Team preview: New Mexico

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(All information as of July 1, 2005)


Welcome to New Mexico head coach Rocky Long's version of An Evening at the Improv.

Faced with unexpected uncertainty at their most critical offensive position, Long and the Lobos may be forced to improvise in 2005. The status of injured All-America tailback DonTrell Moore (5-10, 208) -- a three-time 1,000-yard workhorse -- won't be known until August, so Long and offensive coordinator Dan Dodd are ready for less running and more gunning.

The Lobos unveiled a four-receiver spread offense during the spring, partially because of Moore's health concerns, but also to rectify an exploitable imbalance in the system.

The passing game ranked 114th out of 117 NCAA Division I-A programs last season at 119.1 yards per game. Only Buffalo (five) and Rice (five) had fewer touchdown passes than New Mexico's six, the program's lowest output since 1972 (three). In this case, necessity was the mother of improvisation.

But rest assured, this zebra is just blurring its stripes -- not changing them.

"We're still going to run the football for a living," Dodd said. "But we needed to give more than just lip service to the passing game."

Helping to take the pressure off the offense while it irons out its new routines will be the program's real headliner: a blue-collar, gang-tackling 3-4 defense that regularly ranks among the nation's toughest.

The Lobos led the Mountain West Conference in 2004 in rushing defense (108.2 yards per game), total defense (323.2), scoring defense (18.7 points per game) and sacks (42). In fact, they have topped the MWC in sacks for five straight years, piling up a jaw-dropping 195 since 2000 -- an average of 39 per season.