NMSU beat Prairie View A&M 21-18 on Saturday night.
I don't know how this game is going to be interpreted by fans. Some will view it as a positive no matter what, the Aggies pulled out the W. Others will say that NMSU should have won anyway and the score shouldn't have been as close as it was.
The bottom line is that the Aggies came away on top and that's what I'm going to remember about the contest. Sure, Prairie View came back and made a game out of it late, rallying from a 21-3 deficit. And the Panthers are a I-AA team. But what if the Aggies lost? I knew going into this game that NMSU would have its hands full. They lost to Idaho last weekend at home! I was happy to see the team get the win. It wasn't a gimme going into the evening and anyone who was at the season opener last weekend, I would hope, would agree.
NMSU is 1-1 on the year. There is no room to apologize for the victory. The Aggies got the win, they will take the win and they will move on. As they should.
One positive I saw in Saturday's game was that the team improved in just about every phase of the game I thought they needed to.
They generated a pretty good pass rush and the defensive line was active. NMSU finished with three sacks and the D-linemen batted down some balls at the line of scrimmage. Defensive lineman Donte Savage was particularly effective.
Both Vincent Federico and John Finau didn't play in the second half, sidelined with concussion problems.
“That's something we didn't get last week and that's a nice starting point for us,” coach DeWayne Walker said of the pass rush.
The Aggies ran the ball well. Seth Smith had a big effort and Marquell Colston was a good compliment. The team ran for 304 yards.
“He's a guy that has always kind of been my secret weapon,” Walker said of Smith. “From spring ball to training camp, he's always been a guy that, once he got the opportunity, I knew he was going to make the most out of it. I'm not surprised.”
Jeff Fleming had 59 yards rushing and two touchdown runs.
Walker was pleased with the ground game as a whole.
“We want to run the ball, that's who we are. Seth did a great job,” Walker said. “Jeff — he scared me to death, I don't want to lose my quarterback — but he did a great job and got us some first downs with his legs. That's who we are.”
I thought Jonte Green played well at times.
Some areas that concerned me were in order.
The passing game didn't look good. Fleming wasn't crisp and missed some receivers downfield.
“The passing just wasn't there this week,” Fleming said. “I was struggling a little bit out there. Luckily our run game came through big for us and the offensive line got a great push.”
Davon House had trouble with wide receiver Gabe Osaze-Ediae. The stats didn't show it but House wiggled out of a few jams out there.
The team still struggled to stop the run.
The team also had problems containing quarterback K.J. Black, who came in in a relief role for the Panthers and made some things happen, almost bringing the team all the way back.
Black led Prairie View on two scoring drives down the stretch and caused problems both with his passing and with his legs.
“The quarterback they brought in, he's a heck of a football player,” Walker said. “I'm glad they didn't start him to be honest with you. He changed the momentum of the game. Quick throws, a big guy who can get out of the pocket and run. He was able to make plays for them.”
The Panthers gave the Aggies particular trouble with their no-huddle attack.
“The difference was the hurry-up,” Savage said. “They took advantage of it and the defense didn’t see it coming. We have to find a way to stop it.”
Smith's game was impressive.
The coaching staff liked Smith throughout camp and said this week he would be a bigger part of the offense against the Panthers.
Last year, Smith didn't take the field because of grade issues. He returned to the team during spring ball.
“I can't even explain how tough it was,” Smith said. “I went through a lot. Not playing, missing the game. Thinking about the opportunity. It was above and beyond.”
Stephon Hatchett gave the game ball to Walker who handed it over the offensive lineman Joe Suder, who lost his mother to breast cancer.
“We dedicated the game to him,” Walker said. “I gave my first win to him.”
Walker wasn't doing cartwheels after winning his first game as a college head coach.
“Not really,” Walker said when asked if there was any extra emotion after getting his first win. “I don't want that to sound like I don't appreciate it because I do. But I'd like to win more than one game.”
Good quote from Savage.
“This year we’re more of a team,” Savage said. “Everyone gets along with everyone in the locker room. It’s fun now.”