Hey folks. Some thoughts from Aggie football, Week 1.
First off, it was a weird game. It was actually a tough one for me to swallow because I thought NMSU would play much better and more crisp.
The first half was straight-up ugly on the Aggie side of the ball. Idaho converted on seven-of-nine third-down attempts and NMSU couldn't find a rhythm offensively. Here's two plays that stand out to me, in the first quarter alone, offensively.
NMSU has the ball, 3rd-and-15 from the Idaho 45, first Aggie possession of the game, Idaho up 7-0. Still, NMSU has strung together a few first downs. Todd Lee open on a slant pattern and Jeff Fleming misses badly with his pass attempt. Aggies punt the ball.
The next was following a Stephon Hatchett interception, NMSU has the ball at the 21-yard line. Two plays later, Fleming and Marquell Colston muck up a handoff and there's a fumble. Idaho football. Talk about a momentum changer.
Both teams would exchange punts after that, but the damage was done. Idaho would cash in later in the quarter and you could feel the air come out of Aggie Memorial Stadium.
Defensively, Idaho killed the Aggies on third down. Just look at their first drive. Third-and-10 from the Vandal 33, Enderle hits Preston Davis for 48. Third-and-goal from the NMSU 6, Enderle to Hardy for the score.
Other third downs in the first half, Enderle hits Hardy for 12*, Shaw for 14, Komar for 38*, Woolridge runs for 9 and Komar runs for 15 (* indicate a scoring drive).
Penalties: Speaking of momentum shifters, the Aggies were hit by some crucial penalties throughout the course of Saturday's game.
Three that stand out, off the top of my head: 1) End-around to Marcus Allen, Allen gets a nice gain inside the Idaho 40. Flag. Holding. Bring it back. Drive stalls. 2) First possession, third quarter, Fleming hits Todd Lee over the middle on a crossing pattern and Lee runs for the first down. Flag. Holding. Aggies forced to punt. 3) NMSU driving, late fourth, trying to tighten the score, third-and-goal from the 3. Whistle. False start. Next play, Fleming throws toward the endzone for Kyle Nelson. Interception. Ballgame.
Idaho was actually penalized for more yardage than the Aggies in the contest but it felt like the other way around. It was the timing of the NMSU flags and the plays that they negated that stood out the most.
Not enough heat: I believe one of the problems NMSU had at stopping Idaho on third downs was because of a lack of pass rush.
I said leading up to the game that the Aggies would need to pressure Enderle into making some mistakes. They didn't do it and the big quarterback made them pay by stepping up and throwing the ball downfield. NMSU needed to win the turnover battle and the way they were going to do it was by rattling Enderle. It didn't happen.
The biggest surprise for me was....: The way NMSU ran the football.
I thought the Aggies would have a field day running on the Idaho front-seven, but it really didn't happen. Sure, the Aggies topped 100 yards on the evening — 107 to be exact — but it they were all hard earned (NMSU averaged 3.2-yards per carry while Idaho averaged 5.2). It was a methodical attack and I thought we were going to see more big plays out of the ground game Saturday night.
Marquell Colston (14 carries, 54 yards) and Tonny Glynn (nine carries, 29 yards, TD) handled most of the duties while Seth Smith (four carries, 17 yards, 4.2 ypc) contributed late as well.
Jeff Fleming: I thought Fleming played OK, but the team scored just six points. Some of that burden falls on the quarterback's shoulders. He threw just one pick too, but he could have easily thrown two, maybe even three. The Idaho DBs had some drops.
Fleming did lead the team on a couple good drives in the second half that were very long, but I thought this was a combination of a few things. First off, NMSU was taking what the Idaho defense was giving them — deep drops in the secondary, offense going underneath to short and intermediate routes in the passing game. Secondly, Fleming's strong suit isn't throwing the ball deep downfield. There was one play on the team's long fourth-quarter drive where he had Marcus Anderson deep, went to him, and missed. It could have been a really big play right there.
In turn, and some of this is by design, the Aggies were forced to run a ton of short passing routes. Again, some of this is simply their system. It just makes for very long drives — a 16-play, 92-yard possession that took up 9:38 and a 17-play, 61 yarder late. It's a double-edged sword. It keeps your defense off the field and wears down the opposition. It also leaves your team with a greater chance of error — that's a ton of plays. I just think NMSU needs more big-play capability from its offense.
One thing I like about Fleming: the ability to make plays with his legs. One in particular on the 92-yard possession which ended in the team's only TD: third-and-18 from the NMSU 15, Fleming is pressured, avoids the rush, buys time, steps up into the pocket and finds Anderson over the middle of the field for a first down. Jeff can move and throw on the run which is a benefit in Timm Rosenbach's system.
Defensive secondary: DeWayne Walker's defense demands that his corners play straight-up, man-to-man coverage on the outside.
I didn't think the Aggie corners played particularly well on Saturday evening, particularly Chris Buckner who got beat a handful of times for big gains.
The NMSU corners will need to get better for the defense to reach its fullest potential. Sure the Aggie D played better in the second half, but Idaho threw the ball just five times. They went to the ground, even on third-down attempts.
On the flip side, Stephon Hatchett played a good game. He recovered the phantom fumble that was called back and a few plays later had an interception. Enderle just threw that ball up in the air but, still, it was a turnover. Considering where those plays occurred in the game — NMSU down 7-0, looking for a lift — they were big in context.
Marcus Anderson: He played and I didn't see anything to indicate that he was hurting badly. The team even put him back on punt returns in the second half.
NMSU needs to get Anderson more involved. He made four grabs for 50 yards on the evening.
“I’d like to get him the ball more,” quarterback Jeff Fleming said. “He’s a big playmaker for us.”
The kicking game: Kyle Hughes looked good on punts and kickoffs. Jordan Davenport wasn't good on his one field goal or extra point attempts.
Don't be shocked to see Hughes handle both duties in the near future.