There were no secrets by Air Force in its offensive game plan against the University of New Mexico Lobos football team. No trick plays were needed in a 42-0 win at University Stadium on Saturday in front of an official attendance of 16,691.
Anyone who knew anything about the Falcons (4-4 overall, 1-3 in Mountain West Conference play) knew they were going to run their famed triple-option attack offense. It's what they are known. It's why they lead the conference in offensive rushing yards at 325.7 per game.
Defending the run is something UNM (0-8, 0-4) hasn't done this season. The Lobos prepared for the triple option in the week leading up. But when you're ranked last in the nation in rushing defense, giving up 249.4 yards a contest, more preparation time would be desired.
The Falcons flexed their muscles on the Lobos in the first half, totaling 214 yards on the ground to build a 35-0 halftime lead. UNM forced some stops in the second half, corralling the Falcons a bit, but the Falcons still managed 335 yards on the ground and 361 total yards for the game.
"In the second half, we were able to make a lot of adjustments," said linebacker Carmen Messina, who tallied a season-high 15 tackles. That total moves the UNM senior to sixth on the school's career tackles list. "This week we prepared for the double-wing and we got a lot of different formations and pro-style formations. So we made some corrections and that helped us in the second half."
The Lobos had chances to score, but often shot themselves in the paws. A 67-yard reception from quarterback B.R. Holbrook to receiver Donnie Duncan to the Air Force 14-yard line was negated by a holding penalty in the second quarter. Field goal kicker James Aho missed wide right twice from 40 and 30 yards.
UNM committed three turnovers on the day and was also flagged for 10 penalties. The first UNM penalty on the day was a false start on the game's first offensive play.
"With the penalties, especially the first play, that is unacceptable," said UNM interim head coach George Barlow. "Defensively they like to move around and they'll move pre-snap. We talked about it and knew our linemen needed to be disciplined. We knew those types of things were coming and we had to stay put."
Barlow thought the Lobos played with a better effort than in last week's 69-0 win at TCU. UNM's defense even knocked out Air Force starting quarterback Tim Jefferson, Jr. in the second half. But the Lobos don't care for morale victories.
"Everyone's mad," said UNM running back Crusoe Gongbay, who ran for 63 yards. "Mad after every game. Pretty much the same thing, but we just gotta get better."
One factor in getting better is to remain positive during the week, something Barlow said the Lobos continue to do. But with four games left this season, one at home, time is running out to get into the win column.
"It's frustrating," Messina said. "We only have a few more opportunities to get that win that we need to get things rolling again. It's definitely frustrating, and a lot of heads are down. But it's the seniors' job to keep heads up and keep them focused."