it? Needless to say, the joke fell flat.
Davie is trying to install a winning program, but man Mike Locksley killed the program and nearly any hope for the team to play well any time soon. Davie wants the team to be defensive tough, which makes sense, since they were just awful last year. Also, he is more flexible about getting playmakers on the field, and even though it was one game he gave freshman quarterback Cole Gautsche plenty of action against Southern (yes a FCS team but last year New Mexico was worked by Sam Houston State -- DeBesse's old team) and proceeded to rush for 88 yards on just 11 carries. However, the offense was still Daive-esque in the offensive balance, with New Mexico rushing the ball 51 times compared to just 10 passes, so the offense is still going to be run-heavy.
The main area where Davie is 100 percent better than Locksley is in the discipline area, and so far has suspended three players this fall for various offenses. The team had no discipline and could get away with nearly anything under the old regime, but now there are consequences for errors and the hope is that having players be responsible for their actions will help the team at least start to be competitive this year. It is too early to tell how much improved discipline will have an impact on the field since beating Southern tells me very little, but since spring and fall camp Davie has said that the team is learning each day how to play football the right way. I guess he had to start at the bottom and build them back up.
Going back full circle here to the offense that New Mexico runs with their spread attack with some pistol, will this cause any issues to the vastly superior Texas defense?
PB: As infrequently as teams see a true option offense, most will encounter their fair share of problems when they do, and occasionally suffer a full blown meltdown. I don't expect Texas will fall apart, but I'd be surprised if they totally suffocated the Lobos rushing attack, either. I actually love this match up as a useful early-season challenge for the Longhorns defense -- not because they'll see anything remotely like it on their schedule before December, but because it's an offensive attack that forces a defense to be crystal clear about assignments and vigilant in maintaining responsibilities all the way through the play. That's a skill with broad utility, but no offense better sharpens it than a dynamic spread option ground game like the Longhorns will see on Saturday night. That will help them no matter who they play -- and in December, when they try to snap the losing streak to Kansas State. (These days when UT fans say, "It's 3:45 pm... and OU still sucks," a K-State fan adds on at the end, "and K-State still owns Texas." To which we have no retort, other than, "Yes, sir." Depressing.)
About that offense, though: you mentioned the freshman quarterback Gautsche, who moves impressively for such a big kid, but I'm curious about the tailbacks. Do any of them stand out to you as particularly dangerous? Does the unit differ in what they bring to the table or are they all similar kinds of players?
Jeremy Mauss, MWC Connection: Assignment football is key when going up against any option based offense, and the one time that defender elects to go off assignment even for a moment opens up the potential for a big play. The offense is not as unique as an Air Force option attack, but it will be an adjustment for Texas. But for how long will be the question. My assumption is not long since New Mexico is at such a huge talent disadvantage. As for the running backs, the ones that take the majority of the snaps all come in at about 5-foot-10 and between 185 and 195 pounds, so to be nice they are small players.
They do have some speed, but without any large back who can pound Texas a little bit I'm imagining New Mexico will have difficulties in running the ball on short yardage situations -- which is why I expect they'll be bringing in Cole Gautsche to do a fair amount of work on Saturday. The running backs are also young, with two being freshman who played well against Southern. Jhurell Pressley averaged 7.5 yards per rush on 10 carries, and the other freshman is David Anaya who was near 10 yards a carry. Junior Demarcus Rogers is the one to watch as he had over 100 yards last Saturday; he is the starting running back and was consistent in big runs. Going up against Southern it was hard to tell who really stood out as they all played well, but it is clear that New Mexico is going to run the ball a lot and they have three solid running backs to do that. The downside is that all three are small, fast and shifty guys running the ball, so there is no one player to mix things up.
Let me give you one more name, though: sophomore Cruose Gongbay could be a wild card player this week. He intended on transferring but rejoined the team in late August. He was the team's leading rusher last year as a true freshman, but last week against Southern he did not play. His status is uncertain for Saturday.
The Texas running gams is obviously the strength of the offense, do you see any reason to think that they will not just run at will against the New Mexico front seven? I'm imaginingTexas will just tire out the New Mexico defensive front by pounding the ball play after play until they start breaking off huge plays that lead to touchdowns.
PB: No, I'm sure Texas will run the ball well, and often. But Texas fans are going to be watching closely for development in the passing game. Which brings us nicely to a good question to wrap this up with. Few are expecting this game to be particularly competitive, but if it is it'll almost certainly be because New Mexico gets to Ash and forces some turnovers from the Texas offense. Can you envision any kind of close game in this one, or are you expecting Texas to overwhelm New Mexico from the get-go?
Jeremy Mauss, MWC Connection: Until New Mexico shows me something in a game against even against an average football team, I'm not anywhere near thinking they will be able to hang with Texas at all. Texas is better at every single position than New Mexico, and they actually have confidence which is something New Mexico has not had in a long time. Despite scoring 66 points over Southern, they have to know going into Austin they will be out manned, and are going to leave with a loss. Even if the pistol and running game is successful at all for New Mexico, their defense was one of the worst last year in points allowed at 42 per contest, and that is where Texas will take advantage in this game. The hope for Lobo fans is that they can stay fairly competitve for part of the game and not get thoroughly blown out. Last year they were defeated so badly so many times, that the fans will take it as a good sign if the final score is within three touchdowns.
PB: There's not a lot of upside for Texas in this game, that's for sure. Hopefully they take care of business, play well, and grow from the game. Thanks for taking the time to chat, Jeremy.