- Associated Press - Thursday, August 20, 2015

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - Entering year four of Bob Davie’s reclamation project at New Mexico, the Lobos are looking toward that magic six-win mark that would leave them bowl eligible.

New Mexico has won 11 games during Davie’s tenure, a significant increase over the three consecutive single-win seasons that preceded his arrival.

The option offense installed by Davie has proved to be quite capable of moving the ball on most opponents, but the defense has still shown itself to be vulnerable to most attacks.

So with the Lobos seeking their first bowl invitation since the 2007 New Mexico Bowl, here are some things to watch for as the season unfolds:

GROUND AND POUND: New Mexico’s running game has been among the tops in the country, last year amassing 3,725 yards and averaging 6.4 yards a carry. The top three rushers are back in backs Jhurell Pressley (1,121 yards), Teriyon Gipson (809) and quarterback Lamar Jordan (612).

“We are an option-based team that when all the dust settles, we can have all the bells and whistles, but as we move forward, we’re not going to win and get to the level we want to get to if we’re not an option-based team when it all ends,” Davie said.

AIR ATTACK: The Lobos have been slowly trying to add the passing game to the mix, with less than stellar results. But Davie is confident things are starting to improve on that front after averaging just 89 yards a game through the air last season.

“There’s no question, we’re throwing it better,” he said. “You watch the quarterbacks, the receivers, we’ve built up the core. I think it’s fair to say that we’ll throw the ball better this year and throw the ball a little bit more.”

WHITHER THE DEFENSE: The defense has been unable to match the strides the offense has made under Davie thus far. New Mexico gave up an average of 518.6 yards in total offense last season, almost equally split between passing and rushing.

But linebacker Dakota Cox, the team’s leading tackler, is convinced that’s going to change.

“I really think these guys are starting to buy in,” he said. “There really is a maturity aspect to all of them that they really want to succeed at everything.”

TACKLING TROUBLES: The Lobos simply have been unable to wrap-up opponents and get them to the ground with any kind of regularity. But Cox said he is trying to lead by example to change that.

“Guys see me do it and they’re like, ‘OK, I guess that’s how you’re supposed to tackle’ and that rubs off on a lot of guys,” he said.

BOWL OR BUST: There’s no question the Lobos are hankering for the postseason and the players believe it’s a possibility.

“Our first goal is just to get to that bowl,” Cox said. “That’s always the biggest one for any team. That’s something that guys are really buying into. .We want to be a team that people can fear as we go along. We don’t want to be a team that just skates along. We want to be a team that’s going to do great things.”

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