Friday, December 30, 2011

Down the middle: Making sense of the Marvin Menzies experience

Should Marvin Menzies feel the heat? Oh yeah.

Should he feel pressure? Of course. What’s a Division I basketball coach here for, anyway?

Should he lose his job after his team’s 89-69 home loss to the University of New Mexico on Wednesday night? That, folks, is premature talk.

For the sake of talking basketball, and nothing more: Teams have bad games. UNM had a bad game when they lost to the Aggies in the Pit earlier this year. They shot 28 percent from the floor, and surely Lobo fans left the arena that night scowling about Steve Alford’s overrated coaching style and the team’s lack of awareness. These things happen.

Not to say that NMSU wasn’t thoroughly outclassed in every possible way Wednesday. UNM exposed the Aggies’ deficiencies — offensively challenged, a team that plays hard defensively, albeit not smart. And, yes, Menzies was exposed too.

The Aggies were down 40-19 with three minutes left in the first half, and the game was all but over. It’s simple math — with the way the Aggies’ offense was headed, they wouldn’t be able to score enough baskets to overcome a 21-point deficit going into intermission.

By the fourth quarter, the lead was more than 30. A foul call against the Aggies saw Menzies stomping the sidelines, screeching at the officials. At that point, someone on the bench — assistant coach, player — should have helped the head man to his seat. It’s over coach. Just take your medicine.

But back to the original point. Menzies isn’t getting fired now. Whether it should happen is besides the point — it’s not going to happen. Not with Athletics Director McKinley Boston in charge, who hands out — almost defiantly — contract extensions to coaches he’s hired, and doesn’t want to see fail.

After all, the Aggies are 8-5 this year and have split their rivalry games against UNM and UTEP. In Aggieland, this might warrant giving Menzies a lifetime deal for his accomplishments.

In truth, Menzies has found a loophole at the office. He hasn’t been egregious enough to warrant losing his job — a record well over .500 and remaining competitive in a Western Athletic Conference that has somehow managed to regress at the same pace the Aggies have. Nor has he inspired enough to warrant a promotion to another school. As long as he treads water, he’s going to be with the Aggies for a while. Even if some Aggie fans want a divorce.

Take this week for instance. After getting blown out by the Lobos, NMSU will host Arkansas-Pine Bluff for a noon game on Saturday. Then it’s off to Cal State-Bakersfield. Two wins — as empty as they may feel — will give NMSU a 10-5 record going into conference, where they should compete as a top-three, top-four team. Heck, they can win the WAC, which would grant them an NCAA Tournament berth. Yes, this is possible. From this vantage point, that’s a competitive year, even if it rings hollow to some.

And now, as much as the Aggies benefited from their early success, they’re suffering from it in the present.

Their first win against UNM was misleading — again, the Lobos shot 28 percent and the game took place early in the season, before the blueprint was out on how to beat Aggies.

They squashed the Miners at home, and Menzies began talking out of the side of his mouth about how this was a Top 25 team, a special team. But that talk was unfounded, and that early movement painted the Aggies as something better than current reality suggests.

If I were grading Menzies as a coach, on a scale of 1 to 10, I’d give him a 5. He doesn’t knock my socks off. He hasn't overwhelmed.

He’s been average, down the middle.

For this current athletics administration, it seems like the perfect match.

Five years of courtship, and that relationship has seldom hummed in such perfect harmony.

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Aggies lack of offense — and regression — exposed in blowout loss to Lobos

The New Mexico State Aggies were exposed on Wednesday night at the Pan American Center.

Their opponents, the New Mexico Lobos played very well in an 89-67 blowout win.

They are a good team — it was apparent on Wednesday why they were picked to win the Mountain West during the preseason.

They play together and make sound decisions on the basketball court.

That, and they shot the ball very well from long range — hitting 12 of 24 attempts from 3-point territory on the evening.

The Aggies, well, they're the exact opposite — a limited offensive team that's erratic in ball handling.

They desperately need a consistent 3-point shooter — a 1 of 14 effort from beyond the arc spells out that fact.

Outside of Wendell McKines, they're a roster full of role players and run an unimaginative halfcourt offense — two players on the pick and role, three others standing idle.

Simply put, they couldn't score the ball, not with UNM draining a barrage of jump shots and layups.

NMSU doesn't have enough offense to score to win in a halfcourt game and need their defense to generate their offensive attack — rebounding the basketball and creating turnovers generally translate into easy baskets on the other end of the floor.

That and the Lobos were just better prepared for NMSU this time around.

UNM was very unimpressive in their first game against the Aggies — a 62-53 NMSU win that saw the Lobos shoot 28 percent from the floor and commit 21 turnovers.

That's not how you beat this NMSU team, rather it's by being patient on offense — ball security, ball reversal and a good shot in the halfcourt set, while making rebounding a top priority going into the contest.

The Lobos turned the ball over 15 times on Wednesday night while they just about broke even on the boards — losing that battle 47-45.

Once again, the Aggies couldn't be counted on from the free-throw line, shooting 22 of 35 while UNM hit 17 of 20 from the stripe.

The Lobos jumped out to a 40-19 lead with three minutes remaining before halftime. At that point, fans could have packed up and left the Pan American Center — with the Aggies offensive troubles, the game was all but over.

Instead, the audience began filtering out of the gym with nine minutes left in the contest, and with the Aggies down 72-44.

“No, I don't think so,” NMSU head coach Marvin Menzies said when asked if he was feeling more pressure after the lopsided loss. “They shot the piss out of the ball.”

True, true.

But there is also this fact:

The Lobos are an improved team since the last time both clubs met over a month ago.

And the Aggies? Well, they've regressed.

And that's where it stands.

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Thoughts on Wednesday's Aggies vs. Lobos game

First off, this is an important game for the Aggie men's basketball team.

The Aggies beat the Lobos at the Pit 62-53 earlier this season to move to 2-0. Days later they came home to blow out UTEP and a season sweep of their rivals seemed possible — at least a 3-1 record looked like a sure bet.

But the Aggies have leveled off since then — they have gone 5-4 over the past month of the season and slipped up in El Paso against UTEP. A loss to the Lobos — which would mark a 2-2 rivalry record — would be considered a letdown.

As for UNM, the team has gone 9-1 since that defeat to NMSU and stands at 10-2 on the year.

Is Wednesday's game for the WAC championship? No. But a win would show Aggie fans their team is still headed forward — the beginning of the year Marvin Menzies was talking about it being a special season and NMSU received a vote in the Top 25.

The Aggies need this one simply from maintaining the excitement and good play they generated at the beginning of the year because it's leveled off to some degree.

• It will be interesting to see how the Lobos gameplan for the Aggies.

The first meeting UNM looked pretty unimpressive — they shot 28 percent for the game and turned to ball over 21 times, a no no when facing an NMSU team that wants to get into the open floor for easy baskets.

We've said it 100 times on this blog: When facing the Aggies, teams have to make rebounding the ball a priority and play patient on offense — ball security, ball reversal, and a good shot should come during the possession.

And we've also said this a ton: If the Aggies stay focused playing defense and in rebounding the basketball, they can beat anyone on their schedule. This Aggie team plays harder than last year, they just don't always execute.

They have size and athleticism, to go with erratic 3-point shooting and ball handling. They can struggle from the free-throw line — Hamidu Rahman goes 1 for 2 every time he steps to the stripe — and need to take care of the ball themselves.

With that being said they are well-rested, relatively healthy and are at home against a good team. This is a chance for people to see where they now stand going into conference.

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Brainstorming for an offensive coordinator

There area a lot of college football coaching vacancies and movement will be prevalent in the near future.

A look at possible coordinator candidates to fill the Aggies coaching vacancy left by Doug Martin. Pure speculation and ideas....

• Nick Rolovich: Aggie fans would be familiar with Rolovich, who was Hawaii's offensive coordinator the past two years before leaving with the recent departure of Greg McMackin. He runs wide a receiver-friendly offense and is familiar with quarterback Andrew Manley, the Aggies third-year quarterback.

• Steve Fairchild: Fairchild was recently let go as head coach of Colorado State. He has NFL experience as an offensive assistant in Buffalo and St. Louis.

• Earnest Wilson: Wilson, a former running backs coach at NMSU, has been a successful offensive coordinator the past two years at Jackson State. While with the Aggies for the five years prior, Wilson built good relationships within the local community and brought some good players to NMSU — Davon House, Robert Clay and Davonte Wallace to name a few.

• Jonathan Smith: Montana’s offensive coordinator used to coach at Idaho and interviewed for the Aggie coordinator job two years ago — NMSU went with the more experienced Mike Dunbar. Still, the Aggies were impressed with Smith.

• Jim Miller: The head coach at Las Cruces High, Miller has built the Bulldawgs into a consistent state title contender while running a fun offense. He also played quarterback at NMSU — he's in the Aggie Hall of Fame — and is a native of Roswell. His hire would be a public relations boon and help sell tickets for a program that needs it.


Aggie head coach DeWayne Walker could interview his next defensive coordinator candidate this Tuesday.


Could the Aggies next offensive coordinator candidate get a raise? Perhaps around $120,000? Lets hope so.

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

A Christmas wish list for the upcoming year

With Christmas here, my wish list to Santa for the upcoming sports year in Las Cruces.

• Aggie establishment in the new WAC:
It will be important that New Mexico State establishes itself as a top-tier athletics program in the new Western Athletics Conference, starting this year. So what does that mean? The Aggies should be a top-three football team in the new league and one of the league’s top-two dominant basketball programs. Sports such as softball and volleyball will hopefully win WAC championships. The Aggies will actually be a veteran program in the new WAC — entering their eighth year in the league. Texas State and Texas-San Antonio will join NMSU, Idaho, San Jose State, Utah State and Louisiana Tech to form the conference next year, meaning the door will be open for NMSU to be a top-three athletics program in the league.

• WAC championship for Aggie men’s basketball:
This is very possible, although not as much of a sure thing as it appeared to be a month ago. The Aggies have good size and athleticism but are erratic in ball handling and 3-point shooting. In short, if the Aggies bring focus on the defensive end of the floor and in the rebounding department, they can beat most teams on most evenings. The Aggies should be in the mix for a WAC title, while Nevada, Utah State and Hawaii have also shown improvement over the past month.

• No more coaching changes:
This is highlighted by Aggie football, which lost four more assistant coaches during the offseason. Head coach DeWayne Walker has to hire two coordinators and a defensive line coach, while he’s already found a replacement for the offensive line coaching vacancy. Walker will have to go 4 for 4 at the plate and knock two out of the park during this process — not an easy task. If the Aggies improve going into next year as much as they did last year, they should push the .500 mark and, in turn, push for bowl eligibility. With that being said, when building a program, continuity is an important factor.

• A repeat in high school hoops: Last March, three teams won high school state titles on the same day — Oñate was the first Las Cruces boys basketball program to win a Class 5A championship since 1976 while the Mayfield girls and Mesilla Valley Christian boys were also victorious in the Pit. This year a few more titles could be in store — the Las Cruces High boys have the talent of a state championship contender in Class 5A, while Mesilla Valley Christian is ranked No. 1 in Class 2A. The Mayfield girls are ranked No. 5 in the state in Class 5A.

• No changes in high school football: How much will Centennial High School affect the local programs, particularly state powerhouses Mayfield and Las Cruces High? At least this upcoming year — when Centennial makes its debut — one would think not much. The school, which will be playing a varsity schedule as a Class 4A program, will accept incoming freshman and sophomores, along with select juniors. At least for the upcoming year, high school football in southern New Mexico should be strong once again.

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Doug Martin leaves Aggie football

New Mexico State is going to say they hire good assistant football coaches. And that's not necessarily a lie.

Heck, the team hired Doug Martin to begin with to be offensive coordinator.

But him leaving also, well, sucks. I'm not saying I blame Martin or NMSU for him leaving because I don't. He went to a better job — more money at a BCS program in Boston College.

But it still leaves the Aggies searching for their fourth offensive coordinator in four years. And I will stand by this all day: if you want to build a program, continuity is KEY. At least it's preferred.

The offensive players are going to have to learn a new system again — think about quarterback Andrew Manley here for a second.

And it would be nice if, once the Aggies got a good coordinator, they could hold onto him. Again, I don't see how they hold onto Martin here because they couldn't match the offer from a financial or program standpoint. All I'm saying is that it's a blow to lose him.

The Aggies have recruited better and they have some talent at the skill positions.

But that's the key word of the day: continuity. Just wish the Aggies could have some at key positions on their coaching staff.

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Tale of the tape: an early look at District 3-5A boys basketball

Taking a look at District 3-5A high school boys basketball teams early in the year:

• Las Cruces High: The Bulldawgs have much of what a team could hope for — experience, size, a point guard and talent. The clear favorites in District 3-5A and a possible state title contender.

• Oñate: The defending Class 5A state champions do have some pieces. Freshman Sammy Barnes has the green light to shoot, while Brandon Rosales and Chino Saldivar are back to provide veteran leadership.

• Mayfield: There isn’t a whole lot back for the Trojans which, in a sense, makes them a sneaky team.

• Gadsden: Last season the Panthers finished in last place in District 3-5A.

• Alamogordo: It would seem the Tigers have some talent. The question: will they be organized on the court?

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Aggies should invest in product

Look, I realize money is tight.

That and fans don't go to New Mexico State Aggie football games — the program isn't making any money and doesn't have a whole lot extra to throw around.

Look at what the program paid last year's defensive coordinator Dale Lindsey ($70,000) and offensive coordinator Doug Martin ($90,000).

In the football world, that's minimum wage for a coordinator — in a perfect world NMSU could pay such positions closer to between $125,000 and $150,000 annually. Or at least six figures.

• Here's a list from 2010 in terms of WAC schools and their highest paid assistants. Again, this is from the 2010 season, so we're going to include Boise State in the list. This is pior to Martin's hire and Mike Dunbar's for that matter. This is according to a report done by USA Today:

Boise State: Pete Kwiatkowski ($259,520); Bryan Harsin ($259,520)
Fresno State: Jeff Grady ($107,592); Keith Williams ($107,592); Randy Stewart ($107,592)
Hawaii: N/A
Idaho: Steve Axman ($116,604); Mark Criner ($112,320)
Louisiana Tech: Tony Franklin ($175,000); Tony Spangler ($140,000)
Nevada: Andy Buh ($150,000); Ken Wilson ($116,000)
New Mexico State: Dale Lindsey ($70,000); R. Todd Littlejohn ($60,650)
San Jose State: Kent Baer ($125,004); Tim Landis ($125,004)
Utah State: Dave Baldwin ($155,000); Bill Busch ($150,000)

For the full list from USA Today, click here.

• Back to the Aggies...

One would think whoever take's over for Lindsey — his contract won't be renewed for next year — will make closer to what Martin made a season ago.

And hopefully Martin will get a slight raise of his own — at least above $100,000 — as he did a nice job last season and was a main reason for the Aggies improvement.

But herein lies the issue for NMSU with a low or limited pay scale: they're field of candidates is limited, one could even make the argument that it's limited to leftovers.

The school can get an up-and-comer at the position, with in all likelihood no experience running a defense — an entry-level defensive coordinator position, if you will.

If such a coach does a good job, they'll eventually be gone for a better — and one would think a better paying — position at another school.

If they're not good, they'll be leaving the Aggies for other reasons.

You can also get a coach in the final years of their career — something similar to Lindsey.

Or you can get Timm Rosenbach.

Or Mike Dunbar.

Or Martin — the third offensive coordinator at NMSU in the past three years who was ready to go and coach high school football before the Aggies came a calling.

Again, Martin did a very good job last year and was a main reason the team improved but lets also call it what it was when he was hired last March: he had nowhere else to go on the college level. It ended up being a very good hire for the Aggies, but they were also lucky to a degree such a coach fell in their lap.

If head coach DeWayne Walker's new coordinator can do with the defense what Martin did last year with the offense, it will be a great hire once again. And it will require some luck. Oh, and then if he is good NMSU will have to hold onto him — which likely means paying him anyway.

Again, I realize money's tight. But I also think the Aggies have to invest more in the product. It could make the difference in a handful of games on the schedule in any given year.


Here's a name to keep an eye on for the Aggies defensive line coaching position. Just speculation. Todd Howard coached with DeWayne Walker at UCLA and last year at Washington State. The Cougars just hired Mike Leach as their new head coach and he will bring in his own coaching staff. Click here.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Reaction to Christian Kabongo suspension

Well, the New Mexico State Aggies have suspended Christian Kabongo indefinitely following an incident at the Don Haskins Center when he made an inappropriate gesture toward the UTEP crowd after consecutive second-half 3-pointers.

First off, I think this was the right thing to do.

I also think it comes at a convenient time in the schedule — NMSU plays Western tonight, followed by games next week against Southern and McNeese State. We'll see how long the suspension lasts, the Aggies have a huge game in late December at home against New Mexico.

As written previously, Kabongo is a tough player to account for. He's tough, he's feast or famine if not unorthodox, he attempts — and also knocks down — low-percentage shots and can shoot you to a win or a loss depending on the evening. Very interesting….

I do think this is a good chance for other players to step up and this is an opportunity. All I need to point to is Aggie football — Andrew Manley got injured, Matt Christian stepped in and played exceedingly well. Now some players might have a little more rope and can take advantage of their chance.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Looking back, and ahead at local high school football

It was business as usual for the local high school football scene in 2011.

Both Mayfield and Las Cruces High were top-four teams in the state during the regular season, and the Trojans advanced to the Class 5A State Championship, falling to Cleveland 48-28.

But what awaits both programs in 2012 — with a new high school in town?

What about Oñate, and the rest of District 3-5A?

And lets not forget Class A state champion Mesilla Valley Christian.

A look back at the past year in high school football, and some questions that lie ahead:

• Will the local powerhouses remain strong? The answer should be yes, at least for the immediate future.

Of course Centennial High School opens its doors next year — their impact should eventually be felt, but one would think Mayfield and Las Cruces High will each remain in good standing next year.

Both are more than just good teams — they’re good programs that consistently reload.
Head coach Jim Miller and the Bulldawgs have a core of players coming back — minus star running back Xavier Hall, of course, but perhaps a more balanced attack in return.

At Mayfield, the Trojans will always be solid under the leadership of the Bradleys — Mayfield will lose some horses but also seems to have talent in their stable just about every year.

• Where will the Knights stand? Still a couple years away from contention.
Head coach Caleb Hull will be in his second year at the helm of Oñate and needs to build his program in just about every sense — starting with retaining players who are already with the team.

The Knights could also use some experienced assistant coaches on their staff and an improved defense — that particular unit that was dreadful last year.

Perhaps more important to the Knights than anything else, however, is a more realistic and softer schedule. OHS ran a gauntlet of games at the beginning of the year. When playing equal teams last season they were competitive and fun to watch.

The Knights do seem to have some young talent in the program as well — their freshman team was a good one in 2011.

• Will the bottom of District 3-5A improve? It would be nice if it did.

We already went over Oñate’s struggles, while Gadsden didn’t win a game in 2011.

Alamogordo was a playoff team, but that doesn’t mean they were competitive against Mayfield and Las Cruces High.

October is typically a lost month for both the Trojans and Bulldawgs, as they’re essentially taking the field in glorified bye weeks during district play.

Such lopsided affairs can’t help either team come playoff time and it can’t be easy for the fans to watch either.

An improved bottom-half of the league would be better for everyone involved.

• Is northern New Mexico closing the gap? In Rio Rancho — the suburb just north of Albuquerque — it would seem so.

Cleveland High School won the state title and its neighbor Rio Rancho High School was a state semifinals team.

There’s talent in that region and it’s a two-horse town that’s put an emphasis on producing winning football programs.

Something looks to be brewing on the northern New Mexico gridiron.

• Where will Mesilla Valley Christian go? Two questions face the SonBlazers going into the offseason.

For one, will head coach Charles Gleghorn return after guiding the team to a state championship — the fourth in his career after a successful run at Hatch Valley High School previously.

The Centennial position is open, and there is also a coaching slot available at Hobbs High School.

After that, will Mesilla Valley move up to Class 2A?

The program toyed with 1A competition this past year and looked better suited for a higher division.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Best way to describe Aggie basketball team? Frustrating

The New Mexico State Aggies are a frustrating basketball team.

At least they were on Sunday in a 73-69 loss at UTEP.

This is a team that has the pieces to be good, but they lack discipline.

Lets go through some examples from Sunday night:

• In falling behind 18-3 and 24-6 to start the game, the Aggies looked unprepared.

Did they underestimate a UTEP team they beat 89-73 at the Pan American Center last month?

“Yeah. I think that's quite possible,” head coach Marvin Menzies said. “I know the coaching staff didn't. We knew they'd be an admirable foe once they clicked.”

There really isn't an adequate excuse for how this game began on NMSU's side.

• If there was a Most Frustrating Aggie Award, it would go to guard Christian Kabongo.

Kabongo is a feast or famine player who's unorthodox — he can look great one trip down the court and then make you scratch your head the next.

But this is what it boils down too: he's an immature player and seemingly a tough one to coach.

Kabongo scored nine points on Sunday, and after two second-half 3-point shots he appeared to make an obscene gesture toward the UTEP crowd.

“He grabbed his crotch after he made the first, then the second one he did it again,” said Felipe Truax, who had a front-row seat next to the Aggie bench.

“Yes,” Truax added when asked if it was a distasteful move.

Menzies said he didn't notice the action as it unfolded.

“I'll look at the film and address it if that's the case,” the head coach said.

Kabongo played some point guard for the Aggies in the first half.

This is a puzzling position for a player who has had issues taking care of the basketball.

Perhaps his best position — at least for the time being — would be on the bench.

• Wendell McKines gets his first shot attempt with 12:10 to go in the game?

McKines took seven shots total, which was less than Kabongo (10), Bandja Sy (nine), Tyrone Watson (eight) and the same amount as Hernst Laroche.

Not for nothing, but McKines is the Aggies best player. UTEP denied him the ball, but running some offense in his direction wouldn't hurt — he's not a role player.

“In the first half I was waiting for us to make the proper adjustments. We didn't do that until the second half. I have to sacrifice my scoring for us to compete,” McKines said.

“Just making me a part of the offense a little bit. Stuff like that happens.”

• Both teams shot very poorly from the free-throw line — the Aggies were 17 of 32 from the line (53 percent) while the Miners were 14 of 27 (51 percent).

NMSU entered the contest shooting 67 percent from the foul line.

In truth, the Miners — who really aren't a very good team — helped the Aggies a lot with a long second-half scoring drought, missed free throws and turnovers.

The Aggies had a five point lead with seven minutes remaining but couldn't close the deal.

It was a frustrating game on Sunday night.

Coming from a frustrating Aggie team.

Friday, December 9, 2011

To the offseason: Aggie football faces new questions — and expectations

Another season is over for the New Mexico State Aggie football team — a 4-9 campaign that was somewhat successful.
The Aggies showed improvement and, for the most part, competed better.
For the first time in some time, there’s a base for optimism amongst fans.
Now, the program faces a big offseason.
Here are some questions for the team, with the 2011 schedule officially in the books.

1) Andrew Manley’s health: This drop-back QB with a big arm tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during a Week 3 loss against UTEP. It’s a serious injury — a full tear of the ACL and a partial tear of the MCL — that can sideline a player anywhere from six to 10 months. With that time table, Manley’s availability for spring practices could be in question.
With a healthy Manley and Travaughn Colwell, the Aggies would appear OK at quarterback next year. An unhealthy Manley, however, and the position becomes a question mark.

2) Areas of need: The Aggies will have to replace their entire starting secondary — cornerbacks Jonte Green and Courtney Viney along with safeties Donyae Coleman and Ben Bradley. Coleman was a first-team All-WAC selection, while Green made the second all-conference team. The secondary was the strength of the defense and at least gave NMSU something to hang its hat on.
Head coach DeWayne Walker has talked about the need to upgrade the entire front-seven on defense, and the team just needs more lineman period — both offensive and defensive — to provide depth and give them a fighter’s chance each week in the trenches. The entire right side of the offensive line — tackle Aundre McGaskey, guard Sioeli Fakalta and center Mike Grady — will have to be replaced going into 2012.

3) Coaching changes: Well, you knew this was coming. The Aggies must find a defensive coordinator, defensive line coach and offensive line coach after three assistants left the program earlier this week. It’s doable, although the Aggies could use an experienced and versatile teacher to run their defense next season. Finding such a candidate can be hard for a school that paid former defensive coordinator Dale Lindsey $70,000 last year — well-below market value for a Division I coordinator. Walker was able to grab such a coach last offseason, however, when he hired Doug Martin to lead the offense.

4) Kicking game: We hate to pile on, but we’ve also said it 100 times — the Aggies have to be good in this area and they simply weren’t good enough last season.
Something happened to kicker Tyler Stampler, who was consistent within his range two years ago but struggled badly in 2011. In all likelihood, those struggles became an internal issue for the kicker. In any event, the Aggies need to hit makable field goals — and extra points.
As for punter Jake Capraro, he was inconsistent. One week it would look like he was getting it, the next he would hit a 9-yard flubber out of bounds. It didn’t seem like the Aggies won many field position battles.

5) Continued improvement: Again, 2011 was a somewhat successful year — and also was a year that could have been more.
While a four-win season exceeded the expectations of many, there were also four additional winnable games — vs. UTEP, at San Jose State, vs. Nevada, vs. Utah State — that the Aggies lost. Winning all four would have been a tall order, but splitting them would have given the Aggies a 6-7 record — which surely would have qualified as a stunner.
The truth is, if the Aggies make as big of a jump this offseason as they did last year, a six-win mark in 2012 is very possible in a reinvented Western Athletic Conference.
The one thing we can say is this: Where it stands today, the Aggies face yet another big — and busy — offseason.

2011 season
A game-by-game look back at the past year’s 4-9 Aggie football team:
• Week 1 vs. Ohio (L, 44-24): Aggies are beaten soundly by solid Bobcats team.
• Week 2 at Minnesota (W, 28-21): Nothing short of a shocker, and a signature win in the DeWayne Walker era.
• Week 3 vs. UTEP (W, 16-10): In a game the Aggies should have won, UTEP pulled a fake-punt out of their hat.
• Week 4 at San Jose State (L, 34-24): A game the Aggies could have won.
• Week 5 at New Mexico (W, 42-28): Twenty-one first-quarter points puts the Aggies on top for good, over a miserable UNM team.
• Week 6 vs Idaho (W, 31-24): Travaughn Colwell leads second-half offense, defense makes goal-line stand.
• Week 7 at Hawaii (L, 45-34): Aggies are competitive in what’s usually a house of horrors.
• Week 8 vs Nevada (L, 48-34): A tale of two halves — NMSU up 27-20 at intermission, outscored 28-7 from there.
• Week 9 at Georgia (L, 63-16): Bulldogs score 42 second-quarter points as Aggies fall to SEC foe.
• Week 10 vs. Fresno State (W, 45-41): First win in NMSU’s history over Fresno State, this one coming in a shootout.
• Week 11 at BYU (L, 42-7): Cougars score 14 points in final 3:30 of the first half, run away from Aggies in the cold.
• Week 12 at Louisiana Tech (L, 44-0): When it rains it pours — Aggies lose awful game in Ruston.
• Week 13 vs. Utah State (L, 24-21): Aggies play hard, fall short to bowl-bound Utah State.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Should Aggies consider a 3-4 defensive front?

The reason a 3-4 scheme would seem to work at NMSU is because it can be hard to get quality defensive linemen at the school.

The 3-4 — which features three down-linemen and four linebackers — would ask the Aggies to get big, tough pluggers along the defensive line and good athletes at outside linebacker.

NMSU has run a 4-3 the last three years — four linemen, three linebackers.

It should be pointed out that NMSU ran a 3-4 under defensive coordinator Woody Widenhofer a few years back and than a 3-3-5 under Joe Lee Dunn in 2008 — and weren’t particularly successful doing either.

Head coach DeWayne Walker said he wanted his new defensive coordinator to be multiple in approach.

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Walker interview on

Some interesting stuff coming from DeWayne Walker’s interview on the Aggie sports website

He talks about the defensive coordinator position, some recruiting news and expectations going into next year. Click here to read. Good stuff.....

Some highlights from the Q&A:

• Walker talks about what he wants out of his new defensive coordinator: “Whatever coordinator I hire, we just want to be more creative, kind of getting back to doing things we did my first year in terms of more pressure and just having more of a variety of schemes to make it a little bit more fun for our guys and run around and these guys can make more plays.”

• Walker talks about hoping to bring in a junior college quarterback for spring football. For the record, there was talk of this before the season ended and before reports surfaced that Cole Gautsche switching his verbal commitment to New Mexico. Part of the reason could be the health of quarterback Andrew Manley, who’s recovering from a knee injury.

• Walker says that offensive coordinator Doug Martin will contribute in the hiring of an offensive line coach. “He’ll definitely have a hand in it,” Walker said. “We’ll sit down and look at resumes.”

• Walker talks about recruiting, adding that the team has its sites set on a punter.

• Lastly, Walker talks about next year’s schedule, which will also feature an FCS school in Sacramento State and a money game at Auburn.

Again, plenty more on

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Monday, December 5, 2011

Lenzmeier, Lindsey, Williams: Gone

The New Mexico State Aggies lost three football assistant coaches on Monday — defensive coordinator Dale Lindsey, defensive line coach Jesse Williams and offensive line coach Jason Lenzmeier.

In my opinion Lenzmeier will be the toughest of the three to replace.

He is a good coach with recruiting ties in New Mexico and Texas.

Wide receiver Austin Franklin is one player he recruited and reports now have Cleveland High quarterback Cole Gautche planning to go to the University of New Mexico instead of NMSU — where he originally verbally committed to.

The Aggies tried to keep Lenzmeier but him leaving seemed like a no-brainer also.

It's like CC Sabathia — the Brewers tried to keep him and made him an offer they thought was fair, but they were going against the Yankees. More guaranteed money in a place he wants to be — he is a Lobo and so is his wife, they have family there. Tough to say, but it also makes sense.

Lindsey was a good coach too — tough, straight-forward and old school, he played at Western Kentucky from 1963-64, played for the Cleveland Browns from 1965-73 and then began his coaching career in 1974 with the Browns. In other words, he's been around football forever.

Perhaps not the best fit anymore at NMSU either, however. Again, he was older and coaching college players is different than coaching the professional ranks. That and the defense wasn't very good either.

NMSU head coach DeWayne Walker wants his unit to look more multiple next year and perhaps a new voice leading the way isn't a bad thing.

Initially, letting go of Williams came as a surprise.

He did what he could with a unit that was hit hard with two academic casualties and an injury to defensive tackle Tommy Stuart at the start of training camp. All three players — Stuart, tackle Augafa Vaaulu and end Donte Savage — were projected starters and their losses were obviously a huge blow to the group. I thought the defensive line played up to its potential this year — albeit that ceiling wasn't very high.

In the end, I think Lindsey and Williams can be replaced.

Lenzmeier can be too, although that will be tougher. Him going anywhere would hurt, him going back to UNM hurts even more.

We'll see how things transpire from here.

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

Lindsey, Williams gone

Release from NMSU today...

Walker Announces Staff Changes for the 2012 Season

LAS CRUCES, N.M. -- New Mexico State head football coach DeWayne Walker announced Monday morning that defensive coordinator Dale Lindsey and defensive line coach Jesse Williams will not return for the 2012 season.

"I am appreciative of Coach Lindsey’s and Coach Williams’ efforts and their service to New Mexico State University and the Las Cruces community," Walker said. "We will move quickly and efficiently in order to bring the best coaches possible to our football program. I continue to have great expectations for this program and I will bring in coaches that can help us reach those goals."

A national search for a defensive coordinator and defensive line coach will begin immediately.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Aggies fall to Utah State in season finale

The New Mexico State Aggie football season is over as the team fell to Utah State 24-21 on Saturday.

The loss dropped NMSU to 4-9 on the season — Utah State is 7-5 overall and will play in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in Boise, Idaho later this month.

This was a tough loss for the Aggies and they really could have won the game.

NMSU was leading 21-17 but couldn't put things away.

The team didn't do anything with the ball at the six minute mark of the fourth quarter and punted back to Utah State, which went 83 yards on 13 plays for the winning TD with 35 seconds left.

NMSU got the ball back but immediately threw an interception — quarterback Matt Christian looked deep on the first play of the possession and was picked off.

The Utah State offense was very unimaginative — the team ran the ball 73 times for 392 yards.

Quarterback Adam Kennedy completed 12 of 16 pass attempts for 123 yards and three TDs — his first was a 21-yarder to running back Robert Turtbin on blown coverage by NMSU and the final one was the game winner from 8 yards out to Matt Austin. Freshman QB Chuckie Keeton is healthy but the team continues to ride Kennedy, who's won five-straight games as the starter.

Still, this game featured Utah State running the ball — really, I thought NMSU held up OK in run defense. Utah State didn't break off any huge runs during the game, they just chipped away on the Aggies.

There's a lot of talk about Turbin — an NFL-caliber player — but his running mate Michael Smith is a really fine player as well as is backup Kerwynn Williams. Smith led the way on the ground with 121 yards, while Turbin added 98 and Kennedy had 95.

The final drive saw Utah State facing a fourth and 1 from the Aggies 12-yard line. Kennedy went right and slipped — a handful of players slipped in that area of the field during the game — and his knee came down close to the first-down spot. The official spot got him the first — it was a very close call that could have gone either way. If it went the Aggies way, they would have had win No. 5.

Robert Clay actually got in the game — he hasn't had an offensive play in what felt like forever — and ran well in the first half. I thought the Aggies could have gone to him on the goal line just before halftime — instead they ran a quarterback sneak on second down and then — with 16 seconds left and no timeouts remaining — they elected to pass the ball. A Utah State linebacker came through, Christian was pressured and his pass to the left for Bateman was intercepted. BIG play in the game.

Running back Kenny Turner also had a fumble in the first half at the Utah State 35 — both of those turnovers took away promising NMSU drives as the Aggies went into the locker room down 14-7.

Utah State also missed some chances — twice in the first half USU moved the ball inside the 10-yard line only to come away without any points. NMSU's goal line and short-yardage defense was good on Saturday.

Bateman did have a 50-yard touchdown, beating safety Chris Harris on a post-route. Harris slipped — on that part of the field again — and Bateman was able to catch the ball and get in.

The play was set up by a forced fumble — Kennedy was hit by NMSU safety Ben Bradley — that was recovered by David Niumatalolo.

Senior cornerback Jonte Green had his second interception in two weeks. They're also the first two interceptions of his Aggie career.

Some of the tackle numbers in this game were outrageous.

Donyae Coleman led the way with 23. Niumatalolo had 17, Ben Bradley had 14 and Boyblue Aoelua finished with 12.

I thought the Aggies tackled pretty well on the day and a handful of times a single tackle saved a big run for Utah State.

The announced attendance was 13,631 is payed attendance, not people actually at the game.

That's good, because it's a joke. That number couldn't have been farther from the truth — there were easily 10,000 less people than that at the game. We all know NMSU has to make attendance requirements, and it would at least seem they did that.

For those that are interested, that number, according to NMSU's sports information staff, puts the Aggies over the 15,000 average attendance mark for the year. On Thursday the school put out a release saying the Aggies needed more fans to come out to the game or they would fall short of 15,000 — and be without bowl eligibility for next season. In turn, their standing in the FBS could have been in jeaporady as well. Don't really know what to make of this — or why they would send out such a release to begin with, two days before the game no less.

That release sure didn't get more people to come out. Maybe it helped them sell another ticket or two. Maybe.

When it's all said and done, it appears NMSU had a contingency plan in place to get above that threshold anyway.

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

Friday, December 2, 2011

Predicting Mayfield vs. Cleveland game

One thing about today’s Class 5A State Football Championship game — it’s a tough one to predict.

In comes Cleveland High, the prohibitive favorites over the Mayfield Trojans — on paper at least.

They’re undefeated at 13-0, and come in with a high-octane passing attack led by quarterback Cole Gautsche, wide receiver Reece White and running back Rommel Jordan.
They match up well with Mayfield, who’s had trouble this season defending the pass — really, Mayfield’s defense just hasn’t been very good.

But I will also say this — picking against the Trojans in this game is a scary proposition.

First off, they’re hitting on all cylinders and have been as hot as a pistol offensively for the past month.

This is a team with tradition and a great coaching staff. They get the Storm at home, and they flourish as the underdog.

There have been plenty of Mayfield miracles in the past — a 1971 state championship victory, 24-20, over West Mesa; in 1995, a 13-12 state title win at Clovis; a 13-7 victory over Roswell-Goddard in the 1998 championship game; and last year’s 21-17 win over La Cueva in the state semifinals.

Speaking of last year, the Trojans won the state championship in 2010 as a four-loss team. Were they the most talented program in the state? Not likely. But they won the games that mattered.

And that’s what it boils down to — the Trojans are winners and champions and will come into this one with a sound gameplan.

Cleveland has been pushed only in a small-handful of games this season, and haven’t played in a state title contest before.

They’re leaving at 5:30 this morning, coming down to Las Cruces, and are playing a Bradley-led team at the Field of Dreams. Call me crazy, but when Jim Bradley is on a Trojans coaching staff, I have a hard time going against them.

The weather could be poor — cold, windy and wet could all be part of the forecast — which is the perfect storm for the Trojans.

Yes Cleveland is the favorite — on paper.

But in my mind the Trojans have the edge in intangibles.

A tough one to predict, and points will be scored.

But my call on the game? Another Mayfield miracle.

My prediction:
Mayfield 35, Cleveland 34

Five keys for Aggies vs. Utah State

• Christian’s status: Aggie senior quarterback Matt Christian — who’s been in and out of the lineup with injuries — is expected to start today against Utah State. Christian’s been a catalyst for the Aggie offense and the entire unit needs to play well today — from the QB, to the wide receivers, to the offensive line, to running back Kenny Turner. If the Aggies can score first in this one, it will mean a lot in hopes of a win.

• Gut check:
The Aggies have been blown out three times in the last month and the team will need to fight for four quarters in today’s game. In other words, today’s contest will require a gutty effort from the 4-8 Aggies. Also, what’s Utah State’s mindset coming in. With a 6-5 record the team is already bowl eligible, and could be in for a down performance. No matter what happens, fans will want to see the Aggies compete and fight in their season finale.

• Weather: Game-time temperatures will be in the mid-to-high 40s and there is a 10 percent chance of precipitation. It will likely be a cold and windy one at Aggie Memorial which would figure to favor the northern Aggies. After all, they’re used to such conditions up in Logan, Utah.

• Utah State ground game: Utah State is going to come right at you with their running attack. Running back Robert Turbin is big — 5-foot-10, 216 pounds — and looks like a certifiable NFL player. Fellow backfield mates Michael Smith and Kerwynn Williams are also capable, making this Utah State team a tough one to stop on the ground.

• The series: Utah State has owned the all-time series with NMSU — holding a 27-7 lifetime record between the two teams. Of course, NMSU won the 1960 Sun Bowl between the two clubs and Utah State holds just a 6-4 advantage in the last 10 games. From 1968-1998 USU held a 19-game winning streak against NMSU.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Sources: Walker, NMSU negotiating contract extension

New Mexico State University and head football coach DeWayne Walker are working on finalizing a three to four year contract extension, sources from inside the NMSU athletics department have told the Sun-News.

The extension will likely be finalized within the next week, one source said.

Walker, who is currently in the third year of his original five-year contract, makes an annual salary of $363,000.

That salary is not expected to change with the extension.

Some things to consider regarding the extension:

The Aggies have shown improvement: Out of Walker’s 9-28 record, four of those wins have come this season and the team has been more competitive in 2011.

Some will consider the move premature: Walker is in the middle of his original deal — there are still two years remaining in that pact — and next year will be another critical one as the team looks to continue its progression and push for the .500 mark.

He’s coaching at New Mexico State: A place that’s seldom had a winner, this year at least has provided some optimism amongst fans.

A sense of stability: In the ever-changing landscape of college football — there are a handful of high-profile coaching jobs that will be available this offseason — a long-term commitment to a coach can help him and his staff solidify recruiting efforts.

The Aggies will play their season finale this weekend when they host Utah State at 1:30 p.m.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Walker and UCLA

With the internet rumor mill beginning to swirl once again — it is almost December now — head coach DeWayne Walker's name has come up as a possible replacement for Rick Neuheisel at UCLA.

For a report from ESPN click here, for one from Athlon sports click here.

I asked Walker about UCLA following Aggie practice on Tuesday and here's what he had to say:

“I'm focusing on (this Saturday's opponent) Utah State. It's flattering to see your name with the likes of Chris Peterson, Tom Cable, these guys. That part's flattering. But I haven't heard from anybody. I love UCLA, I have a history there, but to me I'm focusing on Utah State. If there's no phone calls — if they're not calling you they're calling somebody else. That's not really my focus until it happens or if it happens.”

For the record, I don't think Walker would be a serious candidate for the job just because his win totals at New Mexico State just aren't there at this point. They're just moving forward.

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

Monday, November 28, 2011

Aggies hosting Arizona tonight

The New Mexico State Aggie basketball team hosts the University of Arizona tonight at the Pan American Center.

I think this is a 50/50 game — if the Aggies are focused they can beat anyone on their schedule and one would think they'll be ready to play tonight against the Wildcats. If I had to give either team a slight edge, I would give it to NMSU.

Again, the key factors for the Aggies: winning the rebounding battle and forcing turnovers on the defensive end of the floor. They do those two things, they're a tough team to beat.

Looking forward to this one at the Pan Am….

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Early-week thoughts on Saturday's Mayfield vs. Cleveland state championship football game

The Mayfield Trojans will face the Cleveland Storm in the Class 5A State Football Championship game on Saturday at 1 p.m.

Cleveland has to be the prohibitive favorites in this one. The Storm haven't lost a game this season and are led by senior quarterback Cole Gautsche — he verbally committed to NMSU and has been a stud on the high school level this year.

The Storm throw the football — that's their main mode of attack and defending the pass has been the Trojans' achilles heal this year.

But none of that means I'm counting out Mayfield in this football game.

First off, the Trojans have a great coaching staff that will make the appropriate adjustment to at least give their players a chance to win the game.

They're a winning program and playing them in a state championship game — in Las Cruces no less — is no easy task.

The No. 1 key in this game will be Mayfield's ability to slow down the Storm's passing attack.

Mayfield will have to pressure Gautsche and when they do get to him, get him on the ground — he's big and fast.

Will Mayfield make personnel adjustments in the secondary? Tough to say and it would be an unconventional move at this point of the year, not that the team hasn't made such moves in the past. This is for the state title.

Some other early-week keys: controlling the clock by moving the chains — sustained drives as opposed to a quick-strike offense — and playing mistake-free football.

Again, Cleveland is the favorite — a very good team that hasn't lost all season.

But counting against Mayfield in a game like this wouldn't be a wise move.

I'll have my prediction later in the week. For now, just some early-week notes and ramblings on Saturday's game.

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Aggies lose big at Louisiana Tech

First off, this was a BAD game for the Aggies. Louisiana Tech is a better team than NMSU, but not 44-0 better.

Freshman Travaughn Colwell showed his inexperience in this one.

Colwell has shown a lot of potential this year but this was a big-time game — playing against a good team, on the road, that was playing for a conference championship.

He looked slow in his progressions and held the ball too long — either get rid of it or run with it. He took too many sacks — seven to be exact.

Of course senior Matt Christian's presence would have helped the Aggies.

His absence was odd, only because he was wearing his helmet and pads on the sideline. One would think if he couldn't go he wouldn't be suited up — perhaps the team was holding out hope if they were in it late, he could give them some snaps in crunch time. Head coach DeWayne Walker said Christian's hip was bothering him in pre-game warmups — Christian has been banged up all year — and that he couldn't go. He was limited this week in practice.

Could there be frustration between the Aggies defense and offense? It's possible.

It happens. It's tough — the defense played OK for 1 1/2 quarters and kept the team in it but the offense just couldn't get going. Three times the Aggies got inside the Louisiana Tech 35-yard line but couldn't come away with points.

Kemonte Bateman fumbled the ball after a reception for the first turnover, then Colwell was stopped short of the marker on a fourth-down run.

Later in the quarter the Aggies punted from the La. Tech 34 and the ball was downed at the 5-yard line.

We've talked about the situation at length — the Aggies NEED to get off to a good start in games. This is a team where, in its four wins, has scored first in each one. Once they fall behind two scores, two touchdowns, they're in trouble.

With that being said, a BIG key was the final four minutes of the first half.

It came after the Capraro punt, Aggies down 9-0 and Louisiana Tech backed up deep. The Bulldogs would go on to drive 95 yards to score a touchdown and take a 16-0 lead with under a minute to play in the half.

NMSU's next possession, Colwell throws an interception that was returned 45 yards for a touchdown by Louisiana Tech linebacker Adrian Cole with seven seconds to play in the second quarter. You go into the locker room trailing 9-0, it's a manageable score. But the Aggies were down 23-0 and the momentum had shifted to Louisiana Tech's side.

The Bulldogs would get the ball to start the second half and score on their first possession.

A second-quarter screen pass from Colwell was slightly high, went through Kenny Turner's hands and was intercepted by La. Tech.

If the play had been executed, Turner had blockers and running room.

Shortly thereafter NMSU senior cornerback Jonte Green recorded his first career interception with the team. He could have had another — he had a bead on a first-quarter pass in the flat from Cameron but couldn't corral it.

Green was also flagged for his eighth pass interference penalty of the year.

Junior cornerback Jeremy Harris continues to get picked on by opposing teams. They have been going after him the past month.

The Aggies have lost three of their last four games, all on the road, to Georgia (63-16 final score), BYU (42-7) and Louisiana Tech (44-0).

The Aggies have been improved this year but have taken some steps back in all three of these games.

NMSU can still be a five-win team — which would mark a MAJOR improvement — if they can beat Utah State in their season finale next Saturday at Aggie Memorial Stadium.

Utah State is a good team though, winning at Nevada on Saturday to move to 6-5 on the year.

The UtAgs are now bowl eligible.

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Scouting Louisiana Tech, and a question about Kenny Turner's future

Lets just start out by saying that this Saturday looks to be a tough game for the Aggie football team.

On the road, playing Louisiana Tech as 19-point underdogs.

With a win, the Bulldogs will clinch a share of the WAC title, so a letdown seems unlikely — the Bulldogs should be ready for this one.

They've won five straight games, including road wins at Ole Miss and Nevada.

Offensively, the Bulldogs look to throw the football. Senior quarterback Colby Cameron has started the last four games for the team, and played in the last five.

Louisiana Tech has gone to a three-back look at times — a loaded-spread formation. This gives them versatility in the running and passing game.

But defensively is where the Bulldogs have surprised me this year. They're a quick team and will play mostly zone in the secondary, while bringing just a four-man rush.

The Aggies have played two straight bad games on the road — at Georgia and at BYU.

Keys for the Aggies: they will have to run the ball to control the clock and could find some holes in the Bulldogs secondary in the short and intermediate passing game. We've been saying it all season — the Aggies are better suited playing with a lead, and aren't suited playing from behind.


Asked junior running back Kenny Turner about his future next year — there has been talk about Turner possibly entering the NFL Draft.

He's had a big year for the Aggies — this year he's done exactly what they brought him in for.

For the record, I am not at the point where I can tell you if Turner should stay or go. I will say that I wonder about his size on the next level, although perhaps if a team found the right niche for him — as an h-back type or third-down running back — that might work. I think he could play some special teams.

Again, he's had a big year for NMSU, is in his mid-20s and is good friend with current NFL players Chris Johnson and Mike Sim-Walker — I could understand him considering his future at this point.

Anyway, here's what he he had to say about next year:

“I'm not really worried about that, I'm just trying to focus on these next two games. When next year comes, it's gonna come. I'll be ready.”

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

LCHS quarterfinals loss to good Rio Rancho team can still be considered a letdown

Was Las Cruces High’s loss, in Saturday’s quarterfinals of the state football championships, to Rio Rancho a letdown?

For a team with state championship aspirations, it has to be.

The reality is that Rio Rancho is a good team, while LCHS wasn’t a perfect product this year.

The Bulldawgs played a soft schedule — they finished 8-3, with all their losses coming to winning teams while their District 3-5A schedule provided zero challenges outside of their regular-season finale defeat to Mayfield.

No. 5-ranked Rio Rancho, meanwhile, now stands at 9-3, with their three losses coming to Goddard, Eldorado and Cleveland — teams with combined records of 30-3.

The Rams run an effective run-and-shoot offense with quarterback Jason Fitzpatrick and running back Ulises Astorga.

In actuality, it was the Rams who could have been a top-four team in the state, while LCHS — which was vanilla all year and failed to address its issues as a run-only offense — could have played last weekend’s game on the road.

Rio Rancho is a clear underdog against No. 1-ranked Cleveland this weekend in the semifinals — LCHS probably wouldn’t have beaten the Storm either — but it will be interesting to see how the game plays out.

Still, rewinding to last weekend, it was the Bulldawgs who blew a 14-point halftime lead and gave up 48 points on their home field in a double-overtime loss to the Rams.

Different sports bring different expectations, and when dealing with high school football in Las Cruces it’s about playing for state championships.

The past three years, the Bulldawgs haven't.

In 2009, they lost to Sandia at home in the quarterfinals.

Last year they lost to Manzano on the road in a semifinal game they should have won — a 17-point halftime lead lost and getting the short end of a questionable non-touchdown call late cost them.

I’m not saying Las Cruces High is a sagging football program, because they’re not.

Certainly the losses of tight end/defensive end Geoff Segovia — a real difference maker — and his running mate Kamryn Dixon didn't help the team's cause in their attempt at state supremacy.

And, next year I expect the Bulldawgs to be just fine once again.

They’re still a playoff team — historically a top-four team for that matter.

That, and they've still beaten No. 2-ranked Mayfield four of the last five years — which in some respects is considered southern New Mexico's real Super Bowl.

But when it's been all said and done, the Trojans have had better playoff success of late, and a better state championship resume for that matter.

They’ll be playing in the state semifinals at 5 p.m. Friday against Manzano in what should be an interesting matchup — an offensive shootout could be in store at the Field of Dreams.

You know, one of our local Class 5A teams have played in the state championship game 14 of the last 16 years — an unprecedented run in the city.

When it comes down to high school football in Las Cruces, playing for such hardware matters.

After losing at home in the state quarterfinals, the Bulldawgs have another long winter to think about falling short of such lofty expectations.

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Thoughts on Aggie hoops, Aggie football

A few more thoughts on NMSU's basketball win over UTEP on Saturday before talking Aggie football….

We've seen it before — the Aggies embodying their best player on the hardwood. Last year it was Troy Gillenwater. This year it's Wendell McKines, who is back after injury. And I don't believe it's a coincidence that the team seems to be playing harder for the full 40 minutes this season.

McKines had a big game on Saturday night (23 points, 13 rebounds) but it's his energy and attitude that's infectious — flying through the air, diving for loose balls. This rubs of on teammates — the Aggies have virtually the same personnel as last season but look to be working harder. Center Chili Nephawe has been playing with more emotion and edge this year. Does this have something to do with McKines' presence? Well, I certainly think it's possible.

As I wrote yesterday, NMSU played hard on defense throughout Saturday night and passed the basketball well. Did I think they played smart the whole evening? I wouldn't say that.

The Aggies seemed to keep UTEP in it early and looked for the big play late — which resulted in wasted possessions. They could have won by more than 16 points.

I think Christian Kabongo can look good one trip down court — he scored 15 points on Saturday and hit some big shots — and then bad the next — five turnovers and some mind-numbing around-the-back passes.

But really, the Aggies have a very good shot at winning the WAC this year. They have a BIG team — McKines, Nephawe, Hamidu Rahman and Tyrone Watson. One possible key to beating the Aggies this year is by breaking even with them on the boards. Good luck with that though — they're big and long and like to bang underneath. Easier said than done, that's for sure.

Hernst Laroche is a steady point guard. Bandja Sy has been shooting hot early and freshman Daniel Mullings is an interesting prospect. So while the team is not perfect, they have done some things very well and have looked impressive to this point.

As for football….

Saturday's 42-7 loss at BYU was not a good showing by this year's team.

The 249 yards was a season-low for the Aggies — this was a surprise, as NMSU has moved the ball well on just about everyone they've played to this point of the year. It was the second-straight road clunker for the Aggies — two weeks ago it was a 63-16 loss at Georgia.

From a defensive standpoint, BYU moved the ball and NMSU surrendered 10 of 14 third-down conversion attempts to the Cougars.

Key sequence: With the score tied at 7 in the second quarter, BYU drove 90 yards for a TD. NMSU went three-and-out and the Cougars regained possession and scored just before halftime. So a 7-7, competitive game became a 21-7 contest going into intermission.

NMSU will go to Louisiana Tech this Saturday for yet another TOUGH contest. The Bulldogs are in the WAC driver's seat after a 24-20 win at Nevada. They're a talented team and a win for them this weekend in their season finale will assure them of a WAC championship.

After this Saturday, the Aggies will return home the following weekend for a game against Utah State — it's one that seems winnable. If they can win one of their final two games, that would give the Aggies five wins on the season, which would be quite unbelievable — in a good way — considering where they were last year and the general expectations coming into this season.

As I end many of my posts....We shall see.

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Unified Aggies force issue, beat Miners

The New Mexico State Aggies are playing more like a unified basketball team.

Defensively, they're playing harder this year — they did throughout their 89-73 win over UTEP on Saturday.

Offensively they passed the ball well against the Miners.

There was excitement in the Pan American Center.

And it was another NMSU win in 2011, this one coming over a UTEP team that, frankly, the Aggies should have beaten.

The Miners had a successful strategy in the first 20 minutes of the game — while the Aggies kept them in it to a degree — playing a four-quarters offense and spreading the floor. They were patient, made the extra pass and trailed just 42-38 at intermission.

But the contest turned in the first five minutes of the second half.

NMSU picked up their intensity on the defensive end of the floor, pressured the Miners and turned it into opportunities on offense.

The team went on a 15-4 run coming out of the locker room, and UTEP was forced to come out of their offensive set while playing catchup.

The Aggies got the ball inside and moved it well on the interior — NMSU took 13 3-pointers in the first half, just five in the second — and shot 51 percent from the floor to close out the game.

Teams have a shot at beating the Aggies this year if they can turn them over and break even with them on the backboards. Easier said than done, though.

The Aggies are big and long inside — they outrebounded the smaller Miners 42-27 on Saturday.

Defense and rebounding.

Sounds like a formula a team can win with — whether they're playing at home or away.

So far, the Aggies have an impressive look.

Teddy Feinberg can be reached at (575) 541-5455

Friday, November 18, 2011

Walker talking bowl chances, and a prediction for Saturday’s Aggie football game

First off, I asked head coach DeWayne Walker if he’s been talking about bowl games with this year’s Aggie football team. At 4-6 on the season, NMSU has to win out, starting with Saturday’s game at BYU. Next week the team will travel to Louisiana Tech — which should be a very difficult game — and then will wrap up its season with a home finale against Utah State.

Walker said he had refrained talking about a bowl game with his team until last week leading up to the Fresno State game. Here’s a quote from the coach.

“I did last week, started it last week. I showed them the University of Washington’s schedule last year. They had to win their last three or four games to be bowl-eligible (the Huskies won three straight and then beat Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl). They know. It’s a three--game season, and a one-game season. A one-game season means take one game at a time. And then if we win three, then we will be bowl-eligible. If it doesn’t happen, then we still gotta play for respectability.”

It starts Saturday night for the Aggies.

It will be cold in Provo, Utah — weather forecasts are calling for temperatures in the low 30s at kickoff.

I think BYU — who is favored by 23 points — has a very good offensive line and a handful of running backs. Quarterback Jake Heaps will get the nod with starter Riley Nelson is out with injury. Nelson is a dual threat quarterback and ran out of BYU’s wildcat formation. His absence should help the Aggies.

NMSU has moved the ball well on just about every opponent they’ve faced this year — even against Georgia, despite scoring just 16 points in that game. Barring any major weather trouble, I think the Aggies can move the ball once again on a good BYU defense.

I have a hard time seeing the Aggies winning in Provo, but I also think they can keep it competitive. Certainly within two touchdowns.

My prediction: BYU 35, New Mexico State 24

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

Thursday, November 17, 2011

High school football playoff games for MHS, LCHS

Lets talk high school football playoff games.

Friday sees No. 2-ranked Mayfield host No. 7-ranked Eldorado at 7 p.m. while No. 4-ranked Las Cruces High will host No. 5 Rio Rancho on Saturday at 1 p.m.

First off, I expect both local teams to win in competitive games.

Lets start with MHS....

Eldorado traditionally plays Mayfield tough under head coach Charlie Dotson. They have a similar mentality as the Trojans — to deliver the first blow, not take it. I expect a physical football game, but I also expect the Trojans to win when it’s all said and done — Mayfield has been coming on in recent weeks.

As for Las Cruces High, Rio Rancho has been playing good football — they put up 56 points in their opening round game vs. Alamogordo and were competitive vs. No. 1 Cleveland at the end of the district season.

But the Bulldawgs are still a top-four team in the state and I expect them to come out on top. The Bulldawgs weakness is at quarterback at this point — Devin Perez is a gamer and a tough player but isn’t a good thrower. Still, he’s 12-2 as a starter — he has proven he can get the job done. Don’t be surprised to see John Joy — a good quarterback prospect who’s more of a traditional QB — get some snaps this week as well.

Regardless, LCHS is a top-four, top-three team in the state and I have faith in the Bulldawgs coaching staff. Don’t think that it will be easy, but I still like the Bulldawgs in this one. Think there is a good chance both LCHS and MHS could meet in state title game. The Bulldawgs will have to get through this weekend and then No. 1-ranked Cleveland, in all likelihood.

We shall see how it unfolds.

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Aggie basketball gets BIG win at UNM

The New Mexico State Aggie men’s basketball team got a BIG win at the University of New Mexico on Wednesday night.

The Aggies have to beat their rivals — particularly head coach Marvin Menzies, who’s been hearing about his record against UNM and UTEP. A road win at the Pit — a tough place to play and where the Aggies haven’t won since 2002 — will give him some relief, at least until Saturday when UTEP comes to Las Cruces.

The Aggies won on the defensive end of the floor. UNM shot 28 percent on the evening and NMSU has the bodies and length up front to play good defense. We wrote that at the beginning of the year — good defense and rebounding you can pack up and win with on the road. If the Aggies are consistently good in this department, they should be just fine this year and challenge for a WAC championship.

It wasn’t the prettiest game and the Aggies would have won going away if they hit their free throws — the team went 21-of-38 from the free throw line.

Bandja Sy was big for the Aggies — big early buckets and played well down the stretch — while Wendell McKines was huge as expected — all 14 of his points came in the second half when the Aggies needed him.

Again, a great win for the Aggie men. Now they do have to follow it up Saturday with another victory over their rival UTEP.

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Aggie men’s basketball team faces big games this week

It’s rivalry week for the Aggie men’s basketball team when they travel to the University of New Mexico for a Wednesday night game and then host UTEP on Saturday.

Obviously these games are important for the program. The Aggies are 3-13 in the past four years against their rivals and the rallying cry in the past has been to get better for conference play, then the conference tournament. But these games mean a lot to the people of Las Cruces and the Aggies need to play well in them this year.

Do they have to win both? I don’t think that’s the case. I do think they have to be in the UNM game and they do have to beat UTEP on Saturday.

The Lobos are supposed to be a good team and playing in the Pit is historically tough. Not that I think it’s insurmountable to get a victory there. There will be a good crowd as always and a good atmosphere for this one. And, you know, as a player this should be the type of game you love playing in. The Aggies should be excited about playing in a great atmosphere. No one in the crowd is going to block a shot or grab a rebound. The game will be decided on the court.

I expect the Aggies to play hard and with that they should defend and rebound well. Why not? If the Aggies play hard they should do both of these things effectively — they’re athletic enough to hold their own in these departments.

I think a KEY to the game will be the Aggies ability to shoot the 3-pointer. This will be a key to follow all year.

In their exhibition game against Eastern New Mexico the Aggies went 3-of-17 from deep and then followed that up with a 5-of-14 performance in their season opener at Northern Colorado. If the Aggies can hit one of every three 3-point attempts, they should be OK.

As for UTEP, the Miners are off to a slow start. That doesn’t mean they won’t be better by Jan. 1. But right now they’re a team the Aggies can — and should — beat in Las Cruces.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Aggies' Big 3, and the defense

The Aggies Big 3 on offense shined the other night versus Fresno State. Lets take a look:

Quarterback Matt Christian

Saturday's stats: 25 of 43, 360 yards, two touchdowns.

Many knew the Aggies could win with Christian in the lineup after starter Andrew Manley went down but I don't know how many expected him to play at such a high level and be as valuable as he's been. Christian has averaged over 250 yards passing per game this year and has thrown for multiple touchdowns in four of his seven starts. Statistics aside, he's played hurt, played tough and led the team. In my estimation he's been the Aggies MVP this year.

Wide receiver Taveon Rogers

Saturday's statistics: 412 all-purpose yards; 10 receptions for 166 yards and a TD; 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.

Rogers has had a great year for the Aggies — they're No. 1 receiver and deep threat on offense and ace kick-return man. He has NFL potential.

On special teams, why do teams continue to kick the ball to Rogers? It seems like he has a 50/50 chance of returning a kick for a touchdown every time he touches the ball. I just do not understand why teams do it — it seems like football suicide to me. Three kickoff returns for TDs this year for the senior.

Running back Kenny Turner

Saturday's stats: 27 carries, 112 yards; two receptions, 30 yards; four touchdowns

Turner has also been a VERY valuable Aggie this year. Since moving back to running back, Turner has topped 100 yards rushing in five of the last seven games (he also had a 94-yard effort at Georgia). He also has 42 catches this year for 494 yards and has scored 12 touchdowns.

Turner has had some trouble holding onto the ball this year — recently its been fumbling — but has been a workhorse runner who has played well from start to finish in games this year where he's been the featured back. He's almost seemed to get better as the game goes on. Here's to hoping that Turner, a junior, will return to NMSU next season.


I know the team gave up 45 points to Fresno State on Saturday but I actually thought the defense played OK. Some plays that hurt the unit:

• Jake Capraro's 9-yard punt (yes, 9 yards), gave Fresno State the ball at the NMSU 46 yard line in the first quarter. The Bulldogs would score a touchdown to tie the score a 7-7.

• Christian's second-quarter interception gave Fresno State the ball at their own 34-yard line, down 20-10 late in the second quarter. It was a deep ball to Taveon Rogers that floated in the air and was wrestled away by Fresno defensive back L.J. Jones. The Bulldogs would score a touchdown on the ensuing possession to make the score 20-17.

• NMSU cornerback Jeremy Harris got torched in the third quarter — a pass interference call and two long touchdowns surrendered to Jalen Saunders.

Outside of those four or five key plays I thought the unit played all right. It held Fresno State running back Robbie Rouse in check on the ground (23 carries, 93 yards, two touchdowns). Rouse did some damage as a pass catcher in the first half, but NMSU held him below his 120-yard rushing average — it could have been the best run defense the Aggies have played all season.

And the defense got two BIG fourth-quarter stops with under five minutes to go — getting the ball back to the offense down 45-41 and then holding on Fresno's final drive up 48-45. Outside of Harris, I thought the Aggie defensive backs covered the Fresno State wide receivers well.

The performance also came without standout safety Donyae Coleman, out with a shoulder injury. His replacement Justin Smith led NMSU with 13 tackles.

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Aggies show resolve in win over Fresno State

The New Mexico State Aggies showed resolve in their 48-45 win over Fresno State on Saturday night.

The game seemed tailor made for an NMSU collapse — the team, which turned the ball over on downs, was trailing 45-41 with just under four minutes and thirty seconds to play in the fourth quarter.

Fans — and their weren't many to begin with in attendance — streamed for the exits, perhaps jaded by past experiences in the program's history.

But the defense showed up, forcing a three-and-out and getting the ball back.

The offense would score a touchdown — a Matt Christian fling to Taveon Rogers from 27-yards out put the Aggies up a field goal with just over a minute to play.

And then, once again, the defense held against a team with offensive weapons — and a good quarterback in Derek Carr — turning the Bulldogs over on downs.

A lesser Aggie team would have crumbled — this one responded.

And with that, the team took another step forward.

Yes, the Aggies are better this year — more competitive and just a more entertaining product to watch.

But it would have left somewhat of an empty feeling if NMSU had lost their final seven games of the season — after a 3-3 start to the 2011 campaign.

They needed a win — a home win — over an established Western Athletic Conference program like Fresno State late in the season.

A Fresno State team which had won all 17 of the meetings between the two programs going into Saturday night's affair.

The Aggies did it without two of their starters — standout safety Donyae Coleman and offensive guard Andrew Kersten were out because of injury. Coleman's replacement Justin Smith led the Agies with 13 tackles while true freshman Valerian Ume-Ezeoke started for Kersten and the offensive line continued it's good play.

In truth, Fresno State is down this year and the Aggies are up. NMSU matched up well with the Bulldogs — better than any other Aggie team in recent memory. They were the better team.

NMSU is now 4-6 overall, 2-3 in Western Athletic Conference play.

Dare I say it? They're still bowl eligible.

The final three games will be uphill battles.

But the season isn't over yet, either.

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

Friday, November 11, 2011

Predicting Aggies vs. Fresno State

First off, this is a game the Aggies CAN win.

And it would be nice. Looking at their last four games on the schedule, their best chance at a W could be tonight against a down Fresno State team that, although traditionally solid, is not as strong this season. And with that being said, the Aggies are better. NMSU is 0-17 lifetime against Fresno State, but this is the best chance they’ve had in some time at knocking them off. It would be a good home win.

The Aggies should be able to score points on Fresno and it starts in the Bulldogs secondary. They play zone defense in the back-end and NMSU can exploit their lack of coverage skills.

On the other side of things, the Aggies are going to need to get stops. This should be a shootout and both teams are capable of scoring five touchdowns apiece. Whichever team gets there will win.

If the Aggies give up any scores or give away any points on special teams, it might cost them the game. The Aggies HAVE to at least hold their own in the special teams battle — they lose that, they lose the game.

Again, I expect a shootout.

My prediction: New Mexico State 35, Fresno State 31

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Five keys to Saturday’s Aggies vs. Fresno State game

Get stops: The Aggies should be able to score points on Fresno State — the question is, can they stop the Bulldogs when necessary? Last week the Aggie secondary struggled — Georgia appeared to go after Jeremy Harris and Ben Bradley in pass coverage — and this week will likely be without Donyae Coleman (shoulder). This unit could use a bounce-back performance against Fresno State sophomore quarterback Derek Carr, in what could very well be a shootout.

Contain Rouse: Fresno State running back Robbie Rouse is small in stature (5-foot-7, 185 pounds), yet big on production (1,080 rushing yards, 5.0 yards per carry and seven touchdowns). Rouse is a very good player and his 120 yards per game average leads the WAC. That could be a key number — if NMSU can keep him in that 120-yard ballpark, they’ve done a good job. The reality is that he’s capable of going off for more against a poor Aggies rush defense.

Aggie passing game: This is one area that can really flourish against the Bulldogs struggling secondary. Fresno State is primarily a zone team in pass coverage — they would prefer to not play man-to-man against opposing wide receivers — and rarely blitz multiple linebackers. There are holes in the Fresno secondary and the defensive backs have struggled to play the ball in the air. If the Aggie offensive line can hold up in protection — this unit has improved as the season’s moved along — it will allow quarterback Matt Christian time to get his playmaking wide receivers the ball. Then the ground game might get cooking. And then the Aggie offense will be in business.

Special teams: This appears every week in our keys and rightfully so. The Aggies continue to trot kicker Tyler Stampler out there and he continues to miss everything from field goals to extra points. And Fresno State has a good special teams unit — punt return man Devon Wylie is dangerous and the Bulldogs are notorious for blocking kicks. The Aggies can’t afford to give away any points in this one. Whoever wins this special teams battle might win the game all together.

Intangibles: Fresno State has owned the Aggies — a 17-0 lifetime record against NMSU. Both teams hold identical 3-6 records and Fresno State could come in tight — the Bulldogs have to win their final four games to remain bowl eligible. In the meantime, NMSU should be a loose bunch and could use a good victory in front of the home fans. Of the four remaining game on NMSU’s schedule — vs. Fresno State, at BYU, at Louisiana Tech and vs. Utah State — this one might be the most winnable.

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Aggies capable of beating Fresno State

Despite the eight-point spread in favor of the Fresno State Bulldogs football team this weekend, I think the New Mexico State Aggies are very capable of springing the upset in Las Cruces.

Fresno State has issues on defense — starting in their secondary — and the Aggies should be able to throw the football on them.

I think this game will be a shootout — both teams are capable of scoring four or five offensive touchdowns apiece.

BIG KEY FOR THE AGGIES: Will they keep Fresno State running back Robbie Rouse in check. He’s a very good player, and NMSU has to keep him around his 120 yards per game average. He’s capable of going for much more against NMSU.

That and special teams of course — punt return man Devon Wylie can do some damage for the Bulldogs.

The Aggies could really use another win or two to close out their season, and I think they have a good shot at getting one this weekend.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Light at the end of the tunnel?

I see a light at the end of the tunnel for the New Mexico State Aggie football team.

NMSU is 3-6 this season and really could use another win or two in the final four games of their season. I think they have a VERY good chance to get a W this weekend against Fresno State.

But I also think this program is on schedule under head coach DeWayne Walker, who is in his third year in Las Cruces.

The Aggies enter the “new” WAC next season and I think a winning record will be attainable. NMSU should beat newcomers Texas-San Antonio and Texas State and the remaining four WAC schools — Idaho, San Jose State, Utah State and Louisiana Tech (maybe) — seem to be on relatively equal footing with the Aggies.

I do feel pretty positive about the Aggie football team. This is Walker’s third year — a critical year — and the team is better. Of course, they need to continue getting better — very important, obviously.

Here’s a quote from Walker about the time table for his team in his third season at the helm:

“When you look at our first year — there was no recruiting class in our first year — we pretty much had to play with what was here. You can almost cancel that year to a certain degree. If you look at it that way, really last year was our first year really getting our guys in and this year was our second year. If you look at it from that perspective, next year is really our third year. With the recruiting class we brought in this past year I thought really will give us a chance with another recruiting class to really get this program going. Talking with opposing head coaches, and there’s some good head coaches that we’ve gone against and their teams, they see it. And it’s pretty obvious that we’re better. When you’re competitive for the most part, you want to win all the games that you’re competitive in and it’s not going to work out that way all the time. We feel pretty good. We still have four games left to continue and evaluate this program so we’re not done yet. I think the jury’s still out and I’m anxious to see how this football team finishes up.”

Monday, November 7, 2011

Wendell McKines and the Aggie-UTEP rivalry

If you haven't heard, Aggie senior basketball player Wendell McKines tweeted a message to UTEP after the Miners lost to Eastern New Mexico the other night in El Paso. Click here to read about it.

First off, Wendell is a good Aggie and is a very public student athlete. His Twitter account has done good things for the Aggie hoops program and I believe his presence on the team will bring more people to the Pan American Center this year.

And his recent comments about UTEP could very well pump some life into a rivalry that has recently fallen flat.

I will also say — and this is just my opinion — if I were a coach I wouldn't want my players on Twitter.

It's an unnecessary distraction that can cause unnecessary distractions.

I don't think as a coach you want to give an opposing team bulletin board material and the Aggies haven't had a good record against their rivals in recent years. I would just rather see the team go out, play, and win. That's it.

But it also brings me to my next point….

This is a big year for the Aggie men's basketball team and I think there is pressure on McKines. He's the unquestioned leader of the team and fans and followers of the program have been waiting for his return. He's viewed as a key player. And I think this might be how he handles that pressure.

He's not going to sit around and internalize it. He's going to take it head on and put it on his shoulders. And, you know, he's going to bring it when the Aggies play the Miners, and likely every other NMSU game for that matter. The question will be, who else is coming with him? Perhaps his head-on approach will rub off on the Aggies — which would be a good thing.

It really boils down to that. Wins and losses. Could the Twitter comments take things up a notch when these two teams play? Yes. But it doesn't change the fact that the Aggies need to beat the Miners this year. Period.

Tweet or no tweet.

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg