Air Force New Mexico Football
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Air Force running back Malik Miller, right, is unable to hold the ball as he’s tackled by New Mexico linebacker DaQuan Baker during the second half Sept. 30, 2017, in Albuquerque. New Mexico won 56-38.

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New Mexico (3-6, 1-4 Mountain West) visits Air Force (3-6, 1-4) on Saturday at 1:30 p.m.

SUBPLOTS WE’LL WATCH

New Mexico between the tackles

The Lobos have broken many of their long runs against Air Force up the middle over the past five years, when they’ve averaged 44.8 points and have racked up four victories.

Air Force this year has been vastly improved against the run, particularly up the middle. Assuming New Mexico sticks with a triple-option look against Air Force — sticking with what has proven to work in this matchup instead of using the spread offense it has employed this year — it would be expected to first try to jar the Falcons’ defense loose up the middle.

If that doesn’t work, Air Force has a shot at turning them one-dimensional with quick passes to the outside that could be foiled by aggressive cornerback play. If the runs up the middle work, New Mexico will have its full complement of weapons at its disposal and Air Force’s only shot will be to keep up in a shootout.

Air Force quarterback play

This again. Air Force has turned to Donald Hammond III in a relief role in the two games he hasn’t started since Sept. 29 (he also missed two games with injury since then). So it would stand to reason that he’ll get the start this time and into the future unless he loses the position. Of course, the real issue isn’t who is playing quarterback, but how much production the position is producing. While it’s impressive by Air Force standards that the team has averaged 219 passing yards over the past three games, it is just 1-2 in that stretch and in the past two games has averaged fewer than 200 yards rushing. That hasn’t been a winning formula for this team, traditionally. The rushing production has always been the priority and the passing a bonus. The quarterback who can be most effective in getting the rushing game going is probably the best long-term solution.

Air Force tailback play

This again. Air Force’s leading rusher among tailbacks is Kade Remsberg, who is on pace for 429 yards. That would be the lowest total for a top Falcons tailback under coach Troy Calhoun. The only comparable season was 2008, when Asher Clark ran for 588 yards as a freshman and fellow tailback Kyle Lumpkin ran for 452. The leading tailbacks in this offense from 2009-2016 averaged 1,019 yards. The top three tailbacks this year are on pace for a total of 822 yards. As that position has lost relevance in the scheme, the offense has become less consistent. With three games left, will the Falcons attempt to address that?

NUMBERS

Air Force safety Jeremy Fedejelem’s national rank in total tackles (9.8 per game) among defensive backs.

Offensive lineman used by Air Force this past week – LT Parker Ferguson, LG Nolan Laufenberg, C Christopher Mitchell, RG Griffin Landrum, RT Scott Hattok – after several spots had used a rotation through the season.

Times that New Mexico has scored 50+ points in seven seasons under coach Bob Davie, matching the number of times it reached that mark over the 27 seasons before his arrival.

14.8

Average yards after the catch for New Mexico’s Elijah Lilly, the most in the nation.

144.1

Average passing yards for Air Force, which would stand as the program’s highest mark since 2014 and it’s second highest in 13 years.

QUOTABLE

“When I was recruited here, coach (Bob) Davie told me – and he’s been everywhere – that one of the coolest experiences, coolest places he plays at is Air Force. Two years ago, Dallas was a sweet experience, but I’m really eager to go to the academy and Colorado Springs.

ALEX HART, New Mexico senior linebacker speaking in July about the prospect of playing at Air Force, near his parents’ home in Denver. However, he won’t get that chance after a season-ending knee injury. New Mexico, a division rival, hasn’t played at Air Force since 2014 because the Falcons took the 2016 game to the Cotton Bowl.

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