Last Week: CSU beat Wyoming 39-31 at Hughes Stadium
This Week: CSU at New Mexico today in Albuquerque at 6 p.m. on ESPN2
Next Week: CSU at TCU Nov. 5 in Fort Worth at 5 p.m. MT
New Mexico may be the most predictable team the Rams face this season. The Lobos are going to do one thing Friday, and that is give the ball to DonTrell Moore.
The Lobo senior running back leads the Mountain West Conference in all-purpose yards by averaging 159.4 per game. The scary part is that Moore doesn't get yards solely by rushing; he has 25 receptions for 307 yards this season, numbers that are second best on the team.
"Their offense is surrounding him, he's going to get 30 to 40 touches a game," said sophomore defensive end Jesse Nading. "Our goal is to hold him to nothing, but he's a talented kid, we're going to be realistic. We just want to minimize our mistakes and hopefully shut him down to the best of our ability."
The Rams' ability to slow Moore will be a major key. CSU's rush defense has been beaten up again this year, and with the Lobos' offensive line averaging a hefty 326.6 pounds, this game is going to be a test for the Ram defensive line.
CSU is last in the MWC in rush defense and 103rd in the nation, but most of the yards the Rams give up have come early in games. Therefore, the Rams know if they can be strong early, New Mexico might be forced into an uncomfortable situation.
"For the team as a whole, [bad starts have] kind of been the trend for the past three or four games. We've started slow and kind of built as the game went on," Nading said. "The big focus for the whole team, especially going on the road in a relatively hostile environment, is to start fast. We have to start fast."
CSU has not scored a point in the first quarter in any of their last three games, being outscored 17-0. Meanwhile the Lobos have outscored their opponents 30-13 in the first quarter of their last three games.
Even if the Rams are somehow able to slow Moore early, the Lobos have vastly improved from last year in their passing attack. Senior wide receiver Hank Baskett has been killing MWC defenses in '05. In New Mexico's five conference games Baskett has 33 receptions for 504 yards and four touchdowns.
"If we can come out and establish the run defense off the bat it's going to make it easier on our pass defense," said senior safety Travis Garcia. "On the other hand, if a guy starts running early you almost forget about the pass in a way, and (New Mexico) can hurt us there. We have to be careful."
Falling behind has forced the Rams offense to step up big, which they were able to do in two of the last three games. The one game the Rams weren't able to get enough going was at BYU, who coincidentally runs a three-man front line – same as New Mexico.
The Rams had trouble in stopping the Cougar blitz, which they will have to be able to do better against the Lobos' aggressive blitz schemes.
"We're going to get the (BYU vs. New Mexico) film out and see what they did to protect," said senior quarterback Justin Holland. "That (film) is what we're going to base our protection off of. We feel like if we can pick the blitzes up, we're going to be able to throw the ball down field."
The Lobos have standout senior cornerback Gabriel Fulbright who has been up to every task he's faced this season. He currently leads the MWC in interceptions with five. The other side of the field is a different story.
"We read in their newspapers that one side of their corners are just scared to death," Holland said. "Obviously Fulbright is a stud, but the other side has a battle going on over there. One guy made a pick to win a game, and he said half the game he was just scared to death out there. So obviously we're going to try to attack that guy."
Holland has the ability to leave corners frightened; he leads the MWC in pass efficiency with 161.5 and is 10th in the nation.