On Tuesday the Bulldogs took the field for their second practice of the week in helmets, shoulder pads, and shorts. After their bye week the 'Dogs are chomping at the bits to get back on the field Saturday night, and this was visible in Tuesday's practice. The 'Dogs flew around the field with great energy and focus, and Coach Tim DeRuyter thinks that they are looking ready to take on New Mexico this weekend.
"Practice was good," DeRuyter said. "There was great energy out here at practice today. Our guys know that no matter who we play our standard is to improve each week, and I thought the effort was good today. Schematically, New Mexico presents some challenges with a lot of their formations, and being a triple option team they've got a lot of explosive plays because they create situations in which guys have busted assignments and take advantage of those."
The schematic complications DeRuyter spoke of are the main concerns for the Bulldogs this week. The triple option offense presents a lot of challenges. If the 'Dogs want to come out with a win that will impress the voters they will need to slow down the Lobos versatile attack.
"Anytime you get into a triple option situation you've got one guy that's assigned the dive, one guy that takes the quarterback, one guy on the pitch, and then an overlap guy," DeRuyter said. "Where the problem usually happens is that they have different ways of blocking and reading different guys and that adjusts responsibilities. It forces you to put in rules that make you become simpler on defense and with a defense like ours we like to be more multiple. The fear is that your players will become robots and start to think instead of react."
While all the talk is focused on the Bulldogs' defensive preparations, the offense, for one of the few times all season, is going somewhat unnoticed. New Mexico runs a defense similar to that of Fresno State and DeRuyter believes that if the run game can continue to build the offense will continue to become more successful.
"The second half of our season the run production has been much better than the first half and we are going to look to take advantage of that," DeRuyter said. "This is a defense that runs a multiple 3-4 which is very similar to what we do so our guys are used to attacking it, but in the end it all comes down to what you do on Saturday."
With Saturday afternoon right around the corner, the Bulldogs' senior's last regular season game is growing ever closer. A lot of buzz is surrounding this week for that very reason, and with another sell out looming, and a spot in the first ever Mountain West championship game on the line, the stage could not be bigger for this year's seniors.
"Senior night is very exciting," said senior defensive lineman Nikko Motta. "I'm from here so I have a lot of family coming and a lot of friends hitting me up. We're 9-0 right now and we can stay perfect with another win at home, so I'm excited but kind of sad at the same time. I've been here since 2009 and there has been a lot of ups and downs for me, but we're having a great year so far and we plan to keep it that way."
Although emotions will be high, senior left tackle Austin Wentworth reflects the ideals of the team's beliefs all year. This is just another game, and another opportunity to go undefeated for another week.
"This week is the same as any other week, we just want to go 1-0. I think it'll be a little different, but it hasn't really hit me yet that it's my last home game because we're shooting for the December 7th game. Walking down that ramp and seeing my family and friends there to support will make it an emotional day though."
Preparing for the Lobos
The Bulldogs have faced a couple of option teams this year, however, none of them are quite like the Lobos. The two offenses most similar to New Mexico's that the Bulldogs have seen this year would be Nevada's and Cal Poly's. Although each of the three teams run their option out of different sets and pose different challenges, the basic principles of defending the option remain the same.
"With triple option it's all about doing your job and focusing on your assignment," Motta said. "You can't get greedy and go after the quarterback when you're supposed to have dive because that's how you give up big plays. I think if all 11 guys just do their job and focus on their assignment we're going to have a good game."
New Mexico's defense will pose less of a threat to the 'Dogs than their offense. The Lobos run the same multiple 3-4 defense as the Bulldogs, but do so in a much less aggressive manner, and without the same level of athletes that the 'Dogs possess.
"New Mexico runs a defense that is fairly similar to ours, but really toned down," Wentworth said. "They like to blitz a lot so we've been looking at a lot of blitzes, and they disguise things really well so you can't let your eyes trick you, that will be a key this week. I think one of the biggest things for us is that when you see a defense that is as complex and diverse as ours we get into games with teams that play a similar style and it's easier. They're very similar to our defense, but they don't play as fast as ours, and are less aggressive, but they still have some athletes we need to be careful of."
Isaiah Burse missed the first half of practice, but participated fully in team drills.
The defense, especially the db's are working hard on takeaways.
On the other hand, receivers are working tirelessly on ball security and had to do pushups after one of them fumbled.
Colin McGuire's leg looks to be ok, he took over kickoff duties again, and did not miss a field goal.
Bo Bonnheim will continues to take all first team reps at guard with Alex Fifita as his backup.
L.J. Jones and Sean Alston are acting as extra assistant coaches. They have been giving tips to the corners and getting on them for their mistakes.
The receivers dominated the db's in one-on-one drills.