New Mexico at Boise State: Game breakdown

The key players and matchups for tonight’s game.

ccripe@idahostatesman.comNovember 30, 2013 

Without Cole Gautsche and Kasey Carrier in the lineup (concussions), New Mexico will rely on quarterback Clayton Mitchem, above.

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

  • TODAY’S FAN FACTS

    COLOR SCHEME

    Blue or Orange out for Spirit Day — fans are asked to wear blue or orange for the final home game.

    TICKETS

    A limited number of $10 tickets are available at the Bronco Stadium box office, by visiting broncosports.com/tickets or by calling 426-4737.

    TAILGATING

    For the first time, fans are allowed to legally drink alcohol in designated areas this season. The hours are 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. — even with the late kickoff — and all drinks must be in opaque cups.

    TOYS FOR TOTS

    Boise State is asking fans to bring a new or gently used toy to the game. Drop-offs can be made at entrances to Bronco Stadium.

    PROHIBITED ITEMS

    Noisemakers, large bags, outside food and weapons are not allowed in Bronco Stadium. Signs should fit in the area of your seat.

    GIVEAWAYS

    The first 2,000 fans at the Bronco Fan Table in the Ford Fan Zone will take home a Matt Miller poster (collector series 6 of 6). Also, meet Boise State cheerleaders, take a picture on a replica piece of blue turf, and kick field goals to win prizes.

    PARKING

    • Lots will open to BAA permit holders and the public at 8 a.m.

    • Spaces for $10 are available in the Brady and Lincoln garages.

    • Parking is available starting at 5:15 p.m. at the URS parking garage on Park Boulevard. Cost is $5 per car, and there is a free shuttle service to and from the stadium.

    • Accessible spots available for $10 in the West and East stadium lots, the Engineering/Technology ET reserve lot and the ground floor of the Lincoln garage.

    DOWNTOWN SHUTTLE

    The Downtown Business Association provides a free shuttle to and from Bronco Stadium. Fans can park in downtown structures for $5. Shuttle stops are at 8th and Broad, 8th and Main, 6th and Grove, 9th between Main and Idaho, and 8th and Fulton.

Broncos with the ball

Southwick’s return: Boise State senior quarterback Joe Southwick is expected to start for the first time since Oct. 19 against Nevada, when he broke his right ankle on the first offensive snap. It’s unclear how long he will be able to play, though, because he was not moving well last Saturday.

Tough matchup for Lobos: New Mexico’s offense is competitive in the Mountain West, but its young defense has not been. The Lobos rank last in the league in scoring defense (42.5 points per game), rushing defense (264 yards per game), pass efficiency defense (170.1) and total defense (523.8 yards per game).

Another bad start? The Broncos have 10 three-and-outs and five turnovers in 22 attempts on the first two drives of the game. They have scored four touchdowns.

Lobos with the ball

Missing pieces: The Lobos will play without their top two rushers — quarterback Cole Gautsche (ninth in the Mountain West) and tailback Kasey Carrier (second) — because of injuries. Boise State defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski doesn’t expect much difference. “It’s a system deal,” he said. “They just roll.”

Triple-option struggles: This is the fourth time since joining the Mountain West that Boise State has faced a triple-option team. The Broncos allowed 264 rushing yards and 26 points to Air Force in 2011, 330 rushing yards and 29 points to New Mexico in 2012, and 188 rushing yards and 20 points to Air Force this year. But they seemed to find an answer in the second half of this year’s Air Force game.

Light on seniors: Of the 16 Boise State seniors who will be honored, only five play defense.

Special teams

Punts could soar: Boise State punters Trevor Harman and Sean Wale each have booted a punt of 63 or more yards this season. New Mexico’s Ben Skaer leads the Mountain West with a 45.6-yard average. His long is 61.

More kickoff-return excitement? Boise State cornerback Bryan Douglas returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown last week. New Mexico wide receiver Carlos Wiggins has returned three kickoffs for TDs — including one in each of the past two games.

Goodale’s response: Boise State kicker Dan Goodale made 12 straight field goals before missing the potential game-winner last week at San Diego State. He made one moments later in overtime, but he will have had a week to think about the miss when he takes the field this week.

Key matchup

BOISE STATE’S DEFENSE VS. NEW MEXICO’S OPTION

Boise State has played its best run defense of the year the past two weeks.

The Broncos allowed 55 rushing yards on 31 carries to Wyoming (1.77 yards per carry). They followed that performance by holding San Diego State to 61 yards on 45 carries (1.36).

Before the two-game hot streak, Boise State allowed 169.2 rushing yards per game and 3.8 yards per carry. Fresno State was the only other team not to rush for 100 yards against Boise State. Three teams rushed for at least 200.

New Mexico rushed for 330 in a 32-29 loss to Boise State last year.

“They’re playing as well as they have all year,” Boise State defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski said of his front seven. “We’ve just got to keep going and finish this last one up because the challenge we’ve got this week is, phew, probably the hardest of the year — harder than Air Force, just because of all the formations and all the motions and how they outnumber you on the perimeter.”

The Lobos’ triple-option attack ranks seventh in the nation in rushing with 309.6 yards per game, and first in the Mountain West with a 6.2-yard-per-carry average and 38 rushing touchdowns. They score 34.2 points per game — third in the Mountain West.

“They commit to (the run), and they keep hammering away and they get those 3, 4, 5 yards and that’s how those drives extend,” Kwiatkowski said. “So we’ve got to find a way to hold them to 1, 2 yards or get negative plays.”

Boise State players to watch

CHARLES LENO JR., SPENCER GERKE AND MATT PARADIS, OL

Leno (left tackle), Gerke (left guard) and Paradis (center) will celebrate senior day together and then line up side-by-side on the blue for the last time. None of them has missed a practice all season.

“We knew the team needed us, so there was no way we could afford to miss a practice, a game or anything like that,” Paradis said.

Leno has started 37 games in his career, Paradis 25 and Gerke 19. Combined, they’ve appeared in 120 games.

“I have one game left here on the blue — I don’t like thinking about it,” Paradis said. “It’s going to be rough.”

The offensive line accounts for five of the 16 seniors on the team. Chris Tozer could get a senior day start at right guard. Jake Broyles is injured. “We’re really close, all of us,” Leno said. “We’re trying to keep the young guys on the offensive line the same way.”

MERCY MASTON, CB

Maston made his second start last week, but his first in a two-cornerback alignment. He replaced Bryan Douglas and is expected to start again Saturday.

Maston made seven tackles and recovered a fumble against San Diego State, but also allowed the game-winning TD when he played off the receiver instead of the planned press coverage.

“Mercy’s battling. Mercy’s competing. That’s the thing that we really like about Mercy,” coach Chris Petersen said.

DEMARCUS LAWRENCE, DE

Could this be his last game at Bronco Stadium? The junior ranks fourth in the nation with 10.5 sacks and likely will have a decision to make after the season. “He’s a man,” New Mexico coach Bob Davie said. “We’ve noticed him just on opponents’ tape.”

New Mexico players to watch

DALLAS BOLLEMA, LB

Bollema has been a tackling machine since his high school days in Artesia, N.M., where he made 507 career tackles. He led the Lobos with 89 tackles last season and ranks second this year with 85. He also ranks second on the team with five tackles for loss.

“If you’re looking for one guy who’s going to be making tackles, it would be Dallas Bollema,” coach Bob Davie said. “He’s not the biggest guy; he’s not the fastest guy. He’s a New Mexico kid who has had a really good career here. He’s one of our captains. … He’s just a good instinctive football player.”

CARLOS WIGGINS, WR/KR

Wiggins leads the nation with three kickoff returns for touchdowns, including an 89-yarder last week at Fresno State and a 100-yarder in the previous game against Colorado State. He leads the Mountain West and ranks fifth in the nation with a 30.1-yard average.

The Lobos also returned two kickoffs for touchdowns last season. That returner, Chase Clayton, was injured in the first game of this season.

“I don’t know if (Wiggins) is quite as dynamic as No. 11 from Boise (Shane Williams-Rhodes), but he would be our version of that,” coach Bob Davie said. “It will be a big challenge against Boise. Their kickoff coverage is kind of a chaos kind of coverage.”

CLAYTON MITCHEM, QB

Mitchem will make his seventh start of the season, but for the second straight game won’t have the team’s best running quarterback, Cole Gautsche, available to help carry the load. Mitchem is 6-foot-1 and 183 pounds, which makes him less of a run threat than the more stout Gautsche (6-4, 223).

“We haven’t run as much triple option with him,” Davie said.

Chadd Cripe: 377-6398, Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat

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