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In the Pitt: Q&A with Mountain West Connection

Eric Draper

In preparation for Saturday's big game, we've got a Q&A here with Jeremy Mauss over at SB Nation's excellent Mountain West Connection blog. Jeremy answered my questions about New Mexico below. Be sure to head on over there later to see my answers to his questions about Pitt.

Any word on the status of quarterback Cole Gautsche for Saturday's game (Note: Gautsche was injured in New Mexico's opener)?
Head coach Bob Davie said that Gautsche is expected to play on Saturday barring any set backs from his recovery from a concussion. However, Davie said that Clayton Mitchem will get the start regardless of Gautsche's health. So, it seems that Pitt must now prepare for both quarterbacks.
What are some of the differences between Gautsche and the other quarterback, Clayton Mitchem?
Gautsche is more of a pure runner and is very good at doing so. Last year as a true freshman he rushed for 760 yards and averaged a shade under seven yards a carry. He runs the run-based pistol offense extremely well, but his passing game leaves very much to be desired. Gautsche has a tough time completing passes as he managed just 41.9 percent last season. The New Mexico offense is not going to throw all that often, but there were too many times in 2012 where the opposing defense knew what was coming since Gautsche can not make the throws needed at the college level on a consistent basis. Mitchem is a junior college transfer and is a dual-threat quarterback, but so far he has only played in the one game against UTEP. He is not a dynamic rusher as Gautsche but he was capable enough to run the offense and get the ball to the running backs. His throwing ability seems better but he completed just 6 of 12 passes for 107 yards. That is an improvement over Gautsche but the data is not there to know how good Mitchem really is in the passing game. The one thing is that he at least is a threat to throw the ball and is more accurate than Gautsche. Mitchem can keep a defense at least semi-honest in passing situations.

Other than the injury to Gautsche, what went wrong in the team's opening-season loss to UTSA?

UTSA has two gigantic defensive tackles that weigh in over 300 pounds each and they were able to deny any run up the middle. Plus, the UTSA defense denied Gautsche to pitch the ball to Kasey Carrier on the outside, so the running game overall was pretty much stopped. It came down to UTSA having a great game plan and some good defenders to stop the Lobos from running at will.

Running back Kasey Carrier is having some kind of career. What is the talk about his potential NFL Draft stock?

He is on the smaller size standing at 5'8" and 185 pounds, so he needs to really gain some weight to be able to handle the beating at the NFL level. There have been smaller backs like Reggie Bush and Darren Sproles but we don't know much about his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. In all likelihood he will be signed as an undrafted free agent, and that will be because he has had such a productive college career.

The passing game has only averaged 86 yards a game through two contests so far. Will they continue to throw so little the rest of the way or do you think that's an aberration?
Nope, this is a running team and at the high end they will throw 15 passes, but likely around 10 passes. This pistol offense is of the run-option variety. To get an idea, this team averaged 301 yards on the ground in 2012 which was good enough for fifth in the nation. The Pitt defense needs to be prepared for a steady attack of rushes from New Mexico.

What do you expect out of Saturday's game?
Kasey Carrier will get his yards on the ground because that is what he does, and I think the coaching staff have made the correct adjustments for what UTSA did on defense and will keep that from happening again. The quarterback situation is what really concerns me for New Mexico, going back and forth is a bad idea. Mitchem is a better passer so Pitt could possibly pick up on when the Lobos will pass based on when Mitchem is in the game, well that is assuming that New Mexico rotates between the two players.

The New Mexico defense is the real concern, because whoever is in at quarterback for New Mexico will at the very least be able to move the ball on the ground. The Lobos defense has given up big plays to some bad teams in UTSA and UTEP, and in all likelihood Pitt is better than those teams and will be able to score some points. In the end, New Mexico will be able to put up some points and keep the game close for at least a half, but I see Pitt just chipping away in the second half and winning by about two touchdowns.

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