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."