During the Aggies’ loss last Saturday against Louisiana Tech, NMSU started a new offensive backfield in Andrew Manley and Robert Clay.
Clay played very well, rushing for over 100 yards — the first Aggie to do so this season. He carried the ball 22 times — averaging 4.9 yards per attempt.
Clay ran well earlier this year in the Aggies’ 16-14 win over New Mexico. He hasn’t received a carry since that game — NMSU beat UNM in Week 5 of the season. Certainly he should be a featured runner the final two games of the year — at Nevada and vs. Hawaii. Kenny Turner looks be done for the season with a knee injury and Seth Smith didn’t get a carry last week — he’s out with an injury to his right leg. So Clay could be the man by default, even if he brings reason for optimism.
As for Manley, we’re talking about a true freshman quarterback here. I thought he played fine under the conditions — he completed 20-of-40 passes for 216 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.
Manley performed the way I expected him to — he was streaky and turned to ball over twice. But he also showed the skill set necessary to be successful at NMSU — he’s got a strong arm and isn’t afraid to rifle the ball around the field. When he got hot, the Aggies moved the ball — highlighted by the team’s second-quarter touchdown drive when Manley went 6-for-6, including a 30-yard touchdown toss to Todd Lee over the middle.
While NMSU lost and this season has been a tough one, Manley and Clay are reasons to continue following the team in the final two games of the season. Both are young players and should be core players in the offense next year.