Offensive line coach Jason Lenzmeier was both a player and a coach at UNM earlier in his career. But he didn’t see then the type of rushing attack that UNM boasts in 2012.
This season, the Lobos have four games with at least 300 yards on the ground. They are eighth in the nation in rushing offense, averaging 271.7 yards per game though six games, and have scored 18 rushing touchdowns, including five during last Saturday’s win against Texas State.
Running backs can’t produce those kinds of numbers all by themselves. It takes a strong offensive line to provide those lanes to run through. The UNM line has done that.
“Anytime you’re like that, it’s something you can grab on to,” said Lenzmeier, who played at UNM from 2000-03, coached the Lobos from 2007-08, and has returned as offensive line coach this season. “It’s something tangible that those guys can really take pride in.”
The offensive line has been instrumental in UNM’s turnaround. The Lobos (3-3) needed only six games to match their win total from the past three years.
It’s a youthful group, with just one senior starter in left tackle Korian Chambers, who is measured at 6-foot-6-inches and 302 pounds. The line’s starters also feature junior center Dillon Farrell (6-5, 290), junior left tackle Darryl Johnson (6-4, 300), sophomore left guard LaMar Bratton (6-2, 282) and freshman right tackle Garrett Adcock (6-2, 270).
“I’m really excited about what we’ve done throughout this season, but what we can’t do is get complacent,” Bratton said. “We need to keep working hard, and that’s what got us this far.”
UNM head coach Bob Davie said he has been impressed by the line’s play.
“Our offensive line has been fun to watch,” he said. “I do think they’re getting better, and they deserve a lot of credit. They really do.”
The line has embraced the new pistol offense instituted by offensive coordinator Bob DeBesse. The offense features a lot of trickery with the triple option running attack.
Lenzmeier said the schemes keep things simple for the linemen and utilize a lot of zone and combo blocking. Zone blocking requires coordinated and technical linemen to cover a particular area, while combo blocking allows two players to team up in a given play.
UNM’s wide receiving corps is a main contributor to the team’s running success as well. With a lot of runs to the outside, the Lobos’ receivers have key blocks to keep plays and drives going.
“We do our job for big plays,” senior wide receiver Ty Kirk said. “These wide receivers had big contributions to the blocking and to what we do for this offense.”
The linemen appreciate those blocking efforts by the receivers, Farrell said.
“If you look at these receivers, we’ve got some super-talented receivers with their speed and their ability,” he said. “To see them go out and block, and just putting their all and as much effort into blocking, it’s really incredible.”
The offensive line has a tough task this Saturday when UNM travels to Hawaii. The Warriors are 1-4 on the year, but faced fierce challenges in Southern California, Nevada, Brigham Young and San Diego State. Lenzmeier said Hawaii has held its own at the point of attack, especially early in games.
“Those defensive tackles and those defensive ends are super strong, and they’re big,” Farrell added. “They’re fast off the ball — it’s going to be a challenge for us.”