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

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Thoughts following Aggies vs. Georgia

The New Mexico State Aggies didn’t play their best football on Saturday at USC.

I didn’t think the Aggies would win, but I thought they would keep it within three to four touchdowns — instead they lost 63-16. I thought Georgia wouldn’t throw the ball as well as they did — starting quarterback Aaron Murray and backup Hutson Mason combined to go 26 of 33 for 369 yards and six touchdowns.

I thought the Aggie secondary had arguably their worst game of the season and the reality is that Murray surprised me — he played much better Saturday than he did last week against Florida.

Other than that, much of the game went how it could have been expected.

The Georgia offensive line is BIG and opened big holes for the Bulldogs in the running game.

Also, Georgia’s defensive line and linebackers came as advertised and the Bulldogs secondary is top notch. They have a very good overall defense without any weaknesses.

I thought Georgia would score between 38 and 42 points and that the Aggies would score between 14 and 21. Sixteen Aggie points was in the ballpark but Georgia’s 63 were much than anticipated. The Bulldogs scored 42 second-quarter points, 21 of which came in the last 4:30 of the period. That was the ballgame.

I thought Kenny Turner looked good (23 carries, 94 yards; eight catches 127 yards; two touchdowns) and freshman quarterback Travaughn Colwell held things together in a relief role. Colwell has good athleticism and good arm strength. He can be a real weapon for the Aggies if he keeps improving.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Predicting MHS vs. LCHS

Friday night, the big rivalry football game of the year kicks off between Mayfield and Las Cruces High. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. at Aggie Memorial Stadium, expect 20,000-plus fans in the house for this one.

Lets start out by saying this is a tough game to predict. Both are very good football teams — Las Cruces is ranked No. 2 in the state while Mayfield is ranked No. 4. The Bulldawgs have beaten the Trojans four-straight times going into this one.

With that being said I like the Trojans in this one and here’s why: I think they match up well with LCHS. The Bulldawgs haven’t been able to throw the ball effectively downfield this year which is MHS’s weakness — defending the deep ball. I think LCHS quarterback Devin Perez is capable, but the Bulldawgs have to be willing to take some shots in the passing game and then the ball has to be delivered.

On the flip side, the Trojans are more balanced. Quarterback Axten Franzoy is a good player — experienced, a state title winner and playing fine football at the moment. Also, don’t overlook running back Ricky Milks — LCHS runner Xavier Hall gets the headlines but Milks could be overlooked and can rip off the big play.

My prediction: Mayfield 20, Las Cruces High 17

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Keys to victory: Mayfield vs. Las Cruces High

Rivalry game is this weekend folks.....Keys to the Friday's 7 p.m. contest between Las Cruces High and Mayfield at Aggie Memorial Stadium:

The mental game: Las Cruces High has won four straight games in this series and the question becomes is LCHS head coach Jim Miller in the Trojans’ head? The past two years the Bulldawgs beat the Trojans in the second half. And then there’s the other variables — how will certain players perform in front of 20,000-plus fans and in what direction will the momentum shift? Simply put, this game is different than any other either team has played this year.

Quarterback play: Mayfield has a fine QB in Axten Franzoy — a senior who won the state title last year, he’s playing at a high level. As for Las Cruces High, Devin Perez is a runner and the team’s passing game has underwhelmed at times. Perez has been most effective when throwing outside the pocket and Mayfield’s secondary has been susceptible in coverage this year. But will the Bulldawgs call some shots downfield, and, if so, will the throws be delivered accurately? Both teams must be balanced offensively.

Who will get going first?: With Las Cruces High’s passing game, it stands to reason the Bulldawgs aren’t as equipped to come from behind. If Mayfield can jump out to an early lead, it be the deciding the factor.

The weather: Forecasts call for possibly strong wind, which could have a major impact. In this case, it could very well favor Las Cruces High — such conditions could ground Mayfield’s passing attack and keep the game close. As for LCHS, they’re more than capable of winning a grinder with standout running back Xavier Hall leading a ball-controlled attack.

Trenches, turnovers: You could say this about any Las Cruces High vs. Mayfield game. Expect a close contest and, whoever wins along the lines of scrimmage and comes out on top in the turnover battle will likely win the game. It could very well be that simple.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Three Georgia running backs to miss Saturday’s game, another injured

The Georgia Bulldogs top three running backs were suspended for this weekend’s game against NMSU and top backup Richard Samuel will miss Saturday’s game with an injury.

Starter Isaiah Crowell and backups Ken Malcome and Carlton Thomas were suspended for unspecified violations of team rules.

This should make somewhat of a difference. Any SEC team the Aggies face would look to run over NMSU with the ground game. Georgia is still favored by 30-plus points with a fine quarterback in Aaron Murray, a good group of wide receivers and a very good defense.

This clearly isn’t the ideal situation for the Aggies — visiting Georgia in the middle of conference play. But would their ever be a good time for such a game? NMSU will get close to $1 million for the contest, which is A LOT of money for the school.

The Bulldogs are coming off a win over Florida and could be somewhat flat for this one. I think the Aggies can do some good things — I’m not suggesting a win is in order but I think they can keep moving forward and it could prepare them for the stretch run of their WAC season.

And that’s really the most important thing for NMSU at this point — to continue making strides and getting better. The Aggies really can win one or two more games this year and look to be primed to do big things next year in the new WAC.