The game last night was unwatchable.
The Aggies are really a team in major transition. I'm not surprised they lost 38-12 to UTEP. They lost 21-6 to Idaho and barely beat Prairie View A&M.
This year is being sacrificed for years down the road. Ironically, it's similar to Hal Mumme's first season, when the team went through a total change in system offensively and didn't have the pieces to make it work. I'm not giving up on the future years under DeWayne Walker but, so far, the first three games have been rough.
I just want to get this out of the way before we go any further. The team should start Trevor Walls at quarterback against New Mexico next weekend. With the exception of the second half against Idaho - when the Aggies moved the chains the final two quarters - the passing game has been a non-threat.
Is it all on Jeff Fleming's shoulders? No. He can't help it when Kyle Nelson has a ball bounce off his body and into the arms of a UTEP defender on the first play of the game. He can't help it when Marcus Anderson drops a deep ball in the second quarter that would have put the Aggies inside Miner territory. He's not committing holding penalties when the team moves into the opposing redzone - a re-occuring theme in two of the three games the Aggies have played.
Still, his numbers have not been good. 35-of-66 for 367 yards and four interceptions. No touchdowns. And while Walls' numbers don't pop out at you, the team had two touchdown drives with him in the game last night. He threw a TD pass - Nelson caught the ball - the first Aggie scoring toss this season. Will he lead the Aggies to a bowl game this year? No. But he gives them a better opportunity to beat the Lobos next week in Albuquerque.
Speaking of which, that promises to be an awful football game. UNM is in a similar spot as NMSU - a complete overhaul in system, a brand new coaching staff, searching for an identity to hang its hat on. The one guarantee is this: both teams will be desperate. Whether or not that translates into a decent game is another question.
Penalties and special teams: One things is for certain about the Aggies.
The team is limited on firepower. And when that's the case, the unit needs to be fundamentally sound and disciplined. They were neither on Saturday night, nor were they against Idaho in Week 1. Just look at the penalties.
The Aggies actually came out and had two decent drives following the lightning delay. They move the ball to the UTEP 29-yard line in the first quarter. Flag, holding on Mike Grady. Bring it back. Drive killer, NMSU goes for it on fourth-and-10 later in the possession and Fleming is dropped by UTEP's Aaron King.
On the next possession, down 7-0 still, the Aggies move the ball down to the UTEP 15. Flag. Holding. Bring it back. Second-and-17 from the 25. Flag, false state. Bring it back. Kyle Hughes goes on to miss a 43-yard field goal. NMSU is now 0-for-3 on field goal attempts this year, with Hughes missing his only two tries.
Another terrible penalty: Aggies clinging to life, down 24-0. UTEP throws an interception to Davon House, who made a great play in the endzone, one-on-one with the defender, juggling, picking and bringing the ball out to midfield. Some life?!?! Wrong. Flag. Roughing the passer. UTEP keeps possession. Next play, touchdown, 31-0, game over.
The Aggies were penalized eight times for 70 yards. You can't play that way and expect to win if you're the Aggies. They just don't have enough to make up for those types of errors.
"That's something that's kind of disturbing," Walker said of the penalty problems. "The referees are doing their job. We can't argue those calls."
On a bright note, I thought Tonny Glynn had some nice kick returns. And I'm not being sarcastic, he looked alright to me in that department.
Defense: Defensively, the team didn't play as poorly as the final score might indicate. It was 14-0 in the third quarter, a lead which went to 17-0.
Fleming throws a pick deep in Aggie territory. Touchdown Miners.
On the next possession, Walls and Colston botch a handoff, UTEP recovers the fumble at the Aggie 20. Again, touchdown Miners. That's tough.
On the surface, NMSU held the ball for 30:27 to UTEP's 29:33. Still, take a look a bit deeper. The first quarter had the Aggies holding onto the ball for 11:06 (UTEP 3:54). And in the second quarter, NMSU had the ball for 8:09 (UTEP 6:51). In other words, UTEP won time of possession in the second half and wore out the Aggie D. The Miners ran the ball better in the second half. But I thought the defense battled.
One area the team needs to get better at? Third down conversion. UTEP converted nine-of-14 third downs on the evening.
"Idaho we didn't look too well, last week we thought we got a handle on it," Walker said of third-downs. "We gotta go back and take a look at it. On both sides of the ball."
Lightning storm: That was strange for everyone involved - players to coaches to fans to reporters. A three-hour delay, then they go back out there and play a football game? Strange.
No one in the Aggie camp used it as an excuse, which they shouldn't have. Both teams had to deal with it and, as Walker pointed out following the game, NMSU actually came out of the locker room and strung together some decent drives that ultimately stalled in UTEP territory. Still, the Aggies actually played a decent first quarter following the delay, UTEP just outlasted them.
Linebacker Jason Scott said that during the break the team talked football, ate oranges and bananas, went over the Miners first scoring run and stayed focused. That's a long time to be sitting around waiting to take the field. It's not easy. Again, UTEP had to deal with it also.
Some bright spots: I mentioned Tonny Glynn on kickoff returns.
I thought the team fought defensively until running out of gas.
Davon House seemed to have a good game at cornerback. The Miners elected to throw toward Jonte Green and Chris Buckner as opposed to House. When the ball did come House's way, he either made the tackle or in the one case, had a nice interception that was called back because of a roughing the passer penalty.
Seth Smith had another 100-yard effort on 13 carries. He had a 53-yard run that set up the Aggies' first score of the game.
Ross Conner made 11 tackles.
And there's always next week. The Lobos game should be interesting. Two teams that are struggling right now, but a contest the Aggies can win.