Here are five things we have learned about the NMSU Aggie football team after two games so far this year
1. Marcus Anderson can play: A very good JC acquisition here for NMSU. In his second game he scored three TDs and played well on special teams, returning punts and doing it effectively. Anderson will continue to get looks, as long as the receiving corps stays healthy. He not only benefits from his own personal skill set, but also from the constant attention opposing defenses pay to Chris Williams and A.J. Harris. Anderson will continue to play, and play well, in the Air-Raid attack.
2. Special teams, as a whole, seem better: Kyle Hughes and Jordan Davenport combined for six kickoffs against UTEP, while Hughes put two out of the endzone. This is huge, as last year it was painful watching the team consistently give the opposition outstanding field position. Hughes also banged home all of his XP's. He had his one field goal this year blocked against Nebraska but a better kicking game is a weapon the team has been sorely lacking since Hal took over the program. This is one of the most overlooked aspects in all of football and one of the most important in the grand scheme of things. Strong special teams play this year is a must if NMSU wants to get to the six/seven wins mark.
3. The jury is still out on the defense: I know people are fired up over the performance of the defense and there certainly were some bright spots last week. Holding the Miners down on the final three possessions of the game was a positive for sure. But lets be honest here — UTEP was missing weapons and still moved the ball well against the Aggies on the ground. This week against the Lobos? Again, the backup QB is in place but the team will have to deal with Rodney Ferguson, who is a load. If UNM can pass the ball with any success, it will be interesting to see how the Aggies combat the attack. I will say this though — the defense did get after the quarterback last week. Pressure in the backfield can be a defense's best friend and, as expected, it looks like the unit will bring the heat more often than not. Still, one good game against the Miners doesn't have me convinced just yet that the defense is a force to be reckoned with. Frankly, I won't be ready to confidently make that call until early November. This week will be another test.
4. Derrick Richardson is impressive: 21 tackles? That's a lot of takedowns for the free safety. I spoke with Joe Lee Dunn this week about Derrick and he said that he was as good of a safety as he has coached in the college game. The truth is that 21 tackles by a safety is too many. You want that number down a bit, simply because it implies that the opponent broke too many plays into the secondary. Still, give D-Rich credit for making the stops when they came his way. He made over 100 tackles last year and is going to hit that mark again in 2008. He's already over 1/3 there in two games! And Nick Paden made 15 stops at middle linebacker. Last year, the Aggies were pretty strong up the middle as well, with Ray Manumaleuna at tackle, Dante Floyd at middle linebacker and Richardson at safety. Still, the results weren't there. In this defense though, Paden and Richardson are going to continue to pile up numbers as the season moves on.
5. Another huge game this week: Again, we have a monster game for NMSU in Week 3 of their season. UNM beat the Aggies in Albuquerque last season, although it was a close one under much different circumstances. For one, Donovan Porterie destroyed NMSU last season at QB. He ran and he threw. The throwing is where he made the difference. He got hot and the Aggies didn't cover UNM's talented receivers. They were running around downfield and getting chunks of yardage in the passing game. What about this weekend? Porterie is out for the year due to injury and those receivers are long gone. I think this game stacks up well for the Aggies, particularly in Las Cruces. There's pressure on the Lobos to perform well and it will not be an easy contest by an means. UNM needs this game badly. The Aggies do as well, but they are confident following their performance at UTEP and are looking to take the next step. Make no mistake, this is a huge game for both teams. I think the Aggies are primed to get the W.