ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) -There's nothing flashy about New Mexico's defense - no catchy nickname, no big star, no theme song for the stadium video board.
However, going into Saturday's game at TCU, the tough-nosed Lobo defenders are holding opponents in check. Several statistics back it up:
-Over the last three games, New Mexico has outscored Wyoming, San Diego State and Air Force 16-0 in the fourth quarter.
-In the final period of the past two games, the Lobos allowed 78 total yards to San Diego State and 41 to Air Force.
-New Mexico hasn't allowed a 100-yard rusher over the past 10 games, not since BYU's Curtis Brown ran for 124 yards on Nov. 18, 2006.
-The Lobos forced a fumble with 1:46 remaining in San Diego and scored a late TD to win 20-17. They recovered five fumbles in last week's 34-31 win over Air Force, including two in the last 5 minutes.
-While no New Mexico defender ranks higher then 30th on the list of Mountain West tackling leaders, 13 Lobos have at least 21 stops.
``It means they've got some playmakers,'' TCU coach Gary Patterson said. ``They have guys who are getting to the ball. It's not a system set up for two or three guys to make tackles.''
New Mexico (6-2, 3-1 Mountain West) has won three straight as it heads to Fort Worth to face TCU (4-4, 1-3). The Lobos are 6-2 for only the second time since 1982, off to their best start under 10th-year coach Rocky Long.
Defense has played a big part and the team's confidence is soaring.
``We know we can make big plays,'' end Tyler Donaldson said. ``We'd like it where we don't have to keep forcing fumbles in the fourth quarter. We'd rather go ahead, get an early lead and maintain it with as little mistakes as possible.
``But we feel if we need a stop, we can make it,'' he added.
Back in August, Long knew depth would be an asset for New Mexico's defense. The Lobos returned 10 starters and 23 lettermen, offering experience at nearly every spot and fresh defenders for the fourth quarter.
The Lobos are performing on the road, winning nine of their last 12. Add a fast-paced, ball-hawking style and Long's unconventional 3-3-5 scheme, and Patterson knows his team is facing a challenge.
``They've got a group that is mentally tough, one that has handled things on the road,'' Patterson said. ``That's one of the things we need to understand. We've got to play just as mentally tough and aggressive as they do.''
The Horned Frogs, the preseason pick to win the Mountain West, have struggled with injuries but they'll provide a test for New Mexico.
Tailback Aaron Brown, who missed two games after a knee injury in the first quarter of the opener against Baylor, has played in the last five contests and should be back at full strength by this weekend.
TCU won 27-21 last year in Albuquerque. Brown scored on a 24-yard run in the second quarter as the Frogs built a 24-0 halftime lead.
``He's really fast,'' Long said. ``There was a couple of times where I thought we were in good shape. All of a sudden, he's around our guys and going down the sideline. I'm going, 'How did that happen?' We're not a slow football team, but he made us look slow.''
TCU's highly touted defense has struggled this fall but end Tommy Blake, who returned an interception 12 yards for a TD to seal last year's win at New Mexico, is expected back after missing the last four games.
Blake has complained of being overwhelmed by stress. He played in just three games, but Patterson said Blake will be on the field this weekend.
``He'll play,'' Patterson said.
Long is just as impressed by Chase Ortiz, TCU's other defensive end. He has six sacks this season, including four in the last three games.
``Maybe without Blake being in there, he's getting more of his due,'' Long said. ``He's just as good a player as Tommy Blake.''

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