Saturday, September 5, 2009

Thoughts on the game

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.


Anonymous said...

Although I really liked the effort in the 2nd half, the first half was out demise.
UGLY FB and spotting a team 21, makes it UGLY all around!!

They need to get better quickly and have kicking tryouts because that kicker isn't getting it done.

What's the deal with the sprinklers going off in the family and A lots at 3:00?!!

Anonymous said...

NMSU gave up to many big plays. To say Idaho looked good is false, but you take away those 3 big plays that lead to Idaho's 3 tds. Idaho didn't do anything. NMSU offense just needs to cut on the mistakes when we get inside the red-zone, and the defense needs to do a better job on 3rd. If we correct all that. We are going to be a good football team. I am pretty sure the short passing game if part of the offense Teddy. That is a stupid comment to say we were taking what they were giving us. False dude.

Teddy said...

I said it was part of the Aggie system my man.

Read, re-read.

Teddy said...

Oh, and yes, they were dinking and dunking Idaho to death.

Anonymous said...

The reality is that NM State needs to drop to the FCS. Idaho is as easy as it gets in the FBS. I don't see much hope for the Aggies ever having a competitive team.

Anonymous said...

I wish folks would quit leaving comments that NMSU should drop to 1-AA or D-II in Football. Please understand that if you do that then the WAC Conference will drop the AGGIES IN ALL SPORTS ! No decent D-1 Conference wants a member who does not play football.

Anonymous said...

Well, then NM State should go to a conference with I-AA football. NM State does not belong with the big boys. You need a reality check. They have to beg people to attend games and just barely make the attendance requirements. It's a joke.

Anonymous said...

Watching the game via 21st century technology back in Ohio, I have a couple observations (Go ahead and bash my Buckeyes for inching out a victory over Navy!). This was my first WAC experience. Neither team is very good. A good D2 school would beat both teams. NMSU needs to go down the field more. The only way they look to have a chance this year is with the big play. Good luck against Praire View (never heard of them, sounds like my son's middle school). Hey, if Navy can go down the field (make the big play), I am sure NMSU can. By the way, you guys have a nice looking stadium.

Anonymous said...

anon why don't you drop off the blog. Way too early to panic this Walker is the right man for the job. It was the first game for a new staff a new QB a new D system. I will say I thought Jonta Green did not have a great game. We need some solid help opposite of D house.

Anonymous said...

Someone should ask Boston why in the world did they agree to start wiht a conference game. With a new coach coming in, why not start with PV A&M, get a win and then move on? You know a new coach with a new system would take time to get rolling. Boston didn't do "his guy" any favors with that decision. We're not only 0-1, where 0-1 in WAC play.

I just hope everyone will keep the enthusiasm and back this team through what will be a long year.

Go Aggies.

Anonymous said...

Supposedly Hal Mumme was the man for the job NM State had the chance to hire Houston McNutt a few years back and they snubbed him. McNutt probably would have only stayed a few seasons and then moved on, but at least he would have built a solid foundation to start with. People in Las Cruces seem to have an inferiority complex and it also seems to make them feel good to snub the best, obvious choice.

I agree with the person that stated a really good Div. II team could beat NM State or Idaho.

Anonymous said...

The 1st half looked liked last years team. Wide eyed and confused, typical Hal Dumme team.

The team did a 180 in the 2nd half. It moved the ball, controlled the clock, played good defense and with a sense of urgency.

If the team can play like the seconf half (minus the turnovers and penalties), we should be in a few ball game.

All I can say if the 1st half was the worst FB this year, we should be in decent shape the rest of the way.

chilero said...

Agree with the last poster - that if the first half is as bad as it gets (save OSU and BSU games), then we'll be fine.

I find it interesting that the only positive note in Feinberg's comments was our qb's mobility.

Although all the observations are accurate, Feinberg leaves out some very encouraging aspects like the fact that our defense tackled well and swarmed to the ball in the second half - something not seen all last season. And the effort was tremendous -particularly on the defensive line in the second half where they were outweighed by 80 pounds on the left side alone! Stopping a very potent Vandal run game in the second half and showing some offensive rhythm and balance in just the first game with a new qb are all just as noteworthy as the negatives.

People forget that we're not only dealing with building on an abysmal team aside from some good passing last year. And, oh by the way, two of our top receivers, qb and back up qb all are gone this year. With a new coach, a new system and new players in key skill positions, doesn't it make sense that the game plan was pretty simple offensively? We'll build next week and in the weeks to come and go more vertical, I'm sure.

We have a long road to go to get to respectability. And we've already taken some big steps to get there. There are positives.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the last poster. I thought the team look decent in the second half. They controlled the clock and moved the ball. They did turn it over, which killed a potential rally. The one thing this team did that it would have never done in the past, is keep fighting in the second half. How many times did a Mumme team get down big and just fold? There is fight in these guys and this coaching staff. Even the players were excited to see that the coaching staff drew up adjustments at half time, and they worked! With a program as bad as OURS, its very encouraging. Coach Walker is doing a GREAT job. This will be a long season with a lot of losses, but the future is brighter than it has been in a long time. Please get out and support our Aggies. I even think that the 15,000 or so fans that showed up on Saturday did a good job of staying for most of the game. Please Las Cruces, and Aggie fans, get behind this team. With time, and the current coaching staff, you will see big things. Go Aggies!