I thought — and I don't think I'm in the minority — that the offensive line was the biggest disappointment from Saturday night's 44-24 season opening football loss for the Aggies.
Yeah, the D-line wasn't great but we knew that was going to be an area of weakness.
It was believed the offensive line was going to be a strength of the team — it was believed if healthy it could be a solid offensive line for a mid-major program.
It wasn't on Saturday.
The Aggies ran for six yards on 23 carries. That's awful.
Center Sioeli Fakalata looked uncomfortable in his first career start at that position. He couldn't get the shotgun snaps down — he snapped one out of the endzone for a safety — and got beat on the interior. Fakalata is regarded as one of the Aggies best offensive lineman, if not the best, but he's playing a new position and has to lose weight — he's listed at 340 pounds.
Andrew Manley was pressured too much, sacked three times and trying to escape the rush. He isn't mobile but when he had time to throw the ball he looked good.
He threw for 362 yards and two touchdowns on a night the team didn't block well for him and ran for six yards total.
You saw the potential in the passing game Saturday night.
Manley has weapons to throw to — Todd Lee (5, 140, TD); Taveon Rogers (5, 92, 2 TDs); Kenny Turner (7, 93); Kemonte Bateman (3, 41). They all played well and the team can get the ball downfield.
I thought the Aggies played hard. This does mean something.
The team was down 44-10 but rallied.
Lee's 54-yard catch and touchdown run made the score 44-24 at the start of the fourth quarter and the team had life. The crowd was into it.
Ohio had the luxury of rotating players in on the defensive line — something the Aggies don't have — and a portion of NMSU's comeback came with that second unit on the field.
I thought the defensive secondary played well. They covered and the unit tackled well.
Donyae Coleman had two turnovers — first quarter interception, second quarter fumble recovery.
Cornerback Jeremy Harris is a newcomer that can cover and has size — 6-foot-2, 180 pounds.
Ohio is a good football team from the MAC conference. They have a run-first team that can get yards and their defensive line looked good.
They had good special teams units — they returned a punt 65 yards for a touchdown and their punter Paul Hershey was sensational.
Rogers was a bright spot — a 42-yard touchdown reception to tie the game at seven. NMSU came out on first down following a Kenny Turner run and set up the play fake with Manley going up to to the speedster who beat the secondary deep. Those two plays alone were essentially the only two plays NMSU made on offense the entire first half. Team's have to double team Rogers in the passing game and if they don't he'll make them pay with his speed.
Rogers returned a kickoff 97 yards for a TD in the the third quarter to make the score 44-17.
NFL scouts like Rogers — he's fast and is an athlete. If he has a good senior year at wide receiver, he'll help his cause.
What we know following game
We know much of the same before the game began.
We know the defensive line has little depth and that should haunt the team all season.
We know the secondary has talent, has some numbers and is sound.
We know the passing game — young-gun quarterback with talent at wide receiver —will be much improved.
What we didn't know was that the offensive line would struggle the way it did in the opener. It has to get better, period.
Last month I wrote that four wins would be a “very successful year” for this particular team, but a goal that is necessary. In my estimation that analysis still holds true.
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