What to watch as Aggies gear up to host Aztecs in 2010 football season opener....
Along the front: The Aztecs have one horse on the offensive line, that being two-year starting center Trask Iosefa. Other than that, the unit is unproven, with Alec Johnson and Nik Embernate at the guards and Tommie Draheim and Kurtis Gunther at the tackles. The Aggies come in with some old reliables along the defensive front. Donte Savage and Pierre Fils return at the end positions while John Finau will man the nose tackle and Kawika Shook will line up in the three-technique. Backing up the front four will be David Mahoney and Tommy Stuart at tackle and Brandon Warner and David Nuimatalolo at ends as NMSU added depth in the offseason. The unit will look to blast holes in the SDSU blocking scheme.
“Our starting four guys, they played in this game last year and we feel like we’ve recruited some quality backups,” NMSU head coach DeWayne Walker said. “That would be nice to get an advantage up front (on Saturday).”
Aggie passing game: Aggie fans are familiar with San Diego State defensive coordinator Rocky Long, the former head coach at the University of New Mexico. Long runs a unique 3-3-5 system, bringing blitzers from all angles to try and pressure an opposing quarterback into making costly mistakes. It will also open up opportunities in the passing game if the Aggie line can buy quarterback Matt Christian time in the pocket. And then the NMSU wide receivers have to get open and make the catch if it’s delivered on time and on target. It didn’t happen quite like that last year, but the plan is for the Aggie passing attack to be in better harmony in 2010.
SDSU weapons: The Aztecs have plenty of toys to play with on offense. Junior quarterback Ryan Lindley returns after throwing for over 3,000 yards and 23 touchdowns in 2009. A three-man backfield of Davon Brown, Ronnie Hillman and Walter Kazee can all run the ball effectively while wide receivers Vincent Brown and DeMarco Sampson are impressive targets downfield. They will face an Aggie defense that continues to scheme and improve under second-year head coach DeWayne Walker.
Opening night: While San Diego State had their season opener last week — a 47-0 thrashing over Nicholls State — New Mexico State had their bye to start the 2010 campaign. In other words, tonight is NMSU’s season opener, which can be a blessing or a curse. When it’s all said and done, expect the Aggies to come out strong with something to prove against SDSU, in what should be a competitive football game.
“We have some new offensive coaches, our players have bought in. So, we’ve done things right,” NMSU head coach DeWayne Walker said. “You’d just like to see our guys improve and we’d like to have success too. I think this is an important game for us.”
Last year’s meeting: Last season saw the two teams compete in San Diego, with the game holding close until late in the fourth quarter. Down 17-7, the Aggies got two second-half scoring drives, led by backup quarterback Trevor Walls, to tie the score at 17-17. Late turnovers, though, ultimately led to three late Aztec touchdowns in the final eight minutes of action, as SDSU pulled away with a 34-17 victory. NMSU is a drastically different team this time around, however. Equipped with a brand new passing attack on offense and three new starters at linebacker, the Aggies have a brand new look in 2010. Will it lead to better results?