FACTS & STATS: Site: University Stadium (39,224) -- Albuquerque, New Mexico. Television: ESPN U. Home Record: AF 2-4, UNM 1-3. Away Record: AF 0-3, UNM 1-3. Neutral Record: AF 0-0, UNM 0-0. Conference Record: AF 0-5, UNM 0-4. Series Record: Air Force leads, 20-10.
GAME NOTES: With their first win over another member of the Football Bowl Subdivision finally under their belt, the Air Force Falcons now try to make it back-to-back victories as they challenge the New Mexico Lobos in Mountain West Conference action at University Stadium on Friday night.
Both of these teams have had their struggles this season and as such are resting at the bottom of the Mountain Division of the MWC standings, UNM showing a 0-4 record in league play and the Falcons a step behind at 0-5.
Since defeating Colgate at home in the season opener, 38-13, the Falcons had stumbled through a seven-game slide before finally capturing a 42-28 victory over visiting Army last weekend as part of the annual Commander-In-Chief's Trophy series. Air Force lost the first portion of the event back on Oct. 5 versus Navy in Annapolis, 28-10.
As for the Lobos, they have just two wins on the campaign and they've come against UTEP (42-35) in overtime and New Mexico State (66-17), two opponents who currently have a combined record of only 2-15. Last week, New Mexico put up a fight against San Diego State on the road before suffering a 35-30 setback, the team's third loss in a row.
Air Force won last year's meeting with New Mexico, 28-23, in order to take a 20-10 advantage in the all-time series.
Anthony LaCoste came close to breaking the single-game rushing record at Air Force last weekend, but he had to settle for a career-high 262 yards and three touchdowns instead, as the Falcons dismissed Army by two touchdowns. LaCoste carried the ball 23 times for the Falcons, half of the team's total run plays as they generated 343 yards and tallied six TDs on the ground.
Nate Romine, who placed second on the unit with 31 rushing yards and scored once on seven attempts, converted 7-of-8 passes for 111 yards in the triumph.
Defensively, the Falcons were beat up at the line of scrimmage as they surrendered 308 net yards and four touchdowns on the ground. But keep in mind, most Army opponents are subject to similar tactics because, like both Air Force and Navy, the Black Knights are a run-first team.
Through nine games, the Falcons rank 112th in the country in stopping the run, giving up 221.3 ypg and that has led to a more troubling 478.2 ypg permitted in total defense. With 37.3 ppg allowed, Air Force enters the week ranked 112th in the country in that department.
With four players having run for at least 200 yards to this point and a total of six individuals who have crossed the goal line on running plays, the Falcons do a great job of spreading the wealth. While LaCoste may lead the group with 604 yards and six TDs, any number of players can take the lead role from week to week.
The Lobos were paced by Teriyon Gipson who scored twice on the ground on just five carries last Saturday, but still New Mexico ended up on the wrong side of a five-point decision against San Diego State in conference play at Qualcomm Stadium. Kasey Carrier accounted for a team-best 72 rushing yards, while quarterback Cole Gautsche converted 6-of-16 passes for 101 yards and an interception.
Clayton Mitchem stepped up and hit all four of his passes for 69 yards and a TD in the setback. After scoring just a single touchdown on their first six possessions, the Lobos turned the corner late in the third quarter and proceeded to register three straight TDs, but by then it was too late as the UNM defense gave up close to 500 yards and permitted SDSU to convert 8-of-14 third-down conversion attempts.
For the season, the Lobos have been rather lax when trying to stop opponents on third down, to the point where the team sits 111th in the country with those foes converting at a 47.3 percent clip. Because the UNM defense has been forced to spend so much time on the field, it only makes sense that the group ranks 120th in rushing yards allowed (252.9 ypg) and 110th in scoring defense (37.0 ppg).
Granted, the Lobos have been very strong running the ball themselves when on offense, ranking third in the country with 313.6 ypg, but without much of an aerial attack (108.6 ypg), the squad can only get so far. And don't be fooled by the 32.6 ppg it puts up either, considering it tallied a combined 108 points in its two wins over lackluster opponents.
With both of these teams having faulty defenses, particularly when it comes to stopping the run, either side could put up record-setting numbers if the circumstances are just right. Now that Air Force has finally gotten over the hump with that first FBS win, it should have enough confidence to take care of business in Albuquerque on Friday night.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Air Force 31, New Mexico 28
Friday, November 8, 9 p.m. (et).