Thursday, January 29, 2009

Thursday's game

What a strange game it was for the New Mexico State Aggies and the San Jose State Spartans on Thursday night.

NMSU was up 14 twice, San Jose State came back and took a five point lead with 5:00 left and NMSU came back and won 89-81.

The Aggies didn't give up down five late and with SJSU having all the momentum. NMSU quickly retook the lead when it seemed like they were going in the other direction.

The Spartans struggled with some mind-numbing turnovers late. It seemed like for a three-minute stretch, with things in the balance, that they gave up the ball every time down court. They went from playing well to playing awful in the final 5 minutes of action.

Jahmar Young had 32 points and made some big shots.

Jonathan Gibson made some big shots down the stretch.

Wendell McKines played well as did Troy Gillenwater.

The Aggies were outrebounded by 13 (40-27) while SJSU committed 21 turnovers.

NMSU will be back in action on Saturday against Hawaii at the Pan Am.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

San Jose State

Hello all. Sorry about the blog, I've been AWOL the past week. My apologize.

Honestly, if your excited about the Aggie basketball team, raise your hand. I don't think many are up right now. This team lost twice last week, once at Boise and again at Idaho. Where's the excitement for this ballclub?

I look at the San Jose State game tonight and, I wonder, is this even a big game? I don't even really mean for the Aggies. I really mean in the grand scheme of things. Just look at the standings. These are two teams in the middle of the WAC pack. Two teams that aren't 7-0 in conference or 5-1 in conference but rather both 3-4. Do you think the other WAC teams or fans in other WAC markets have this one circled on their calender? Highly unlikely.

What happened here with NMSU? This used to be a hot-button program. Maybe I'm being too harsh but the proof is in the pudding. Attendance is down, there hasn't been a lot of positive feedback on the blog. Even without me posting on the team, nobody wrote anything about it. Normally, people would be at my throat for not commenting on Aggie hoops. Not this time around.

Maybe this post will change things on that front but, after two losses away from home, things are a little down right now. NMSU needs to win both of these games at home. SJSU followed by Hawaii. The Aggies should win but it doesn't seem like they are an elite team in the conference. They're middle of the pack right now. And I don't think a sweep is guaranteed.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Aggies lose to Boise State

I thought the New Mexico State Aggies played all right on Thursday night on the road at Boise State. Unfortunately, all right isn't always good enough and it wasn't in this one. NMSU fell 87-84.

Troy Gillenwater can score the ball and he did it time and again vs. the Broncos. He also rebounded much better tonight. As a whole, the team rebounded good. They grabbed 13 more boards than Boise. I can only remember one offensive board Boise got in the second half on a long tipout. You're going to give up a few here and there. It wasn't nearly as glaring of a problem as it has been in the past.

The only thing about Gillenwater I will say is this: He can score the ball. He's skilled with the ball in his hands and around the basket and he has range. But he has to be more of a presence underneath on defense. I can recall two times he made buckets, late in the game, and the Aggies gave up a layin on the other end on Boise's following possession. I think Troy could be a great player. And I remember a big block he had as well with a Boise player looking to go to the rim. He has to continue to develop and remain hungry.

Jonathan Gibson took some shots way too early in the shot clock in the second half. They were wasteful possessions and the team would have been better served to go back to Gillenwater. Boise could not match up with him. No need to hoist up a 3 with the shot clock at 26 with five minutes left in the game and your team desperate for a bucket...And I think Jonathan should be better than 68 percent from the free throw line. I like Jonathan and want to see him do great things. He's better than that.

Again, Jahmar played well. He's a fearless offensive player.

The team really needs a good performance against Idaho, one which ends in a win. It will be tough. The Vandals will be waiting for the Aggies in Moscow with last week's loss still fresh on their minds. I don't know who's going to win. I do have a hunch that it will be a very hard fought game.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Local recruiting

It looks as if the NMSU football program is trying to recruit more locally, a change from past years.

The reasons this is being done are fairly obvious. For one, the area has been underutilized by NMSU. High school football has been a success in Las Cruces, yet previously it has gone unrecognized. James Hall Jr. and Dante Caro being pursued was important.

The Aggies also had a major overhaul this offseason. To keep some semblance of stability and even show some progress, the school felt the need to go out and recruit. And it also needed commits. They got some from the El Paso area while the team was in the process of finding a head coach. It kept the ball moving. We'll see the talent they scored by doing so.

And the program needs to be a presence in the community. Often, teams with such a need will do anything possible to try to endear itself to the locals. Showing interest in, perhaps even getting, players from the Las Cruces area is a good start. El Paso will work, not as effectively, but it will help.

From a PR standpoint it's a good move. If these players can help the Aggies win, it will be a great move.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Walker....Good to be running the defense?

It appears as if DeWayne Walker will be running his own defense as coach of the New Mexico State Aggie football team.

Me, I don't like it when a head coach acts as a head coordinator too. I'm not questioning Walker's defensive mind. The man clearly can get it done. But I know he knows strong defensive coaches after having years in the business who would make fine coordinators as well.

Perhaps it's a money issue for NMSU. Hiring a defensive coordinator is another expense, probably one they would not like to take on. But being a head coach is difficult as is. The difference between being a lead assistant on a staff and being the leader of the staff is apples to oranges.

All coaches have their own personality. Hal Mumme loved to throw the football. Derek Dooley at Louisiana Tech is a defensive guy. Walker believes in defensive football and that's something I'm a fan of as well. You can still have your philosophies and implement them into your football team without being hands on.

The defense needs to get better in the upcoming years without question. Walker could do it without running the unit. Hopefully he can do a solid job wearing both hats. But it is not an easy task.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Aggies beat Idaho

The NMSU Aggies beat Idaho on the basketball court tonight.

I don't know if it was an impressive win or not but I have been saying that the team needs to win games, period. They did that tonight.

The victory does not change my perception of the team. If they did not beat the Vandals here, it would have been a major disappointment. The Aggies are going to battle for the three seed in the WAC. They could finish anywhere between three and five.

The bottom line is that the game could have gone either way. The Vandals are much improved and took a late lead in the fourth quarter. Idaho went up five with 3:25 left and I thought they would win. NMSU could have easily gone in the tank but battled back and won.

These two teams meet a week from Saturday in Moscow. It should be another battle. Idaho is a lot better than in the past and the Aggies continue to underachieve. For one night at least, they got the win.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Idaho game

Well, here we are again, NMSU men's basketball on the docket as the team hosts the University of Idaho on Thursday night.

To lead things off, I believe this is a game the Aggies should win. Idaho certainly seems better than in past years, but this game is in Las Cruces and NMSU should be fired up. They are on a two game home skid and really do need a win in this one.

NMSU was competitive against Nevada and Utah State. Still, the Aggies lost both games. They really should have beaten Nevada. We have been over the game a million times. The reality is that the Wolf Pack went out in the second half and just played better, rebounded better and were tougher. USU beat NMSU fair and square.

The Vandals have been a surprise in the WAC. Don Verlin seems like a good hire early on for Idaho AD Rob Spear. Verlin's looking to change the culture there. Clearly, Idaho's WAC win in Nevada opened some eyes. The Vandals shouldn't be able to sneak up on anyone at the Pan Am. Marvin Menzies should have his team, the Aggies, prepared.

Idaho is not a good rebounding team which should help the Aggies. NMSU has struggled on the boards this season but should see some success in that department versus the Vandals.

Again, I know Idaho is better than in the past. And again, I believe this is a game the Aggies should win.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

McDermott, Williams gone

When I first heard about J.J. McDermott leaving, it was really no shock at all.

J.J. came here to play in Hal Mumme's offense. I'm not saying that Tim Rosenbach isn't a skilled offensive coordinator, he could be an even better one, who knows. But J.J. came because of Hal.

The bottom line is that McDermott didn't show much in his brief action last year to elicit any real excitement from Aggie fans. The one game I do remember is Louisiana Tech two years ago where he played well enough to win as a true freshman. He was cool under pressure and after the game handled it like he'd been there before. I will remember his demeanor and the fact that the moment wasn't too big for him. I will also remember that every time he got in trouble in that game he would throw it the Chris Williams who made one amazing grab after another.

Where do that Aggies go from here? Some will say Trevor Walls, but I wouldn't be surprised if he goes somewhere else too. Again, he came from Ohio to play in the Air Raid. It still amazes me that these kids came here for that offense. I'm not saying that QBs don't put up big numbers in the system, they do. But from Ohio to New Mexico, that's a big trip for a kid.

Honestly, I think I was more disappointed that LaVorick Williams left. I never really expected J.J. to stay but I was under the impression that LaVorick might stick around. There was something about him that was exciting on the football field. Nice hands, big and fast. As a freshman, you saw the ability.

The bottom line is that this is going to be a rebuilding year for the Aggies. They will look for a new signal caller and will be replacing many key pieces on offense - QB and Chris Williams and AJ Harris at wide receiver. But we will look for signs of improvement. Their attitude in the way they play. I expect the team to be tougher and play with an edge. How they compete against certain opponents - their rivals and the upper echelon of the WAC. Football is about attitude and playing with a chip on your shoulder. NMSU needs that chip back.


One disappointing sidebar at the game the other night was the crowd/attendance.

There must have been no more than 6,500 fans at the Utah State game and that number may be a bit generous. And the Nevada game seemed to under-sell considerably as well.

The attendance issue, it seems, is beaten like a drum. I can already see some people writing on this blog post that Las Cruces has fairweather fans and others yelling back to shut up. Ahhhh, the joys of the internet and fun blogging.

I will simply say that winning brings out the fans. That's usually a pretty good formula for at least getting decent crowds. Fans generally come out when there's a certain "buzz" over the team in the community. There needs to be a level of intrigue.

The UTEP game didn't have a ton of people, but the place was into it. The crowd was alive. Key factors were that it was the Miners, a chief rival, and the other is that the Aggies outplayed them the entire way. People like to see the home team have some fun.

At the USU game the other night, not only was the crowd spotty at the Pan Am, there wasn't a lot of electricity. The most energized it got was when the Aggies went on a spurt late in the first half and took a 27-24 lead. Other than that, I thought it was pretty dull.

It also doesn't help that the UTEP and UNM games came at a bad time of year, considering that the students were off campus and the Miners came for a Sunday game at 2 p.m.

Again, I just want to see the attendance get better. That won't happen, possibly for the remainder of the season. Unless the team goes on a serious push, it will be tough to pack the Pan Am. The rivals - and I include Nevada and even Utah State to a degree - aren't coming back this season. Heck, maybe La. Tech will draw 12,000. I'm joking.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Saturday's game versus Utah State

Here is my take from Saturday's Aggie men's basketball on Saturday versus Utah State.

Can we stop all the talk about NMSU being one of the top teams in the WAC? They aren't. Nevada and Utah State came into the Aggies' backyard and knocked off the home team.

Utah State is polished. They're methodical on offense and push in when they have to. They have two big men - Wilkinson and Wesley - who the Aggies couldn't match up with. They have a point guard - Jared Quayle - who played better than the Aggies' point guards. Having solid point guard play is critical. Quayle only finished with three assists, but it sure felt like he had more. He penetrated and set up Wilkinson and Wesley for some easy buckets. Those three players stood out to me the most.

As for the Aggies, Jahmar Young rebounded from a bad shooting night on Thursday and put the ball in the bucket. I feel like the Aggies have three offensive plays. One is to isolate Young. The second is to isolate Gillenwater. The third is to pass it around the perimeter as the big men try - if you want to call it that - to get open down low. These possessions usually end in a forced jumper or a turnover. Ugly.

The Aggies are not as good as Nevada or Utah State. They were picked to finish third in the WAC by both the coaches and media at the outset of the season. Looking back, that sounds about right. They're going to battle for the third spot. Idaho's off to a hot start in conference play, but are they really that good? I'm not saying yes or no. I'm just going to say, "wait and see." The only thing we know about them is that they are better than last year and they're an intriguing group. That's about it.

Hawaii is not good, they just have a major homecourt edge. Boise State, who knows? Can't disrespect the defending conference champs, but they're not the same team. La. Tech, it's hard to tell with them also. Similar to Idaho: Better, but by how much? You know, we'll know more when we see these team's play. Your own two eyes are the best judge.

So I think the Aggies finish anywhere between third and five. I said a week ago, the team better finish top-4. Even the most optimistic Aggie fan can't defend a standing lower than that at season's end. Some would say that anything less than one or two would be disappointing. Again, I'm realistic. I just don't see them finishing above Nevada or the UtAgs.


I said it on my last post, why does Wendell McKines take jumpers? The answer last night stood out to me more than ever.

With Rahman and Gabriel, the paint gets congested for the Aggies on offense. Those two need to play around the hoop because they are somewhat limited.

Gillenwater is versatile, but you would rather have him roaming the lane. Again, he has the ability to create on the perimeter and put the ball on the floor. But I think he's most effective getting the ball, one on one with a defender about 10 to 13 feet away from the goal. Let him go to work from there. In other words, you need him to have a clear lane to the basket and have the option of going to the hole or pulling up for a jumper. Therefore, the inside needs to be clear for him to be most effective. It leaves the defender in a bad spot.

But where does this leave Wendell? On the outside. I haven't done the math on this one, but it would be interesting to see Wendell's offensive output with certain lineups out there. How is he playing when both Rahman and Gillenwater are on the floor also? What about when one of the two are out there with him? How about when both are out and he's left to man the inside? The bigger he is forced to play, the more effective he is on offense. In other words, I view him as an undersized frontcourt player who plays bigger than he is. I don't see him as a 3 creating away from the paint. He might make a jumper or two, but it's not where his heart is.

One thing I won't question is his effort or his ability to rebound the basketball. He could do that from just about anywhere.


the Aggies made a strong push midway through the first half and two things, in my mind, triggered it.

One was a fullcourt press. NMSU forced some turnovers and got some easy baskets on the other end. That is when their offense is most effective, when they can turn the other way and push the ball. And the press forced Utah State to play faster than normal. This forced quick shots and turnovers.

The other was, and this might be a surprise, Chris Gabriel. Chris came in and played pretty well. Now, he did foul. He picked up three fouls in just over five minutes. But he also seemed to provide some interior toughness.

Gabriel grabbed some rebounds, including one where he wrestled it away from a few USU players. He tipped in a miss on the offensive end. Many are lukewarm on him, and he is somewhat of a project. But he got meaningful minutes in the opening half and the team played better. The Aggies even took a brief lead, some momentum and the crowd got into it.

Then, Gabriel came out. NMSU fell behind going into the half and never regained the lead. And he didn't play in the second half. He may have come in for a second or two, but nothing substantial.

I'm not saying the kid is the next Bill Russell. All I'm saying is that, last night, NMSU played better during the brief time he was on the court. Coincidence? Maybe. Is it true? I think so. Again, I didn't notice him on the floor in the final 20 minutes. He picked up three fouls early, but I would have put him back out there again. Let him foul out, I don't care. If he's giving you production on the court, reward the big man with some minutes.


The Aggies were outrebounded again, this time 34-26. It wasn't as bad as the other night against Nevada, when the Wolf Pack dominated the boards in the second half.

The only time it really stood out was, with the score 58-53 USU, NMSU gave up two offensive boards. The first came when a long rebound went to a UtAg - after Jonathan Gibson failed to block him out. The second was from Wilkinson. He was fouled, scored the ball, and got a three-point play. It hurt big time. After that, I started writing my story for the paper.

Friday, January 9, 2009

DeWayne Walker

Felix had a Q&A session with new Aggie football coach DeWayne Walker.

During the interview, Walker added that Earnest Wilson would stay on board but that it was likely Wilson would be the only coach retained. Still, nothing definite on Joe Lee Dunn, but it doesn't look too promising for the D-coordinator.

Walker also said that most of the team looks to return intact and that the Aggies won a big battle with a player who was on the fence. Walker did not reveal the name but I would suspect it is between J.J. McDermott and LaVorick Williams. My gut tells me Williams. Again, nothing definite.

There is also a story on recruit David Quiroga giving a verbal commitment to NMSU.

Thursday's game

So....Thursday's Aggie basketball game vs. Nevada.

Lets go back, down the stretch of the game, under 2 minutes remaining.

Troy Gillenwater gets fouled and knocks down both free throws. NMSU up 64-61, 2 minutes remaining.

Nevada misses a shot, McKines is fouled, 1/2 from the line. 65-61, 1:32 left. If I were an Aggie fan, I'd be feeling a bit more secure. The team withstood the Wolf Pack's rally and was back up by four. It's a two possession game. It feels OK. Better than being tied, or worse, down.

Babbitt hits a three but LaRoche sinks two more free throws. 67-64 Aggies, under a minute left.

Nevada misses at the other end. Babbitt grabs an offensive rebound and is fouled. He hits the first, misses the second. Nevada gets another offensive rebound. Nevada misses again, but Wolf Pack forward Malik Cook tips the ball back up and into the cylinder. Another offensive rebound. Tied game. Overtime.

No need to get into the extra frame. The game was lost during the prior 2-minute sequence above.

Honestly, the Aggies would have easily won the game if they rebounded better throughtout the entire second half. They don't rebound the ball at all! I counted in the second half. It was a loose count, could be off by a point or two but, in my estimation, NMSU gave up 15 second-chance points in the final 16 minutes of the game. They gave up three offensive rebounds off of missed free throws. That's bad. You gotta grab the ball, particularly when your given position on the block because of free throws.

Rebounding is about heart and desire. Nothing more. Sure, height helps. The Aggies have decent size. Troy Gillenwater played a good game on the offensive end. But he only had two rebounds. You need more in a game like that.

Can't blame fundamentals. The rebounding problem should have been worked on well before the third game of conference play. It should have been pounded home on the practice court.

Nevada wanted the ball more in the second half and was the tougher team. Why did the Wolf Pack win? See rebounding and interior defense. That was the difference.


I think Wendell McKines is a great player.

But if I were coaching him, I would not let him play more than five feet away from the hoop.

Sure, I know, his jump shot has gotten better in the last year. If I were his opponent, I would gladly let him shoot from 10 to 15 feet than have to deal with him around the hoop.

The kid is a handful. He should be playing around the basket at all times.


It seemed to me that Nevada got away with two walks in the second half.

The first was a basket and the foul by Joey Shaw that cut the NMSU lead to 51-50. It was a big play and Shaw howled after the bucket. But he walked. He caught the ball, took a step, did a jump step, and went in for the layin. It looked like a walk to me.

The second was an Armon Johnson bucket that gave Nevada a 61-60 lead. Johnson was in traffic and looked like he took steps. No call.

On the flip side of the coin, the Aggies had the ball go in when it ricocheted off a hand/arm/body part during an attempted pass. I guess things even out.


I said that a split during this homestand was fine. Nevada and Utah State are two solid programs. The Aggies have come out and have said a handful of times, at least it seems, that this is a rebuilding year of sorts.

Two road wins early. Come home to face two upper-echelon teams. Split the homestand. So a win against Utah State would work with that approach. Here's the only problem.

NMSU should have won Thursday. It was the Aggies' game. They could have gotten greedy here on Saturday against the UtAgs. Now, I think they have to win. There's pressure there.

No loss feels good. But to let one like Nevada slip away hurts a little more. It was NMSU's game at the end.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Home stand

The Aggie men's basketball team hosts Nevada on Thursday night and then Utah State Saturday.

NMSU is 2-0 in WAC play thus far on the year, after beating Fresno State and San Jose State on the road last week.

Coming home to play the Wolf Pack and the UtAgs will be another nice test for NMSU. Nevada is coming off a bad loss - 78-73 defeat at the hands of Idaho in Reno last week. Is this a down year for Nevada? I don't think so. They might be off to a sluggish start. But I expect them to take the floor and come out fired up Thursday against NMSU. These two teams are rivals with some history behind them. I think this game comes at a good time of year for NMSU. It's early in conference play, but there will be some fire and emotion in this one. I'm looking forward to it.

As for Utah State, we're talking about a solid team. Last year, NMSU destroyed the UtAgs in Las Cruces. But I believe Utah State will put in a good effort and play hard. I expect them to be in the WAC title hunt as well, along with NMSU and Nevada.

We have talked about the WAC this year and how it's a strange season for the league. These two games will be a good indicator for all three teams involved - NMSU, Nevada and Utah State. They are widely considered to be the conference's upper-tier programs. Now's as good a time as any to see how much truth is behind that theory.

Mumme money

Former Aggie coach Hal Mumme made roughly $540,000 on his way out the door at NMSU.

Lets be clear on this. Mumme made $375,000 through the buyout. The rest of the sum was because of money owed on his previous deal.

This is a lot of money here. It's incredible to me that you can make that type of cash, and be fired at the same time. Heck, I could have gone 11-38 with a football team. Maybe, maybe not, but I could have at least tried. And if it didn't work, I'd make a bunch of money during a time when normal people are struggling to make ends meet.

It just shows how badly the Aggies wanted to get rid of Hal. They would have payed $1 million if it meant he would have hit the road. Obviously I'm being sarcastic, but, at the same time, I'm being kind of serious. Him leaving was not negotiable. How much money he got on his way out, now that was. And it was.

What's done is done. I think looking at the final bill, it stings a bit. You fail as a coach, should you be compensated like that? Tough call but, in Hal's case, I don't think so. He took over a tough job here and had some tough breaks, but did he really have a raw deal at NMSU? The answer, from where I sit: No. He didn't win enough. Plain and simple. I guess in the Aggies' case, they felt like it was addition by subtraction.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Road sweep

When the NMSU Aggie men's basketball team embarked on there two-game road trip, I wrote that a split would be acceptable. The Aggies did one better and swept Fresno State and San Jose State.

Honestly, by looking at how the Aggies were playing when they hit the road, I didn't think they could get both. The team hadn't won on the road up to that point and really only had one quality win - over UTEP at the Pan American Center. I was wrong.

NMSU handled Fresno thoroughly in the opener. Don't look at the runs they gave up to the Bulldogs. That's basketball. They held them off when they had to and won going away.

The San Jose State game was close down the stretch and NMSU hung on.

Now, a bigger test. Nevada and Utah State come to Las Cruces this week. The Wolf Pack lost at Nevada but don't paint the defeat with a broad brush. The team is always talented and well coached. They will be ready.

Utah State should also be a good barometer. The UtAgs seem solid, as usual.

Don't take anything away from the two-game road sweep. It was a good way to get WAC play going. A lot of basketball still yet to be played.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Win over Fresno

NMSU's road victory over Fresno State was encouraging.

It was a dominant effort from the Aggies. And I say that word with absolutely no reservation. The team was up double figures throughout. When the Bulldogs made a run, NMSU would push its lead back out to 15 to 20 points and keep Fresno at bay.

Where would this team be without Jahmar Young? It seemed like every time the Aggies needed a bucket last night, Jahmar delivered. He's a pure scorer.

Wendell McKines is phenomenal. He does it all and does it quietly. One look at the box score, though, and you understand his impact. Eighteen points, 12 boards and six assists? His numbers tell the story. He's not slowing down anytime soon, either. McKines is one of the bright spots of the Marvin Menzies era, maybe the brightest. He was the coach's first recruit to come to NMSU. He's a bulldog.

Jonathan Gibson, I know I get on him about his shot selection. He was off last night, but he didn't stop shooting. And he made a big bucket or two. He got to the line and hit two free throws and canned a big 3-ball when NMSU was pushing its lead back up to 20. Again, I've gotten on Jonathan, but maybe you need a player like that. He believes in his ability and isn't afraid to gun it. If this team needed a big shot, Jonathan would be the first player to raise his hand. He wants the ball. And that's not a bad thing.


The WAC is flaky this year. Idaho beats Nevada in Reno last night? I really couldn't believe that.

I want to say that the Idaho win was a fluke, but that would be taking too much credit away from the Vandals. They deserve better. It was definitely a major surprise, and there is no denying that.

This brings us to the Aggies. They win at Fresno State. Is Fresno good? Maybe, maybe not. Again, I don't want to take away from NMSU's victory. We don't know what we have yet in the WAC. We don't even know what we have yet with the Aggies. We're learning about this team and this conference with each game.

NMSU at San Jose on Monday. SJSU is 0-1 in conference, losing at home to Louisiana Tech on Saturday. That was another surprise to me. I said on my prior post that a road split for the Aggies would be fine to start WAC play. A 2-0 start would be very solid. We'll continue to learn about this team, and this conference, on Monday.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Hoops road trip

The NMSU Aggie men's basketball team is hittin California this weekend for a two-game road trip.

Last year the team won at both of these venues.

NMSU came alive in the 2nd half in their win last year in Fresno.

The game at San Jose was a wild one, with Jonathan Gibson saving the day after the Aggies almost gave the game away.

Bottom line is that it's a new year with much different circumstances and expectations. Last season, it was expected that NMSU won against these teams, home, away, on another planet. This year, the Aggies haven't won yet on the road and enter WAC play with some question marks. Aside from their poor road mark, NMSU has been up and down and lost a tough game their last time out vs. rival New Mexico.

Both Fresno and San Jose are beatable. Fresno State is in a major transitional period and the Spartans have been playing well lately, but haven't beaten anybody of any significance.

It's the start of WAC play. Menzies has been talking all season about how the team has been gearing up for league competition. It would be nice to see them go on the road and take a game or two on the trip. I think this team needs at least a split to stay competitive the WAC standings.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

First impressions of Walker

DeWayne Walker's press conference was Wednesday morning and it was our first opportunity to meet the new coach of the Aggie football team.

Walker seems more than qualified to take over a program. The NMSU job is not very appealing on the surface. I think to get a coach like Walker - a name that has been out there the last couple of years, someone with experience at big-time college programs and the NFL, a guy who believes in strong defensive football - was a good hire for the Aggies. This guy could be coaching somewhere else. It's not like he's a no-namer or an unknown. This is just his first crack as a head coach. I think people should feel fortunate that he's coming in.

The press conference was Walker's first real interaction with Las Cruces. He talked football - his defense-first approach, the hiring of Timm Rosenbach as offensive coordinator, his belief in honesty, hard work and toughness and how those would be his rooted philosophies in building the program. He flashed his sense of humor, with a few one-liners that drew laughter from those in attendance.

Walker mentioned the community at least four times during the presser. It's obvious that the administration wanted to bring in someone who would try to reach out to Las Cruces. Former coach Hal Mumme was never into it. Getting fans in the seats has always been a challenge for this program simply because it has never really been good. A coach can reach out to the community as much as he wants. What really brings people to games? Wins. I think Walker can bring some here. People will get behind him if he can.

One thing Walker will be is a rookie. It's his first time being in charge of the whole deal. I expect him to grow into the job just like anyone else. Being patient with him will be key. Next year is going to be a transition season for the program. We cannot judge his ability to coach after the first four weeks of the 2009 season. We will gradually learn what he brings to the table as things unfold over time.

The bottom line is that Walker faces a stiff test at New Mexico State. I didn't think the program was as far away as people thought it was under Mumme. There were many close games that went the other way. The team won at Nevada last year! You don't do that without talent. But they were lacking in critical areas as well and seemed to lack a mental toughness. Now, Walker gets an opportunity to turn things around. It won't be easy by any stretch. If he does though, he will be a local hero.


Some of my favorite quotes from the press conference? I left my recorder at the office but here they are paraphrased.

Walker saying he was "pissed off" after the Lobos beat the Aggies in basketball on Tuesday night.

The coach saying that the program had losses on its resume but that it isn't "a losing program."

When a question came as to how fast he expected to turn things around, he turned to AD McKinley Boston and asked "I have a five-year contract, right?" This caused a chorus of laughter.

"We're gonna win some games here. We're gonna win some games."

Again, I'm sure there are some more to remember, but this is off the top of my head. They just stood out.


As pointed out by Infamous Chuck on the last post entry, the Aggies will bring in Keith Murphy to coach wide receivers/special teams at NMSU. Murray was a quality control/special teams assistant for the St. Louis Rams last year.


At the bottom of Felix's Rosenbach story is a quick hit about NMSU scheduling.

Apparently, the team is looking to start a home-and-home series with Baylor. They also have a home-and-home with Ohio, starting in 2010.