Aggie defensive line: The Aggie defensive line was a no-show last week against San Diego State. No sacks. seldom a quarterback hurry and the Aztecs ran wild throughout. And that was against a suspect offensive line, which won’t be the case tonight. UTEP comes in loaded up front, with all five starters — tackles Will Osolinsky and Alex Solot, guards Anthony McNac and Rod Huntley and center Tanner Cullumber — bringing senior experience to the table. How will the Aggies fare any better this week? They gotta find a way, or this one will be over quickly.
Holding up without Fakalata: Last year, the Aggies remained relatively injury free. They got bit quickly by the bug in Week 1, with Sioeli Fakalta going down with a left leg injury that had head coach DeWayne Walker saying the senior right guard could miss the remainder of the season. In steps Ruben Escarsega to fill the void up front, but the Aggies will be lucky if he plays close the Faklata’s level. The one saving grace: NMSU offensive line coach Jason Lenzemeier has been making chicken salad — the Aggies talent up front — into a gourmet dish since the day he arrived in Las Cruces. Time to pull another rabbit out of the hat.
Aggie running game: One of the bright spots in last week’s loss? New Aggie running back Kenny Turner showed a burst around the corner and the ability to make defenders miss. The Aggies gave Turner the ball 10 times, a number that’s sure to increase against the Miners. The team also needs to give the ball to Seth Smith more — last year’s 1,000 yard rusher got just five carries in the loss, for two yards no less. The Miners have been playing Ole run defense for the past four years. NMSU’s backs can take advantage if given the chance.
UTEP’s injuries: At the beginning of the year, talk in the Borderland was on UTEP running back Donald Buckram, and his elevation to elite status in the nation. Alas, the 5-foot-10, 195-pound running back has yet to see the field in 2010, nursing a bruised knee during the Miners’ first two games of the season. He said he felt confident that he could take the field on Saturday, although we’ll see how effective he is in shaking off the rust. Perhaps more important is the loss of safety Braxton Amy, an animal in the defensive backfield who was nothing short of the heart and soul of the Miner team. He’s done for the year, tearing his ACL in the loss at Houston last week.
Bouncing back: Both of these clubs lost last week. UTEP is now 1-1, while the Aggies hold an 0-1 mark in 2010. No time to sulk for either club, just time to get back on their horse and play some hard-nosed football. Whichever team takes the field ready to rebound will come out on top.