Gary Doran

Breaking Down the Lobos


After skipping a week, the Devils Den is back with its second weekly break down featuring the Sun Devil’s next opponent.  The break down will detail the Devils and their upcoming opponent by their strengths and weaknesses in either running or throwing the ball based on the field position and by the down. The analysis will also be from both an offensive and a defensive standpoint.  Let’s take a look to see where there are matches and mismatches with the Devils and the New Mexico Lobos.  Since there is still a small sample size using 2015 stats, we went back to 2014 with statistics compliments of

Lobos on Offense



Running the Ball

Another triple option team coming to Sun Devil Stadium. Last year, the Lobos ran the ball 80 percent of the time and passed it only 20 percent, which translated to an average of almost 50 carries per game. Through the first two games this year, they have run ball 70 percent of the time, but that still translates to an average of 50 carries per game.

The Lobos averaged 6.36 yards per carry last year, with the largest average chunks happening on their side of the field. They averaged almost nine yards per carry between their own 20 and 39 yards lines. The Lobos averaged 3.83 yards a carry in the tight confines of their opponents’ red zones, which was about a yard and a quarter better than what the Devil offense averaged per carry in the red zone.

The Lobos scored 19 rushing touchdowns in their opponents’ red zones on only 72 carries. So far this year, they have scored seven rushing touchdowns on just 23 red zone carries. As a comparison, ASU scored 17 red zone rushing touchdowns last year in 101 carries, and three on 15 carries so far this year.

As was noted in the Texas A&M preview, the Devil defense gets very stingy in yards per carry when they are backed into their own red zone. It will be interesting to see how the Lobo rush game and the Devil’s rush defense play out in the ASU red zone if that happens Friday.

If the Lobos face a fourth down situation in the game Friday, it could be an interesting matchup, as the Lobos had 25 fourth down situations last year and ran the ran 22 of those times. In those 22 carries, five went for ten yards or more, with three going for 25 yards or more, thus averaging 6.36 yards per carry on forth down carries. This will be against a Devil defense that faced 14 fourth down rushes last year and only gave up seven total yards in those carries. So far this year the Devils have faced five fourth down running plays that have gone for a total of negative one yard. This too would be an interesting match up if it materializes on Friday.

In 2014, the running game for the Lobos seems to lose steam by the fourth quarter, as the Lobos gained fewer yards per carry, got fewer touchdowns and first downs. That trend has continued into the first two games of the 2015 season.

Passing the Ball

Even though the Lobos don’t really sling the ball that much, their average yards per pass attempt in 2014 was just six percent less than that of the Devils last year. Their completion percentage is nothing to write home about on most of the field, but in their opponents’ red zones, they averaged completing three out of four passes last year, with two going for touchdowns. The Lobos ran 76 red zone plays last year and only four were passes.

Last year the Lobos only had 25 receptions that went for 15 yards or more on 149 pass attempts. In the first two game of the 2015 season, the Lobos have registered nine pass receptions of 15 yards or more on 40 pass attempts. Four of those happened when the Lobos were winning by at least two touchdowns.

Lobos on Defense



Defending the Run

The Lobo defense averages giving up 3.56 yards per carry once an opponent enters past their 40 yard line. The bad news for them is that everywhere else on the field, the Lobos average giving up 7.21 yards per carry. So far this year, the Lobo defense has given up an average of only 3.08 yards per carry on 99 running plays they have faced. Only two of the 99 carries this year have gone for more than 20 yards.

On third down running plays last year, the Lobos allowed opponents to gain a first down 54 percent of the time, which compares to ASU only converting a third down by running the ball 37 percent of the time. So far in 2015, the Lobos have given up only two third down conversions in nine running plays, while the Devils have converted four third down situations into first downs on twelve carries.

The Lobo defense surrendered 40 rushing touchdown in twelve games last year for an average of three and a third TDs per game. A total of 28 of the 40 touchdowns given up happened in their own red zone on 111 carries. In two games so far this year, the Lobos have only allowed two rushing red zone touchdowns in 13 carries.

The Lobos seem to limit the rushing touchdown in the beginning and at the end of their games last year in giving up only 13 in the first and last quarters, while surrendering 27 touchdowns in the second and third quarters.

The Lobo defense gave up 5.79 yards per carry on third down last year, while the Devils only averaged 1.75 yards per carry on third down. So far this year, the Devils still struggle to run the ball on third down gaining only eleven yards on twelve carries. As for the Lobos, in the nine running plays they have faced so far this year on third down, their defense has held the two opponents to negative 15 yards.

Defending the Pass

In 2014, the Lobo defense allowed opponents to convert 47 percent of third down passes into first downs. So far this year, the percentage is roughly the same at 48 percent. In 2014, the Devils converted a third down into a first down through the air only 35 percent of the time. In the two games in 2015, the rate is roughly the same at 38 percent.

Last year, the Lobo defense only surrendered nine red zone touchdown passes in twelve games. In 13 games last year, the Devils threw for 34 red zone touchdown passes. What helped keep the number of touchdown passes low for the Lobo defense was that when their opponents got into the Lobo red zone, they only threw the ball 30 percent of the time. As a comparison, when the Devils got into their opponents’ red zone last year, they passed the ball 42 percent of the time. Another way to view this is that the Devils scored a red zone touchdown pass on 47 percent of their red zone pass attempts, while the Lobo only allowed 20 percent of the red zone passes to go for a touchdown.

Not only did the Lobo defense lose focus on opponents running the ball in the second and third quarters, the passing defense also lost focus. In the first and fourth quarters, the Lobo defense allowed 53.5% of the passes to be completed, while in the second and third quarters they allowed a 66.7% pass completion rate. They also intercepted seven passes in the first and fourth quarters, and only four in the second and third quarters.

What the Numbers Mean

The Devils will face another triple option team that will run, run, run the ball, while mixing in a productive surprise pass or two along the way.  They will also face a team that wasn’t that great last year at limiting opponents’ run game. Also last year, the Lobo defense didn’t do that well in the second and third quarters.  By comparison, the second quarter was the Devils’ most productive offensively last year, while the third quarter was the least productive.

About Gary Doran

Gary Doran

Gary graduated from ASU many years ago. After careers working in banking, finance and the financial administration of academic research funding, he is now interested in utilizing his passion for numbers towards two things he thoroughly loves; Arizona State University and college football. He is looking forward to finding the “stories” buried within the numbers on a football stat sheet. He has gone to ASU football games all the way back to the days of Frank Kush and the WAC. He has been married to an amazing ASU graduate for almost forty years, and they currently live in Ventura, CA. Although this may disqualify him from talking football, he and his wife enjoy the practice of yoga and dancing the Argentine Tango. Ole!

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