Saturday, October 31, 2009

A look back at Ohio State

The Aggies went to Ohio State and were beaten soundly by the Buckeyes.

Most has been covered already in my game story and column.

The Aggies didn't do anything offensively, although the team was respectable on defense. The score was 0-0 after the first quarter, forcing an Ohio State missed field goal and a punt. But when the offense doesn't get a first down, a defensive effort like that isn't sustainable.

Piling on the offense isn't the best method in the world, but at this point in the season it will continuously be pointed out. Sure, the team hasn't done much in its last three outings — the Aggies haven't scored an offensive touchdown in 13 quarters and just six offensive points in that span. And when you look at the entire year, the unit hasn't really done much of anything.

Against Idaho, the team scored just six points although actually threw for 235 yards. Looking back at that passing performance, it actually was a strong one for a team that has been in a major slump.

They had a good first half against Prairie View when Seth Smith ran wild. They were timely in the win at UNM — who can forget the game-winning drive in that game, as well as some good first-half possessions against the Lobos when the team moved the ball deep into enemy territory. Against Utah State at home? Really, nothing. Marcus Anderson had a lot to do with 10 of the team's points in that game with a stellar effort in the return game. The team needs to finish the season better offensively.

On defense, the Aggies are playing respectable. It's funny because the team has changed so much since the last few years. Now, the defense is the strength and the offense hasn't been able to do the job. I do think it's better to be consistent on defense and have to piece together an offensive gameplan. It seems like you can scrap out some more wins with a philosophy like that.


Walker was direct about his feelings following Saturday's loss.

“I felt like our defense came into this game early and really challenged (Ohio State),” he said. “I felt like if we could have generated any offense early in the game, I'm not going to say we would have won the game, but I think we would have made it a little bit more interesting throughout the game.”

On the team's gameplan against Terrelle Pryor.

“We knew we had to cage him up and I was still going ballistic because there were a couple times he got out on us,” he said. “It was wishful thinking to think we could keep him contained the whole game. I thought our gameplan was pretty good. I just wish we executed a little better and gotten some help from the other team areas — special teams and offense.”

While the team fought on defense, it should be noted that Davon House dropped two first-half interceptions in the game that could have swung momentum.

Special teams has tapered off a bit since the game against Utah State which saw Anderson and Hughes carry the team to victory. Hughes' punting numbers have been good, although his performance has seemed inconsistent, with him getting off some bombs here and there and getting some flubbers off as well.

Donyae Coleman returned kicks on Saturday, getting one out to the 30 and his other two getting brought down inside the 20.

Ohio State's onside kick in the second quarter caught the Aggies by surprise.

“It did,” Walker said. “I think it's a teachable moment for our special teams coach. It's something that he (worked on) this week.”

OSU went on to score their second touchdown of the game on the ensuing drive, making a 0-0 game into a 14-0 contest in the drop of a hat.


The team started Jeff Fleming at quarterback over Trevor Walls. Neither quarterback did much, although Fleming did create some things with his legs when protection broke down. Walls' scenario was tough, coming on in the second half, cold from sitting on the bench.

“We just knew he could get himself out of trouble,” Walker said of starting Fleming. “He's more athletic, he's more mobile. (The Ohio State defensive line), they're pretty athletic and mobile too. We just felt like Jeff could get himself out of trouble more so than Trevor.”

Walls was diplomatic.

“Whenever coach thought it was right was when I came in,” Walls said. “It didn't go too hot for me. But that's just the way it goes.”

Walls did lose a fumble in the third quarter that was recovered by the Ohio State defense in the Aggie endzone for a touchdown. He finished 0-for-2 on the afternoon.

Fleming went 6-of-13 for 22 yards and an interception. He gained 31 yards on the ground on seven carries.

As far as getting into a game at The Horseshoe, it was exciting. Walls, a Waverly, Ohio native, said there were about 200 fans from his hometown attending the game.

“It was a dream come true for me,” Walls said. “I always watched them play, grew up a Buckeyes fan. Just a dream come true to play in this stadium.”

Walls wasn't the only Aggie fired up to play at Ohio State.

“Ohio State was my dream school out of high school,” linebacker Ross Conner said. “I made it to The Shoe.”


I believe the team is still headed in the right direction under Walker. OSU simply overpowered the Aggies.

Yes, the offensive issues are concerning. You would figure the team would have walked into some points over the last three weeks. But they really haven't gotten anything going.

This is a long rebuilding project. And I think the team will still get another win this season. Four wins isn't bad for the 2009 Aggies. It's more than what many predicted.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A time for reflection

I picked up a Sports Illustrated from the beginning of the year. It was the college football preview edition. I flipped to the WAC.

Where was New Mexico State? At the bottom of the barrel. The magazine predicted them to finish 1-11 overall (with that one win coming over Prairie View it would seem), 0-8 in conference.

Phil Steele predicted NMSU to finish last overall.

OK, this isn't meant to bash either publication because I love both. The point is that it needs to be pointed out that, yes, the Aggies have been playing better than people expected, at least from a record standpoint. The team has three wins! And they'll get one more this year, mark it down. I said at the beginning of the year that this team would pocket four wins overall. No need to change that. Four wins! That's more than they got last year and they had a ton of more talent last season.

And I spoke to some diehard Aggie fans at the beginning of the season. The vast majority were split into two camps. Some said the team would win zero, maybe one game. Some said the team would win six to eight. Whoever said six to eight is just a blind fan. They just throw gaudy numbers up there because they feel it's their duty to be unrealistically optimistic.

Four was a challenge, yet a good measuring stick. If they got four, they were on the right track and there would be reason to believe. So far, I still think the team has exceeded expectations, even with the last two losses being straight-up bad.

It's our nature to look at every contest with a microscope and get caught up in this detail and that detail and break down what the team ran on third-and-three from their own 33 down 10-3 in the fourth quarter. You know, that's what makes all this fun. You get lost in it.

But at the end of the year, look at where the team is. And then look at what was expected of the team four or five months prior. A lot of people thought this team would muster just a single win - if they were lucky. Well, they've done better than that. And there's still five games remaining on the schedule. upgrade: You know, people can talk all they want about the season and what they think needs to be better and what isn't very good and what has been nice in the wins. But nobody can deny this: The defense has been a whole lot better from past years. If you play well in all three phases of a football game - offense, defense and special teams - you have a chance to win games. You can even get outplayed in certain aspects of a game, but if you're steady in all three phases, you still can win. We saw it when NMSU played Utah State this year.

The Aggies have been better in this area, as broad as it may be. They have played more together and the games they won - well, the UNM and Utah State games - they saw contributions from all three phases.

The defense, it's been so much better. And they don't really have a ton of talent. They have some nice pieces, sure, but do they have a flat-out stud? I don't think so. But they play as a team, they play with a passion and they fight. They've overachieved! And I mean that as a compliment. This defense has gotten more out of its pieces than many expected. And again, the team will win one more game this year. And the defense will have a lot to do with it.

Offense hasn't progressed: This has been discouraging to this point. The offense hasn't really progressed and one would think the unit would have at least gotten better by this point of the year. One could make the argument they have in fact gotten worse.

Walker said on Tuesday that the team will almost certainly not play Tanner Rust this year. Those waiting for or believing that he will get a shot, don't hold your breath. And really, what would happen if this kid got in this year? Would it make a difference? If you were living in a fairy tale, yes, but a realist would have to say a true freshman stepping into a situation like this wouldn't turn things around. Unless of course he was Superman.

Has it been all the quarterbacks' fault on offense? I don't think so. I really think the team has failed to go downfield more often. I really think Walls would be an effective downfield thrower if given time. If there was one thing I would like to see change from an offensive perspective, it would be that. How many 20-yard-plus passing plays has the team recorded this year? Off the top of my head, I'd say five. And I think that may be generous. It just isn't enough. Please open it up more.

No one can take away the season Seth Smith has had on the ground. I am worried about his workload and the physical pounding he has taken though. The kid just runs hard and into contact. And everyone in the building knows he's getting the ball. Tough way to make a living on that one. We'll see how he holds up, and also how he holds up next season. Sometimes those things catch up to you further down the road than one would expect.

Hey, lets see how the offense grows the last four WAC games of the year. It will be a crucial evaluation period for everyone. I wasn't expecting the team to average 30 points a game. I was expecting the team to be effective in their own way on offense and improve. So far, that hasn't been the case.

Monday, October 26, 2009

A look back

Well, Saturday night's game wasn't a lot of fun for Aggie fans.

The bottom line is that Fresno State is a better football team with more talent than the Aggies have right now. It's pretty simple.

Still, early on it felt like the Aggies might make a game out of it. They went up 3-0. The, on the next possession, Pierre Fils sacks Fresno quarterback Ryan Colburn, who fumbled the ball only to see Chris Romero fall on it. Could it be another Aggie upset?

The offense got the ball at the 25 but couldn't do anything with it. And Kyle Hughes missed a field goal.

In the second quarter, the Bulldogs had a long drive that went deep into NMSU territory. Colburn threw a pick, however, to NMSU cornerback Davon House. Huge play again. And NMSU was still up 3-0.

Two plays later, Trevor Walls gave it right back, throwing a pick that was returned 17 yards for a touchdown.

Those were two devastating sequences. And it's deflating for a defense as well. The unit was fighting hard and made some plays. Against a good Fresno State team with a powerful offense. It's a tough situation.


So what can the Aggies do from here on offense? And what's the problem exactly?

Lets start with the second part of the question. I hate to blame the problem on an overall lack of talent or players not fitting into a system properly. Why? Look at the defense. This is a unit that was torn up the last four years but has been better this season. I don't know if the Aggie offense should be putting up 30 points every time out, but surely the team can do better than this. They haven't scored an offensive touchdown in two games! Clearly one needs to wait before truly evaluating the the whole picture. But, so far, it hasn't been pretty.

Quarterback has been an issue all season. And it will ground an offense when their is bad play at this position. People can say what they want about Walls and I have been on his bandwagon this year. But he wasn't doing much when he has been in there. And that interception, it was a critical play. I was expecting to see Fleming.

The reality is that Fleming didn't do much better. He made some plays with his legs early, but Fresno State adjusted and stopped him cold the rest of the way.

Do the Aggies really turn to Tanner Rust? I don't think they should. First off, in spring ball, Rust didn't look ready to me. Throwing him into the fire, making a change just for the sake of change, doesn't make sense. I'd hold onto the redshirt this year.

If NMSU wants to win another game this season, the passing attack needs to be some sort of a threat. 45 yards passing last week. That's it. And there's only so many brick walls Seth Smith can run into before getting hurt. He said following the game that his body felt fine, but he's a physical runner that's taken some shots. And, without the passing game scaring anyone, the Aggie offense is predictable: they're going to give it to Smith. That's tough.

I'll say it again, the Aggies need to throw the ball farther downfield, especially when Walls is in there. That would loosen things up a little, even the the ball fell incomplete.

Saturday, October 24, 2009


This will be a tough ballgame for NMSU.

Fresno State is loaded with talent and is always a sound team.

Fresno wins this one 30-10.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

5 Keys vs. Fresno State

Here are my five keys as the Aggies get ready to host Fresno State on Saturday night....

1) Fresno State running back Ryan Mathews: You cannot talk about Mathews enough, the nation's leading rusher with 974 yards on the ground. He can do it all — Mathews runs with speed and power and can rumble in between the tackles as well as burst into the open field. The Aggie defense has faced good running backs throughout the season, coming back with mixed results. The team has given up 186.3 yards per game on the ground this season. Last week, the team was flat-out bad against Louisiana Tech, giving up 315 rushing yards on 56 carries. Overall, the Aggie defense gave up 540 yards to La. Tech. A similar performance against Fresno State this weekend, and Mathews will have a field day.

2) Fresno State wide receiver Seyi Ajirotutu: Mathews garners the headlines, but this Bulldogs' wide receiver has considerable talent. At 6-foot-4, 210 pounds, Ajirotutu is big and athletic. With his 21 catches for 292 yards and two touchdowns, he can break the game open on his own. And he has compliments lining up next to him. Fellow wideout Devon Wylie leads the team with four receiving touchdowns while three of Marlon Moore's seven catches have gone for TDs. Moore averages 21.3 yards per reception. Yikes.

3) Aggie ball control: Last week against Louisiana Tech, the Aggies recorded 142 total yards and six first downs. For those non-football fans out there, that's not good. Well, there's no time to mope, especially with the high-octane Fresno State Bulldogs coming to town. NMSU ranks dead last in the NCAA with 250.14 yards per game, yet, outside of last week, have done a good job controlling the clock. The Aggies need to do a better job this weekend and win time of possession. At the very least, a successful approach will keep the Bulldogs offense on the sidelines. And, NMSU might get some points along the way.

4) Special teams: With a punchless offensive attack, the Aggies need to flourish in this category week-in and week-out. Kyle Hughes needs to punt well and cash in on field goal attempts when the opportunity presents itself. Marcus Anderson and Tonny Glynn need to establish good field position for the Aggies on punt and kickoff returns, respectively. And, NMSU cannot allow Fresno State to capitalize on the Bulldogs' strong special teams units as well. FSU kick returner A.J. Jefferson is one of the best in the business, while the team has gotten strong years from punter Ryan Malone and field goal kicker Kevin Goessling. The Aggies will fight fire with fire in this one.

5) Breaking the curse: The Aggies are 0-15 lifetime against the Bulldogs and Fresno State is 8-0 in Las Cruces. Fresno State head coach Pat Hill holds a career 4-0 record against the Aggies. In actuality, past Aggie teams have matched up well with the Bulldogs, as the last three meetings between the two teams have been decided by seven points or less. How will the Aggies fare this year? The team has surprised at various points this season. Saturday's game will be a tall order.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Aggie football press conference quotes

DeWayne Walker, Aggie head coach
On team's attitude following Louisiana Tech game
I think the guys were very disappointed, embarrassed to a certain degree. I know we’ve raised the expectations. You’re 3-3 and 1-1 and you’re looking good, facing La. Tech. You want to see how you’re gonna fare against one of the better teams and we didn’t get it done. (The coaches) spent a lot of time on Sunday trying to figure out what happened. I’ve been in games like that before. It seems like every year I’m involved in a game like that defensively. It’s part of the deal. This is something we’ll have to overcome and deal with. When you’re trying to build a program and doing things right, I think you feel bad about it. But you’ve got to go back to work and have a better showing next week.

Did he take anything away from the film
I’ve been on teams where you get your butt kicked like that and you don’t even watch the tape. You just move on to the next team. We’re not at that level yet. We watched the tape and on both sides of the ball there were some glaring things that were very disappointing. We just have to man up and correct it and get ready for a good Fresno State team.

Any changes to the lineup?
At this stage of it, no. We haven’t really identified any lineup changes. Some things could occur throughout the week, obviously. But at this stage, it’s just business as usual.

On team’s Sunday strength and conditioning workout
They were just lifting and running. I know after we beat Utah State, I felt like we were a little beat up and I did give them that Sunday off. After a loss like (Louisiana Tech), no days off. We came back and our strength coach is very happy with how they worked.

On approaching Fresno State’s offense after the Aggies’ defensive performance last Saturday
It’s always a challenge. BYU put up 59 on us last year when I was at UCLA. I’m used to having to fight back from a game like that. I’ve experienced it at least once or twice a season. You figure 13 games, if you give up that amount of points once or twice, it’s not the end of the world. Definitely, we don’t want to give up that much this week and (Fresno State’s) capable of doing it, no doubt about it.

On Fresno State running back Ryan Matthews
He’s a heck of a player. When I was at UCLA, he ended up getting hurt in the game. But, I’ll tell you what, he gave us headaches when we played against him. He’s a guy we definitely respect. He’s an NFL-type player. We’re gonna have our hands full trying to contain him.

On stressing ball control
That’s something we didn’t do a good job of this past week. We’ve got to. Playing a potent offense like this, we’re going to stress keeping (the defense) off the field as much as possible. Offensively, we’ve got to do a better job, even if it’s not scoring points, of keeping (the defense) off the field as much as possible. Because (Fresno State) doesn’t have just one running back, they have three running backs. They don’t have just one receiver, they have three receivers. Coach Hill’s done a great job putting together a pretty good looking football team.

On it being homecoming and is their pressure?
I think you have to look at it that way because you’re going to have a lot of people coming back and it’s gonna be on TV. We don’t want to embarrass ourselves and the university. I think the players, they’re embarrassed enough and they know what’s at stake this week. I think they’ll have a different approach getting ready for this game.

Is the preparation any different for a late start
Our Friday schedule we’ll probably keep it the same. We’ll probably let them get a little more sleep Saturday morning. It changes a little bit because you let them hang around the hotel the whole day. We’ll try to kick some things back a little bit so they’re not sitting around all day.

Trevor Walls, Aggie quarterback
On offenses performance against La. Tech
We didn’t get the job done across the board. We came out lackadaisical. The opening play, we jumped offsides. That’s not the way we want to start a game. Warm ups were bad. It was just a pretty bad day.

Was he surprised about getting benched for the second half
No. Obviously I wasn’t getting the job done and we needed a change. Bringing Jeff in, you gotta do what you gotta do.

What did coach tell you after the game?
He said to keep my head up. We got another week and it’s not the end of the world. We gotta keep fighting, keep getting better.

On strategy this week against Fresno State
I haven’t really talked about it yet with coach. I’ve just been watching film of Fresno State, watching their defense. I’m not sure what exactly the gameplan is just yet.

What is the Fresno State defense all about?
They disguise coverages pretty well. They move around a lot. They seem to bring more pressure than La. Tech did. But it’s the same type of defense, basically.

Do they play a lot of man coverage?
They play some. They mix it up pretty well.

On pressure of playing on homecoming
I don’t think about it much. I try to approach it like it’s any other game. Of course it’s a big game. It’s Fresno State, they’re gonna be a great opponent.

On back-and-fort nature of Aggies, with win-loss, win-loss pattern
I hope it continues for this week and then we change it for the week after.

Being on national TV doesn’t mean anything to him?
Not really. I try not to focus on it.

On finding an offensive rhythm
I just try to focus on what coach is calling and why he’s calling it. He’s calling it for a reason. Take it play by play.

Mike Grady, offensive lineman
Performance of offensive line against Louisiana Tech
Not good. We couldn’t seem to get a rhythm going and get things moving in the right direction. We had a lot of mental errors and a lot of missed assignments. All together, not good.

How much of it was their defense?
They had a good and talented defense. But it wasn’t anything we couldn’t handle. We gotta get our stuff together.

On bouncing back from contest
Like coach was saying, we’ve gotta start over. We’ve got six more games. We need to find a rhythm and get rolling. Can’t think about last week. We gotta move on.

Incentive for playing well on national television
It should be the same no matter where we’re playing, who we’re playing, what it’s for. We need to go out there and execute, know what we have to do and get a ‘W.’

On Fresno State
They’re a good defense. They’re a lot like La. Tech’s. Almost exactly the same. They move around real good. They’re fast. Good speed and good size.

On controlling the ball and the clock
It seems like every week we go in it’s going to be on the O-line. If we don’t start it, it’s going to be hard to win games. We gotta have a good week of practice, execute and control the ball.

Alphonso Powell, safety
Importance of scoring defensive touchdown last week
The defense likes to get plays, always. I wouldn’t say it made the score look better. But it made it show that we were still fighting.

On Fresno’s offense
They’ll be a good offense. Physical, just like La. Tech. We just gotta execute this time. When we played La. Tech, we didn’t make the plays. We gotta execute this time and be ready.

On running back Ryan Matthews
He’s real good. He’s shifty, he’s explosive. We gotta make sure we cage him in and tackle him.

On creating turnovers
Takeaways are going to be real important. The game is going to be about ball control. Whoever has the ball the most usually does well on offense. If we can get off the field and keep our offense on the field, we’ll do good. Hopefully, we can get some takeaways this week.

On Fresno State’s offensive personnel
They have a lot of weapons. We’ve gotta make sure we prepare for all of them.

On the remainder of season and bouncing back from La. Tech loss
It was a tough loss. There’s more games to be played in the season. We gotta worry about this next game. It’s our most important game. We put away the film and now we’re looking toward Fresno. We gotta keep going and get on with our season.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Reflecting on Saturday's game

Well, I don't have to say much about Saturday's Aggie game against Louisiana Tech. Simply put, NMSU got hammered. That's it really.

The team seemed to play poorly in all areas. La. Tech steamrolled them right from the get-go.

Does this game define the Aggies' season. Absolutely not. Any way you slice it, the team has surprised many at 3-4. There schedule gets harder. Fresno State comes to town this weekend, we won't even talk about the Ohio State game. NMSU also hosts Nevada, travels to Hawaii and San Jose State and finishes up at Boise State.

How the club responds will say a lot though. They're home for Fresno and Nevada. Being competitive in those games would help. Stealing one of them would be a major plus, although something which I believe is possible. Hawaii will forever be a difficult road trip, even if the Warriors seem vulnerable. And San Jose State is a winnable game, albeit, on the road as well.

Don't judge the Aggies entirely on their game at Louisiana Tech. See what they have in store for the remainder of the schedule. I'm not suggesting the team will win many of their remaining games. But hopefully they'll bounce back from their most recent loss and play tough football down the stretch.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Prediction, prediction, prediction

This football game is a tough one for me to call.

My gut is telling me NMSU wins this one while my head it telling me that La. Tech comes out on top.

Screw it, I'm going with NMSU is another 20-17 victory. Lets face it folks, this is going to be a close football game. And I just have a feeling about the Aggies.

The defense plays well again and La. Tech and NMSU play the same style of football. So I think it'll be a close one no matter what.

And lets face it. The Aggies have experience in contests that go down to the wire.

Enjoy this one....

Friday, October 16, 2009

Midseason reports card

A poster on my last entry (Chilero) asked if I would do a midseason report card for the team.

Here are my grades for the Aggies at the midway point of the year

Quarterbacks: The passing game's struggles have been well documented this season and, fair or not, a lot of this falls on the QBs shoulders. Both quarterbacks — Jeff Fleming and Trevor Walls — have been up and down. Hands down the best game of the year for this unit was at New Mexico. Walls led the team to 13 first-half points and Fleming came in when the offense sputtered down the stretch and ended up throwing the winning touchdown pass with under a minuted remaining. On the other hand, three of the team's six games this year, the Aggies have failed to throw for 100 yards. That's not good at all. I would like to add that both players have been good soldiers being swapped in and out of the lineup and the team is 3-3. So they get some extra credit in that respect.
Grade: D

Running backs: This group, and a lot of Seth Smith, has carried the offense thus far. Smith has been a battering ram out of the backfield, something the team desperately needed. His steady style has allowed the team to hold onto the football and eat up the clock. Marquell Colston was having a decent year as a backup until this past week. Tonny Glynn has been under-utilized, although it seems like he'll get his chance now. I was expecting more big plays out of the backfield. Although the group has been solid none-the-less.
Grade: B+

Offensive line: I think this has been the most underappreciated and most steady aspect of the offense to this point. Walls wasn't sacked last week, something that was overlooked. Opposing defenses also know that the Aggies are going to look to run early and often, yet the team has been able to stick to its gameplan as the line continues to hold up. There have also been injuries — tackle David Norman missed some time and starters from last year, Kyle Smith and Patrick Blount, haven't played this season. That, and the unit went from pass blocking every play to a more physical style this season. Gotta give credit to the boys up front.
Grade: A

Wide receivers: This group needs to share responsibility with the quarterbacks for the poor passing attack. Todd Lee has had a nice year. Marcus Anderson has had a good year as well, but much of that has been because of his performance on special teams and his clutch catch against UNM. Lee, Marcus Allen and Anderson lead the team with 16, 15 and 13 catches, respectively. Tight end Kyle Smith has a touchdown catch but, besides that, has been invisible. Donyae Coleman and Williams Bullock continue to try and find their niche.
Grade: C-

Defensive line: I really think this group has overperformed this season. Week 1 against Idaho, I was concerned, as little pressure was generated and the Vandals did what they wanted in the ground game. Now, the unit is playing much better, despite using the same two defensive ends for most of the season — Pierre Fils and Donte Savage — and rotating bodies at defensive tackle. Fils and Savage have five and four sacks, respectively, this year. Tackles Kawika Shook and Chris Romero have one apiece. This unit has held up and deserves credit.
Grade: B

Linebackers: What did we say at the beginning of the year? The top four on this unit need to stay healthy for it to be effective and, so far so good. Middle linebacker Jason Scott leads the team with 47 tackles and strong side backer Ross Conner is right behind him with 46. Again, this unit has gotten better as the season has gone on, particularly Scott who racked up 14 tackles and broke up a pass last weekend against Utah State. The team continues to rotate Sam King and Jamar Cotton on the other side, with Cotton getting the start this week. Coach DeWayne Walker said on Thursday that the hot guy will continue to get the majority of playing time at that position. It should be mentioned that King, in a reserve role, recovered a fumble on special teams against Utah State. Still, depth remains a concern here.
Grade: B+

Secondary: Overall, this group has been good as well. Really, their worst performance of the year came against Idaho, when Nathan Enderle dropped back and tore them apart through the air. Things have gotten better though and I've been impressed by the units ability to tackle. Davon House leads the team with 23 solo stops and last week safety Alphonso Powell had 12 takedowns. Jonte Green seems to be getting better. Stephon Hatchett had a good start to the season. He'll be someone to keep an eye on down the stretch.
Grade: B

Special teams: This unit has been huge this year with the remains of last weekend's win still fresh in the minds of many. Kyle Hughes has been Mr. Everything to the kicking game but has done it well. As of now, his range has been between 40-to-45 yards on field goals. The kid can handle kickoffs and can flat-out punt the ball when he's on. Big year for him. Marcus Anderson wasn't spectacular on punt returns until last week against Utah State, but he blew up in that one. Without him, the Aggies score 10 points and lose. Tonny Glynn has also been good on kickoff returns for the team. Look out for Donyae Coleman in the second half of the season, as he could get worked into the return game more often.
Grade: B+

Coaching: This Aggie team has bounced back behind head coach DeWayne Walker. I don't know how talented the group is but they play hard and seem to overachieve. That's not a knock, it's actually a compliment. The whole seems to equal more than the sum of its parts and that's a direct credit to the coaches and players alike. The defense is completely better under Walker and the assistance coaching staff's guidance. Special teams has been a strength of the Aggies this year — without them they don't beat New Mexico or Utah State. Again, the offensive line has turned it around and the running backs have adjusted to a much different system. This team has done better than most people thought and believes in the system. Great job here.
Grade: A

First half MVP: I gotta give it to Seth Smith, who has been a workhorse for the team this year. The Aggies are 3-2 since he's been inserted into the starting lineup and he fits into what the team wants to do on offense — pound the ball, pound the ball, pound the ball. He's physical and tough. His 2- and 3-yard runs add up at the end of the game and he can break loose occasionally too. Also in the mix are Dwayne Barton (LT), Joe Palmer (LG), Mike Grady (C), Seioli Fakalata (RG), David Norman (LT) and Joe Suder (backup), offensive lineman that have contributed to this year's team. They deserve a big piece of the MVP pie.

Best kept secret: The team's remained injury free, for the most part. That has been huge. I think just about everyone thought that if the Aggies weren't bit hard by the injury bug this season, they would be competitive. So far, that's been just about true. Hopefully, the Aggies can hold up for the remainder of the season.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

5 keys vs. Louisiana Tech

Here are my five keys to the game, as the Aggies prepare to meet Louisiana Tech

1) Health of Tech's playmakers: Two players — Daniel Porter (hamstring) and Phillip Livas (toe) — have been banged up with injuries. Porter has been the Bulldogs best running back the past two years while Livas, a wide reveiver/return man might only make one or two big plays a game, but they generally impact the outcome. If Porter can't go, the Bulldogs will go with a handful of running backs — Myke Compton, Tyrone Duplessis and D.J. Morrow. Expect both Porter and Livas to play, but keep an eye on both as well. Even at less than 100 percent, this could certainly effect the ballgame.

2) The passing attacks: Both teams have had sputtering passing games this season. While many on this board know about the Aggies' struggles, Louisiana Tech has also had their share of problems. Ross Jenkins is the starter and that doesn't appear to be in jeopardy simply because his backups aren't ready to assume fulltime responsibilities. While many focus on the quarterback when a team elects to go to the air, don't overlook the receivers either. Both units need to get separation down field and in a timely manner. Does one team have to deliver in the air? Not necessarily. But it would certainly aid either squad if a few big plays in the passing game come through.

3) Aggie rushing attack: This has been consistent all season long for the Aggies and it needs to continue this week. If NMSU is able to run the ball at a steady clip, they will be in the game. If La. Tech stops the Aggie ground game — which is sure to be a point of emphasis for the Bulldogs — trouble could ensue. The question is this: Who on the Aggies will lighten the load on Seth Smith, who has been getting the ball an awful lot this year and pounds into the defense every play? Primary backup Marquell Colston, who received 11 carries last weekend, is suspended. That leaves NMSU with a few other options in Tonny Glynn, Robert Clay and Donavan Roberts. Glynn is experienced and will likely get the first shot. The coaching staff was also impressed with Clay leading up to the season and eventually moved him to safety in hopes of getting him onto the field. Now, he returns to the backfield. Either way, the team will continue to try to bang for yardage on offense.

4) Special teams: The Aggies transformation has been radical. The last few years, they were high octane on offense and performed poorly on defense and in the kicking game. This year, it's the exact opposite. Kyle Hughes has shown tremendous ability as a punter, playing well into the team's gameplan of establishing field position. He will be back at it again against a La. Tech team that likes to do the same. Marcus Anderson remains a threat with the ball in his hands and his two big punt returns last week set up 10 critical points for the Aggies. This will be key once again, as NMSU tries to scrap together enough points against the Bulldogs.

5) Crunch time: I would be surprised if this game doesn't come down to the fourth quarter. Both teams are built for it, with run-first philosophies, tough defenses and opportunistic special teams units. So....Playing well down the stretch will be a a requirement. The Aggies have experience in this area. All three of their wins have come by three points, while their loss to San Diego State went into the fourth quarter before NMSU tailed off. They'll be on the road in what will be La. Tech's homecoming. Can't wait for this.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Aggie running back depth

In the wake of the Marquell Colston suspension, the Aggies have done some shifting at the running back position.

Tonny Glynn has been moved to No. 2 string while Robert Clay has been practicing with the third string. Clay was moved to safety, but has now been moved back to offense.

Donovan Roberts will also be in the mix.

So, the depth chart behind Seth Smith features Glynn, Clay/Colston. This is according to head coach DeWayne Walker.

Aggie press conference quotes

Trevor Walls, quarterback
On if he’s now the team’s full-time starter
I’m not really sure. You should ask coach (Timm Rosenbach) about that one.

On Louisiana Tech's defense
They look pretty fast and athletic. They’re a good overall defense. From the film I watch, they don’t watch too much pressure but I’m sure they’re going to bring it against us. Everybody else has.

On responding to people believing the team has been a surprise
I wouldn’t really categorize us as a surprise. More as, I think we should have won a couple more games this year.

On relationship with Jeff Fleming
Me and Jeff are really good friends, we hang out a lot of the time. We’ll play video games once or twice a week. We’re friends, help each other out whenever we can, off the field, on the field, whatever we need.

On win over Utah State
That was huge. Just to get a win, any way you can get a win, you gotta be happy with it. Obviously we would have liked to have more production out of the offense, but you take what you can get. If it ends up in a win, that’s what you want to get.

Sam King, linebacker
On La. Tech’s offense
Just overall, they’re a real sound team. We’ve noticed that over the last few years, that they’ve really picked it up and established themselves as a force in the WAC. Their offense, they’ve got some really, really good running backs. Probably the best we’re going to face so far this year. Our focus is going to be on playing sound football and studying up on this team and trying to contain those running backs. They have some phenominal athletes in the backfield.

On their passing game
I haven’t really studied much in the passing game but from what I’ve seen they can take shots and their quarterback does have a good arm. They’re a solid team and I don’t doubt that we’re going to have to study up on anything they throw at us.

On last two meetings with Louisiana Tech
Last year’s game was pretty frustrating. They have been close games and this year we’ve played close games. It is a nail-biting situation. We just hope we can come out victorious. That’s football, you love it. Just like last week, it came down to the wire. It makes it more exciting at the end.

On giving up 429 yards against Utah State but holding them to 17 points
They have some amazing athletes that contributed to those yards. We bent a little bit, but we didn’t break. That’s the focus. Coach talks about overcoming adversity. Somebody might be out of position on a play and something breaks. It’s how we come back together and hold. That’s where our strengths been.

On getting the ball back for the offense
We’re a team. It’s not like we don’t feel like we contributed to their success. We feel like the team is its own success. We’re just trying to focus on working hard and building our team over this year. We’ve still got a lot of games to be. We’re just trying to be the best team that New Mexico State can be.

Kyle Hughes
Had he ever kicked a game-winning field goal before?
Yeah, one time in high school. It was probably the best game I ever had, I had four field goals that game. I had four field goals that game and the last one ended up being the game-winner as time expired. That was the highlight of mine, before Saturday.

Was he nervous
No, not really. It was a 28-yard field goal. It’s a little bit longer than an extra point. It’s gotta be a gimme. Division-I football, I’ve got to make those. I’ve got faith in my blockers, faith in my line and I knew that Trevor was gonna get the hold down. Not too much to get nervous about.

Did it go right down the middle?
Honestly, I’m not sure. I just saw that it was going in and that’s when I started getting mobbed. As soon as I see it was going in, I told Trevor good job on the hold and greet my linemen.

On his punting Saturday
Punting was alright. I was kind of freaked out by all the time I had with those guys. They gave us a safe look, they were really trying to set up the return man. He was a really good returner. I had a lot of time. It started out kind of rough but I ended up getting a couple good punts off towards the end there.

On getting better as the game went on
Just working on my steps. I just started punting so mechanically, honestly, I’m still a little unsound with that. One I got going, I just focused on mechanics and started hitting the ball good.

On his practice routine
It’s definitely just more time spent on the field. I kick a little bit more than I usually do. The coaches kind of worry about my leg getting worn out over the course of the year. The work load is just a little bit more. Work on mechanics on drills. Just staying out there a little bit longer every day.

On Marcus Anderson
That was an amazing return. It really didn’t look like he had any room to return the ball. He really made something out of nothing. It was an amazing play. Marcus “big-play” Anderson. That’s what he does. He set it up. Without that, there would be no field goal.

On handling both kicking and punting duties
Being in the game, I like it a lot personally. Being in the game, it gives me more kicks. I can stay a bit warmer during the games. I can get more reps and staying loose. I really can contribute to the wins and losses.

Is there one he likes more than the other?
No, I’m starting to get comfortable punting. I’ve always liked doing the field goals. I just like doing everything, being out there.

On his kickoffs
Last year, we had a scheme where we tried to find holes in the return. Last year, we didn’t try to kick a whole lot for touchbacks, we tried to find gaps and close in on the returners. This year, they’re letting me kick. A lot of it also is coach (Gary) Uribe has a great strength and conditioning program. I gained about 10 pounds in the offseason. A lot of it muscle. Working with coach Murphy as well. I’m starting to get ahold of a couple balls.

DeWayne Walker
On special teams units
That’s an area we must win every week. That’s the reason we hired coach Murphy with his special-teams background. With the team that we have, we knew that special teams would play a key role to our football team. It’s good to see it’s paying some dividends for us.

On Louisiana Tech running back Daniel Porter
Very good player. I know he pulled his hamstring a little bit against Reno but we’ll find out his status. He’s an exceptional football player.

On Louisiana Tech wide receiver/return man Phillip Livas
Again, explosive. he’s a little guy that can make plays, obviously as a return man but he can make plays on the fly-sweeps and screens. All those plays to get him out into space. He’s the kind of player they rely on to make explosive plays.

On their style
I think we’re very similar. As a defensive head coach, he’s structured his football team the same way we’re trying to structure our football team. He’s been a head coach longer than me. He has his team going in the right direction. He’s done a great job.

On surredering zero sacks
We’re trying to do different things with out protection and really just trying to protect our quarterbacks. I think Jason (Lenzmeier) and coach (Timm) Rosenbach have done a great job in that respect.

On Trevor’s play
He was consistent. At our quarterback position, we’re not looking for Dan Marino at this stage. We just want a guy who can manage the offense and not mess it up per-say. I felt like he got that part of his job done.

Is it safe to say he’s the full-time starter now?
Well, it’s safe to say he starts this week. We’ll tell you one week at a time.

On winning three games so far this season
That’s the beauty about this sport, right? You gotta play every week.

Have they surpassed expectations?
No, we’re not even close. This like I mentioned before, we want to win more games than we lose. That means seven. We still got a ways to go to get to that number.

On playing on ESPNU
I remember me and Dr. Boston, we were in Phoenix and we were with the head coaches and the AD’s and they had all the TV games. I was looking everywhere and I didn’t see New Mexico State anywhere. That’s nice. It’s good for the players to be honest with you. To get a chance to play on TV against a very good football team.

Will the late kickoff effect anything?
Not for me. I know coaching in the NFL, you have those Monday Night Games, and it’s at nine o’clock. You hang around the hotel every day. The players and the coaches can get a little irritated about that. But hey, all the games are over with and you’re primetime. That will be fun. All eyes on us that night.

Monday, October 12, 2009

A look back, and a look forward

DeWayne Walker and Gary Andersen addressed the WAC media today regarding the weekend game between New Mexico State and Utah State, one which saw NMSU come out on top 20-17.

"It was a big win for us, back to .500 and the first WAC win for us," Walker said. "We just want to continue to play positive ball and win more games."

Both coaches acknowledged the penalty situation during the game, where USU was flagged 12 times for nearly 130 yards, but neither said it was the deciding factor in the contest.

"It was a hard-fought football game on both sides of the football for both teams," Andersen said. "New Mexico State in the fourth quarter found ways to make plays and we didn’t. They deserved to win the football game."

Now, NMSU will face a Louisiana Tech team that lost to Nevada last weekend, but is talented none-the-less. La. Tech stands at 2-3 on the season, 1-1 in WAC play.

"Obviously they're a very well coached team," Walker said of the Bulldogs, led by head coach Derek Dooley. "They have a solid running game, a good looking defense and really solid special teams. We’ll have our hands full again playing a solid football team."

Dooley is prepared for an Aggie team that has given his club a battle the last two years, although has a much different look in 2009.

"Like every team in this league, they’re much improved in so many areas," Dooley said. "They’ve got a new coach and a new attitude. They’ve won three games already. It’s going to be a big challenge for us and we gotta get back on track."

Sunday, October 11, 2009

What can you say?

What can you say about the job DeWayne Walker and the Aggies are doing this season?

I don't want to make it out like this team is 6-0. But at 3-3, 1-1 in conference? A win over its in-state rival, when the Aggies were 10-point underdogs? A win over Utah State, when NMSU was 11-point dogs? A revitalized kicking game? A defense that's playing flat-out inspired football? You gotta be impressed by the team's efforts.

Does anyone remember how bad the defense was in recent years? Does anyone know what this year's Utah State team would have done to last year's defense? They honestly would have rushed for 350 yards, thrown for 250 and rolled up 35 points. USU ran for 258 this year, but it sure didn't feel like it. The UtAgs had to earn everything and, really, Diondre Borel was taken out of the game, for the most part. He only threw for 156 and ran for 26. The team stood him up on third down and forced the late USU punt that led to the Marcus Anderson return. The defense gets my game ball. They kept NMSU in the game.

I thought NMSU held down Utah State on third downs, as the UtAgs converted 5-of-17 attempts. NMSU converted on 8-of-20. Sure, the offense didn't play well. Did they do what they had to do? The final score was 20-17. I think so. The Aggies held the ball longer than the UtAgs (30:46 to 29:14). They ran the ball at a steady pace, just banging forward and getting a couple yards here, a couple yards there and then a big gain mixed in every once in a while.

People will say Trevor Walls didn't play well. I don't think he played great, but he did what he had to do. He completed a long pass down the right sideline to Marcus Allen for a 33-yard gain on third-and-13, down to the USU 29. NMSU kicked a field goal on the possession to take a 10-0 lead. I thought Trevor threw a pretty good deep ball. Not all were on target, but most were. Allen got tripped up on one of them that should have gotten a flag. He went deep to William Bullock, one-on-one coverage. Just overthrew him. He turned the ball over once, and it was on a third down deep ball down the right side of the field that was picked off inside the USU 20. If the ball falls incomplete, NMSU punts anyway. He wasn't sacked on the evening. I still like Walls in there and believe he should still be the starter.

The team clearly needs more out of its passing game and offense as a whole. We've been saying it all year long. The team picked up five first downs in the second half on Saturday. That's not good and the defense is out on the field longer because of it. If they don't win, the offense is taking a lot more heat. But they did win. So we move on to next week.

Really, Walker deserves a ton of credit for this team's play. He was left with an inexperienced group, positions on the field that were thin on depth, a team that didn't fit his defense-first vision and a program that has had little to cheer about in recent years. To be 3-3 at this point is nothing to shake a stick at or take for granted. They're playing as a team, with the defense playing good football, a strong effort on special teams and an offense that's doing just enough. That's the sign of a well-coaching team. It's all about winning, nothing else.

Todd Lee: He sat out Saturday's game, his second missed game of the season with an injured shoulder. Lee's been the Aggies' best receiver to this point of the season and his loss doesn't help the offense.

Walker said the team held Lee out because of the shoulder but expected him to be back in action when the team travels to Louisiana Tech this weekend.

Walker said that he wants to team to create more turnovers and believes that's another step the defense needs to take in order to become a top-flight unit.

"We have to continue to do a better job," he said. "We’re not getting the ball back enough. Right now, we’re taking the ball away once a game. We would like to get it up to two and three by the end of the year."


Utah State scored on three straight possessions, moving the ball downfield with relative ease. They got nothing after that however, as the NMSU defense buckled down.

Walker downplayed any adjustments the team made during and following the scoring sequences.

"That’s what good defenses do," Walker said. "Good defenses respond. They find a way to come back and help their team win."


Walker said that he wasn't surprised that Utah State elected to punt on fourth-and-2 with 2:00 remaining. Marcus Anderson ripped off a big return on the punt which led to the winning kick.

Walker said with USU coach Gary Andersen's defensive background, a punt was expected on the Aggie sideline.

Middle linebacker Jason Scott reiterated the Aggies' team-first approach:

"The camaraderie is there. Both sides of the ball. Go out there as a family. That’s what we do, that’s what we preach."

Scott on if people should be surprised of the Aggies' 3-3 start:

"No, I don’t think so, I hope not. We come out and play hard every time. Now we have to go out and get continuous wins. No more win-loss, win-loss. Next week, this will be gone. We’ve got to go out and get another ‘W.'"

Trevor Walls on getting the team's ability to run the ball:

"Everybody did an excellent job in the run game. The line hit their blocks, Seth and Marquell hit the holes. That’s what we’ve got to do to win."

Seth Smith, who has gained the majority of the rushing yards in recent weeks, on scoring his first touchdown of the season:

"As long as somebody scores, I’m happy. I’m a team player."

Walker on Saturday's win:

"There’s no such thing as moral victories. You want to win games. We knew this game was critical for us to stay in the hunt. Our guys found a way to get it done tonight."

Friday, October 9, 2009

Here we go....Prediction

Alright, here we go. Everyone's favorite time of week. Prediction time.

I think the Aggies win Saturday night against Utah State 24-21.

I believe NMSU will be able to run the ball effectively. Really, the same as they have all year long, with Seth Smith churning out consistent yardage. I also think the team will throw the ball well, utilizing play-action passing. I've been waiting for NMSU to throw the ball down the field more and believe they will be able to do it Saturday against the UtAgs. The team needs to be able to stretch the field, even if it's with 20-to-25 yard passes and give the running game some breathing room.

The UtAgs will move the ball at times. NMSU needs to bottle up the USU ground game. Diondre Borel and Robert Turbin will get their yards here and there. NMSU need to swarm the ball and make USU work for everything it gets.

A few things to keep an eye on:

Turnovers — I think the Aggies will need to force at least two and not give it away more than once.

Penalties — This is an area NMSU has done better in the last two weeks. If they're inside the 20, the Aggies need to score touchdowns against Utah State. If they settle for field goals, they won't win.

Seth Smith — If he continues to run with authority and the Aggies move the chains and keep the ball away from the UtAgs, they'll have a shot in the fourth quarter.

Trevor Walls — It was the right call to start him. I think the coaching staff needs to loosen the reigns and let him throw the ball downfield when opportunities present themselves. Trevor can get the job done.

Diondre Borel — Utah State hasn't been the same — they've been much better — since he was inserted into the starting lineup last season.

USU offense — They'll look to run the ball, but they'll also throw the ball as well. If NMSU keys on the run too much, Utah State will go to the air, where they are more than capable of doing damage.

NMSU defense — This unit has played better the past two weeks. This game could be a coming-out party for the group, or a harsh reality.

The Aggies haven't played well at home this season. No, I do not count the Prairie View game as a good performance. A win, yes. A good performance? That's a stretch. Saturday's game will be a good test for NMSU.

5 keys going into NMSU vs. Utah State game

1) Time of possession battle: Both teams are going to try and hammer home what they do best — run the football. With that being said, this will be a telling statistic when the final gun sounds. One thing NMSU has been able to hang its hat on this season has been its ability to keep the ball away from the opposition. If the Aggies want to have a shot Saturday, they will need to control the ball, and control the clock. In turn, the UtAg offense will be right where New Mexico State wants it — on the sideline.

2) The running game: This category and time of possession go hand-in-hand. Both teams would prefer to run the ball well, although the two teams do it differently. NMSU will give the ball to No. 1 running back Seth Smith, who is a north-south, hard-nosed ball carrier who takes on would-be tacklers for extra yardage, getting 2- and 3-yard gains at a time. Marquell Colston and Tonny Glynn should see more action this week in reserve roles. Utah State will come at the Aggies with two big-play threats on the ground in quarterback Diondre Borel and running back Robert Turbin. Both will look to get to the edge of the defense and pick up chunks of yardage. Whichever team contains the opposing ground game best will most likely come out on top.

3) Aggie offensive production: The Aggie offense has struggled to find consistency through five games this season. Will this week see the team have a breakout? Utah State has been dreadful on defense this season, ranking 110th in the nation in rushing defense (200 yards-per-game), 109th in pass defense (272 yards) and 116th in total defense (472.50 yards). Translation: the Aggies can move the ball in this one, particularly if their passing game gets on track. NMSU will turn to Trevor Walls at quarterback, who has been effective the past two weeks in moving the ball down the field and getting the Aggie wide receivers involved in the passing game. While NMSU will focus on the run, the team would be wise to let Walls air it out more often against the UtAgs. NMSU will need to score in the 20s to have a chance at victory.

4) Erasing the past: Utah State holds the trump card over NMSU, in the form of a 27-6 series advantage between the two teams. The past two seasons have seen the Aggies lose in depressing fashion, a 35-17 defeat in 2007 which snapped a USU 16-game losing streak and last year’s 47-2 season finale loss in Logan, Utah. NMSU is under a new coach now in DeWayne Walker, while USU hired Gary Anderson during the past offseason to lead the program. Now would be the perfect time for NMSU to start a new history, in the form of a winning streak of their own against the UtAgs.

5) Punters: We know, we know, this it’s a little strange seeing the punters as keys in a game between two teams expected to put up a fair number of points. But hear us out. Both of these guys — NMSU’s Kyle Hughes and USU’s Peter Caldwell — have real-deal legs, with Caldwell ranking first in the WAC in punt average (45.0 yards-per-kick) and Hughes coming in second (44.8 yards). Both also handle kickoff duties for their respective teams while Hughes acts as the Aggies’ top field goal kicker as well. Again, both teams can run the ball, making field position all the more critical. Take over at the opposition’s 45-yard line, and in a few plays the offense finds itself in field-goal range. Have a punter get off a boomer inside the 20, now we’re talking about an 80-plus yard drive to the endzone. A big key indeed.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

In comes Utah State

The Utah State Aggies are coming to town on Saturday. This is a team that has notoriously given NMSU fits through the years.

The UtAgs seem to be better than in the past under first-year coach Gary Anderson. This is a team that has competed against three big programs - Utah, Texas A&M and BYU. Alas, USU lost all three games, but they weren't in blowout fashion. The UtAgs one win came against Southern Utah.

This game will feature a heavy dosage of the running game. USU comes in with versatile quarterback Diondre Borel and running back Robert Turbin, who both can make the big play with their feet.

"I'm impressed with their skill," NMSU linebackers coach Dale Lindsey said. "Their quarterback, he's supposed to be a passer, now he's taking off and running with the football. That can be tough to defend. We'll have our work cut out for us, that's for sure."

Because of Borel, the UtAgs can run out of various formations and have fiddled with the option this year - although it has been, for the most part, an unsuccessful venture.

"They have a lot of different groups, different personnel," Lindsey said. "They do a lot of things well. That's the challenge."

NMSU will run the ball as well - big surprise there. Utah State has not been good stopping the ground game this season, giving up 200-rushing-yards-per game. That's 120th in Division-I. Really, USU's defense has struggled this season in just about every category.

Still, the team has pieces on that side of the ball. USU has two good safeties in playmaker James Brindley and the consistent Rajric Coleman. Linebackers Paul Igboeli and Bobby Wagner are always around the ball.

This game will come down to which team can run the ball more effectively and who can win the time of possession battle. Both squads will have to stay on guard however. Get caught napping, and their could be a big play or two in the passing game as well.

I think this is going to be a very intriguing game to watch. I really can't wait anymore.

Tanner Rust: When asked if the team was tempted to bring in Tanner Rust for some action in the near future, offensive coordinator Timm Rosenbach said that the freshman quarterback will remain out, at least for now.

"Not now," Rosenbach said. "There's always a chance, but we would like to see him redshirt this year."

Rosenbach said that he would like to see some consistency from his quarterbacks as the season moves forward. Jeff Fleming and Trevor Walls have split action the past two weeks.

Rosenbach said he was unsure who would start on Saturday.

Special teams: I spoke to special teams coordinator Keith Murphy on Wednesday.

Murphy said that he's been happy with Kyle Hughes as the team's primary kicker.

"His emergence has helped," Murphy said. "Punting, kickoffs, he's done a better job on field goals. When you have a kicker with a strong leg, it's kind of like having that ace pitcher. He can do a lot for you and, sometimes, carry you at certain points."

On kick and punt returns, Murphy said that Tonny Glynn has been a nice addition, while Marcus Anderson continues to make strides on punt returns. NMSU averages 9.8-yards-per return on punts, close to Murphy's goal of 10.

Glynn has shown a knack for bursting through traffic and getting into the open field.

Ross Conner: The linebacker leads the Aggies with 37 tackles on the season. The senior also has an interception and a pass defensed.

"I feel good, real comfortable," Conner said. "It's my kind of system. You have to be on top of it mentally and know where to be at all times. That plays into my hands."

Passing game: Marcus Anderson said that the receiving unit is still gelling as the group works new names into the rotation.

Anderson, Todd Lee and Marcus Allen have been mainstays this season. Donyae Coleman and William Bullock have been worked into the lineup the last couple of weeks.

"We're still growing, coming together," Anderson said. "We're a family. All of us, the wide receivers, the quarterbacks, everybody. We're working together."

When asked if playing with different quarterbacks effected his play, Anderson said no.

"It's a football," Anderson said. "You gotta go get it."

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Aggie notes

One positive for the Aggies this season has been the play on both lines of scrimmage, particularly the offensive line.

This is a unit that has been steady. Nothing flashy, but when one considers the following: The group is blocking for two quarterbacks and three different running backs; The group is transitioning from a pass-heavy scheme to a run-oriented attack; the group has lost proven veterans the last two years; And the group is relatively undersized for the position.

This was an area of concern for me going into the season but it has been reliable. Starters from last year, Kyle Smith and Patrick Blount, haven't seen the field yet this year, both nursing injuries. Blount returned two weeks ago from plantar fasciitis and Smith is trying to get his asthma issues under control.

"For the most part, they've been consistent," coach DeWayne Walker said. "They've had injuries, they've shuffled some pieces. (Offensive line coach Jason Lenzmeier) has done a good job there. They're playing solid football."

I'll have a story on the offensive line online Wednesday and in Thursday's edition of the Sun-News.

Players recalled last season's loss to Utah State, one which was a season-ending defeat, a 47-2 drubbing which officially stamped to end of the Hal Mumme era at NMSU.

"I mean, it was pretty much a blowout," cornerback Chris Buckner said. "We gotta be more prepared this time around. We've got to take this game to the next level.

"We're really starting WAC conference play now," Buckner continued. "We can't play now like we ended last season."

Both teams are different this season. Both experienced head coaching changes, Gary Anderson at USU and Walker at NMSU. While Anderson was brought in as a defensive coach, the UtAgs have actually had problems stopping people.

Offensively, Utah State has been strong, led by quaterback Diondre Borel and running back Robert Turbin.

"They're explosive," Buckner said. "They have multiple receivers and their quarterback, he's elusive. He can get downfield and he's accurate. We've got to be sound and do our job."

Memories from 2008 still linger.

"They beat us 47-2 last year," running back Marquell Colston said. "We haven't forgotten about that."

Walker spoke about the importance of getting other backs besides Seth Smith involved in the offensive attack.

Smith has been a workhorse early on but, when considering how often the Aggies run the ball, and his physical style, getting Smith on the sideline and getting Colston and Tonny Glynn more opportunities to run the ball seems like a logical train of thought.

"If we're called upon, we'll be ready," Colston said of him and Glynn. "Seth's playing ball right now. If they call us, we'll be ready to roll."

The quarterback situation remains a committee approach, at least according to Walker at Tuesday's press conference.

"It's no biggie," Colston said when asked about playing with both QBs during the course of a game. "Jeff and Trevor are both great QBs. Both are smart young men who play ball."

Pierre Fils has four sacks this year, a team high.

"I've been all right," Fils said. "I've made a couple of plays. I'm out there just trying to do what the defense needs me to do."

The Aggie defense in general has played better, although they will face a tough test on Saturday. The UtAgs can score points, quickly. They will also come in equipped with a dangerous running game.

"I think once you know you can stop someone, it definitely helps," middle linebacker Jason Scott said of the team gaining confidence and playing with a swagger. "I think we've shown we can play. It's about being consistent out there. That's the big key for us."

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Just my opinion

I don't see how the Aggies cannot start Trevor Walls this weekend against the Utah State.

The passing game has been more effective with him as the starting quarterback. Look at the San Diego State game, prior to Walls entering and after he came into the contest.

Once Walls got his opportunity, the Aggies saw their receivers become a part of the passing game downfield. Walls hit Todd Lee for a couple big gains, both coming on third down, one for a touchdown. Marcus Allen caught a ball 15-plus yards downfield. The team converted on a couple of third-and-longs.

Jeff Fleming can still be a part of the team as well. Fleming is a very good athlete who can still take snaps from under center. One thing Fleming brings to the table is mobility. Walls will get sacked more, there is no doubt. When Fleming was inserted against the Lobos, he was a change of pace back there and was able to help the offensive line with his legs. And no one can take away the play he made in that game, the winning touchdown throw. He kept his composure on the final drive of that contest. His performance there, it cannot be overlooked.

I think Fleming could be utilized throughout the offense - sometimes at quarterback, as a threat in a wildcat formation or even in the slot from time to time. I really didn't have a problem with both getting a shot last week against San Diego State. Both and Fleming and Walls both deserved chances this past weekend.

Still, I would like to see Walls get the majority of snaps in Week 6 again. He proved, once again, that he can handle the responsibilities of being the quarterback of this team.


Seth Smith has also gotten a ton of carries so far this season.

Marquell Colston and Tonny Glynn are still sitting there. They could be utilized more, particularly Glynn, who is also good as a receiver out of the backfield.

Smith will continue to be the featured back and the Aggies should stick to being a run-first team. But you don't want him wearing down. And part of being a run-oriented team is having different styles to throw at the opposition.


NMSU's defense has been better this year - a lot better.

The Aztecs really didn't put much together on Saturday - they scored on a Smith fumble and got good field position on a botched punt and a Walls interception.

NMSU could still defend the run better - the team gives up 4.7 yards per carry. They'll get a stiff test this weekend in Utah State running back Ryan Turbin, who's averaing 7.0 yards a carry with three TDs and a long run of 96 yards on the season.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Keys vs. San Diego State

Here are the keys to victory for the Aggies when the team travels to San Diego State this weekend

1) Running the football: This is a key every week for the Aggies. The team will need to pound the ball on the ground and win the time of possession battle over the Aztecs. Seth Smith has had a good season so far. His first game was big, but it came with an asterisk — against a I-AA team in Prairie View A&M. He has continued to rumble though against UTEP and UNM. Now, he'll face a SDSU defense that played well against the run when the team faced Air Force last weekend. NMSU needs to at least move the chains consistently.

2) Quarterback management: In case you missed it, Jeff Fleming will start at quarterback this weekend for the Aggies. I can understand the move, simply because of how Fleming finished the UNM contest, throwing the game-winning touchdown on fourth-and-goal. Still, while Fleming made the clutch play, the running game carried the Aggies on that particular drive. And the offense, while better last weekend, has not been standout under his watch. The reality is that Trevor Walls did an alright job last weekend too. Maybe the offense needs both of their skill sets to succeed. Fleming will get the start, but if things stall out on offense, keep a close eye on how the staff manages the situation. Walls should get a fair shot again this weekend.

3) Defensive line: The Aztecs are vulnerable up front, as the offensive line had a rough game last weekend against Air Force and are shifting new personnel into key spots along the unit. It will be up to the Aggie defensive line to generate pressure on the SDSU backfield. If the NMSU front four can penetrate the line alone, it will allow the Aggies to use their linebackers in coverage and not blitz. That, alone, will be a big advantage.

4) San Diego State offense: This unit was just bad last weekend. Quarterback Ryan Lindley threw four interceptions and the ground game went nowhere. Just a hunch, but some of this can be attributed to the team's struggles on the line. Poor play up front can ground any offense. I also will say this though, I think SDSU has talent. Vincent Brown is a deadly receiver and he, alone, could be a difference maker. He's a big-play receiver who's in a zone right now.

Rocky Long: Long is a solid defensive coordinator for San Diego State and can really muddle up an offense. I don't think the Aggies need to score an abundance of points in this game, but single digits certainly won't do. The team needs to be able to move the ball effectively against SDSU, chew up the clock and cash in on their opportunities. Three-and-outs, sacks and turnovers won't do.