AFA, New Mexico to put similarities on display

GLEN ROSALES (Associated Press)
The Associated Press

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) -- Air Force running back Anthony LaCoste is coming off a career performance while his counterpart in the New Mexico backfield, Kasey Carrier, turned in a record-breaking performance when the teams met last year.

And that sets the stage for when teams that are very alike, both in record and philosophy, meet in Albuquerque on Friday night.

''It's really two very, very similar teams and that's probably by design,'' said Lobos coach Bob Davie. ''If you look at it schematically, it's two teams that try to find ways to do things with their personnel that you can do.''

For both teams, that means running the ball.

New Mexico (2-6, 0-4 Mountain West) uses a pistol formation to run a read-option to free Carrier or quarterback Cole Gautsche.

The Falcons (2-7, 0-5) rely on a triple option, which consistently sprung LaCoste for big gains against Army.

Air Force is playing ''against a team that poses you some good challenges,'' Falcons coach Troy Calhoun said. ''I think this is probably the most experienced offensive line in the country. They're an excellent running football team.''

But the Lobos have had their issues defensively.

''Anytime you play Air Force, it's a whole different deal,'' Davie said.

Defensively, Calhoun said his squad will have a hard time preparing for and matching the Lobos up front.

''It's not something we're going to be able to replicate during the week,'' he said, ''unless we can strap some cinder blocks to some guys or squeeze two guys into a jersey and a pant leg each.''

Here are five thing to watch when Air Force visits New Mexico:

MIRROR IMAGES: The teams are among the worst in the country defensively, with New Mexico allowing 481 yards a game and Air Force, 478. Both teams are also among the least effective passing teams, with the Falcons averaging 97 yards a game and the Lobos, 108. The running games, however, are the strengths of both sides, with Air Force grinding out 279 yards a game and New Mexico 313, which is third in the country.

LaCOSTE vs. CARRIER: LaCoste scored three touchdowns while running for 263 yards last week. He had scoring runs of 73 and 78 yards. On the season, he has 604 yards with a 6.7 average and has six touchdowns. Carrier rambled for a school- and conference-record 338 yards against the Falcons last season. This season, he has 951 yards with a 6.0 average and nine scores. ''Part of it is he has good vision,'' Calhoun said of Carrier. ''They are large up front, which sometimes makes up a little part of the difficulties in being able to find him behind big bodies. And once he breaks, he's going to go.''

QUARTERBACK ROULETTE: Both teams have used multiple quarterbacks. The Falcons got a strong performance out of freshman Nate Romine last week as he completed 7 of 8 passes for 111 yards. ''He's made strides,'' Calhoun said. ''We've seen good poise. And he's gaining some confidence in the way that he plays. He made some good throws the other day. And just as importantly, he had some good tucks, he had some good carries. We'll have to have that on Friday night, too.'' The Lobos, meanwhile, rely primarily on Gautsche, whose forte is running the option with 608 yards and a 6.6-yard average with six touchdowns. When New Mexico needs to go to the air, Clayton Mitchem takes the helm.

HOMEFIELD DISADVANTAGE: Air Force has won three out of the last four meetings in Albuquerque, outscoring the Lobos by a 152-71 margin. New Mexico has gone 1-3 at home this season and has given up 139 points in those four games.

URLACHER SHUFFLE: Noted New Mexico defensive back Brian Urlacher, who starred as a middle linebacker for the Chicago Bears, will be honored in a halftime ceremony during which his No. 44 jersey will be retired. Among his notable achievements while at New Mexico was being the Lobos' leading scorer in 1999 with seven touchdowns, including six TD grabs.

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