Sunday, September 30, 2012

Video Analysis: Aggies fall at home to UTSA

NMSU falls in WAC opener 35-14. Our take:

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Predicting the Aggies vs. UTSA game

Lets just start out by just saying the truth: the New Mexico State Aggies have to play better tonight against Texas-San Antonio. If not, they could very well not win this game, which I consider a 50-50, toss-up contest.

Adjustments on both sides of the ball need to happen. The Aggies have regressed offensively each week and essentially look like they have the same gameplan since Week 1 against Sacramento State. Something’s gotta give here. I want to be clear, I do not lay last weekend’s loss at the feet of quarterback Andrew Manley, because factually that would be incorrect. It was a team loss, and the ground game and pass protection need to get better to help the young QB. But perhaps giving backups some snaps this week — whether it be Andrew McDonald or Travaughn Colwell — wouldn’t be a bad idea either. Just a series or two to try and provide a spark. Maybe it would help NMSU’s rushing attack get going a bit with a mobile signal caller in the game. Something. McDonald did miss practice time this week because he was under the weather.

Here’s a quote from offensive coordinator Jerry McManus this week as it pertains to offensive adjustments the team can make:

“When you look at the offense, we’re always tweaking and adding, deleting, those kind of things, for better execution. That’s what we’re looking for. We feel like that’s the area that we feel like we need to be more consistent in. In our execution. You can have all the plays in the world, but if you don’t execute them it doesn’t matter. That’s where the emphasis is this week. Focus, do your job and execute the play that’s called.”

As stated in a previous blog post, the Aggies greatly miss last year’s offensive coordinator Doug Martin. Running between the tackles hasn’t worked to this point, so why will it start working tonight? I will say this: the team does need to eliminate penalties and turnovers that absolutely killed any offensive momentum they established last week against New Mexico.

Defensively, it’s not much different. Mainly, more aggressiveness out of the unit would be nice. NMSU said going into the season the defense would bring more variation and creativity to the table, so lets see it. Texas-San Antonio runs a multiple offense that utilizes the speed-option, something the Aggies had big trouble with last weekend against New Mexico. Certainly the Roadrunners will test NMSU in this area tonight, but the team has also shown a penchant to throw the football, with 14 different wide receivers catching passes from starting quarterback Eric Soza.

UTSA is a tough team to get a handle on because, at 4-0, they haven’t beaten anyone, either (wins over South Alabama, Texas A&M-Commerce, Georgia State and Northwestern Oklahoma). Still, they’ll be confident and fired up for this football game, the first ever WAC game for this second-year football program. They do have some athletes and the image of an upstart program.

We understand the importance of this football game for NMSU, just like we understood the importance of the past two weeks as well. But, until the Aggies prove they can make effective adjustments on both sides of the ball, we can’t give them the benefit of the doubt.

Prediction: UTSA 34, NMSU 31

Friday, September 28, 2012

Five keys to Aggies vs. UTSA game

Win: We’ve been saying this the last two weeks so why stop now? The Aggies can’t afford to lose against Texas-San Antonio, a second-year program that will come out for this game fired up. The Aggies are clinging to any hope of having a respectable record this season, although a loss to UTSA would dash such promise even more.

The aggressors: The past two weeks against UTEP and New Mexico, it seemed like the Aggies were on their heels. Against the Miners it was a defense that gave up 20 points in the first quarter while providing the wide receivers a sizable cushion on the outside. Last week playing New Mexico, the Aggie offense didn’t adequately attack the Lobos suspect secondary in the passing game. NMSU can’t afford to take a passive approach against the Roadrunners. It’s about coming out swinging and establishing the tone right out the gate.

Discipline vs. the speed-option: Last week New Mexico had success running the speed-option against the Aggie defense. Texas-San Antonio has a lot of versatility in their offensive package, with the speed-option being one of the Roadrunners wrinkles in the playbook. Will they take note of NMSU’s defensive performance a week ago? One thing that needs to improve for the Aggies is their tackling. Simply put, NMSU defenders need to wrap up and bring down the ball carrier.

Adjustments: Offensively the Aggies have become predictable — they can’t run the ball between the tackles, struggle to throw short to intermediate and are reliant on the deep pass. Changing their approach — and in turn this scouting report — would serve them well. Defensively, NMSU was supposed to be improved in 2012, but haven’t made many strides since last season. Again, the Aggies have been in a funk for over two weeks. Making quality adjustments on both sides of the ball would be a welcome move going into this weekend’s game.

Finishing drives: It seems like when the Aggie offense starts building momentum, they shoot themselves in the foot. Whether it be a fumbled football or a false-start penalty, NMSU needs to correct such mistakes and play a clean game this weekend. When they have an opportunity, cash in.

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Video: Teddy and Brook Show (9/27)

Sports duo talk Aggie, high school football

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

For Aggies, UTSA game won’t be an easy one

Assuming that the University of Texas-San Antonio will be an easy opponent for New Mexico State University this weekend would be a mistake.

Yes, the Roadrunners are in their first year on the FBS level and in just their second of football existence, period. But UTSA is also a scary team coming to Las Cruces this Saturday.

For starters, they have a 4-0 record (granted, they haven’t beaten particularly anyone this year). Still, with wins over South Alabama, Texas A&M-Commerce, Georgia State and Northwestern Oklahoma State, UTSA will come into Saturday’s game with confidence.

That, and they’ll be fired up. This will be the Roadrunners first WAC game in program history and they’ll be ready to go. They run a multiple offense — they’ve been seen in a spread option, will throw the ball deep and have a mobile quarterback in Eric Soza. The team has some athletes, are in a fertile recruiting ground, have financial backing and an experienced coach in Larry Coker.

The Aggies are coming off a tough loss to New Mexico and will need to get their engine revved up for this one. The Roadrunners certainly will.

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

Monday, September 24, 2012

A depressing loss, and a depressing Saturday night for Aggies

As the fourth quarter of Saturday's game hit its midway point, one glance at the scoreboard left a depressing question: How are the New Mexico State Aggies trailing the New Mexico Lobos by three touchdowns?

Going into the football game the Aggies appeared to be the better team, seven-point favorites in a contest played on their homefield. Of course, in part, that had as much to do with the carnage left behind by former UNM head coach Mike Locksley, not necessarily the belief the Aggies are a high-quality team. Still, NMSU had a perceived advantage in the passing game on a suspect Lobo secondary. The Aggies had won three-straight games in the rivalry series. Simply put, with the way the schedule stacked up in the season's second half and NMSU seemingly in must-win mode, it was a contest the team couldn't afford to lose.

Still, was a loss plausible? Of course. The Lobos are better than a season ago with Bob Davie at the helm, a more disciplined group with a plan. But the Aggies were thoroughly beaten by an outfit that's no better than mediocre. How, and why?

For starters, New Mexico State just isn't very good. They're limited on offense, vanilla, in part because of personnel and in part because coordinator Doug Martin left the program this past offseason for a better opportunity (he was hired for the same position at Boston College).

Where has the creativity gone? Even a simple screen pass or draw play? It left with Martin's departure, along with gamebreakers Taveon Rogers (wide receiver), Kenny Turner (running back) and Matt Christian (quarterback).

The Aggies failed to exploit UNM's suspect secondary on Saturday night, outside of a second-quarter drive that took three quick-strike passes to eventually find the end zone. Instead, they chose to run the ball into a brick wall, then call play-action passes despite the lack of a rushing attack. Editor's note: when you can't run the ball between the tackles against Sacramento State and New Mexico, it's time to scrap the gameplan and try a different way to manufacture a ground game. In the case of Saturday night, just scrap the ground game all together.

Of course, the offense also got some bad breaks along the way. Two second-half drives saw NMSU building positive momentum, only to fumble the ball away. The first fumble — on the opening drive of the third quarter — came with the Aggies trailing 13-7, although seemingly destined to score a touchdown. Those are deflating plays for an entire team.

And in fairness, this clearly isn't an issue reserved for just the offensive side of the football, rather a team-wide one. The Aggie defense was supposed to be an improved one from a season ago with a new coordinator and new identity. Head coach DeWayne Walker was going to have more of a hand in the unit, at least with the team's secondary. The defense was supposed to help an offense that was expected to have its growing pains.

Yet it's no better at this point of the season than it was a year ago, and has done nothing to carry the team. There's been questionable adjustments and execution, at least the last two weeks in losses to regional rivals. Saturday night it was simple: The Lobos offensive line handled the Aggies front-seven throughout the game and ran the ball at will. NMSU's defense was on the field far too long. The final results (54 carries, 302 yards, 27-14 loss) spoke for themselves.

One can't imagine this team having much confidence. Certainly the fan base doesn't have much if any.

From start to finish, Saturday night was a depressing one across the board for New Mexico State.

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Video analysis: Aggies beaten on homefield by Lobos

New Mexico State loses 27-14 to in-state rival New Mexico. A recap:

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Predicting the Aggies vs. Lobos game

Is tonight’s game against the Lobos a must win for New Mexico State? I think so.

This team can’t afford to lose the contest and then stare a one-, two- or three-win season in the face.

Do I think they’ll win? Yes. The Aggies are the better team again this year, as New Mexico continues to build under first-year head coach Bob Davie — nearly a year after removing Mike Locksley as head coach. The Lobos play hard and they’ll certainly take the field ready to compete tonight against NMSU.

The Aggie defense must contain UNM’s version of the spread option and improve over last weekend’s defensive effort at UTEP. The Aggies struggled against the run and in coverage, were slow to adjust, and were promptly beaten in the first quarter in the Miners 41-28 win. NMSU’s ability to contain UNM’s attack will be key in this game.

As for NMSU’s offense, they should be able to exploit the Lobos secondary, although only if quarterback Andrew Manley is protected better than he was last weekend against the Miners. Manley does throw a good deep ball but needs time for his receivers to get downfield in the passing game.

Of course the special teams battle and turnovers will need to be accounted for. UNM could try to sneak into the end zone a time or two tonight.

Points could be scored in this game, one the Aggies need to win.

My prediction: NMSU 34, New Mexico 24

Friday, September 21, 2012

Five keys to Aggies vs. Lobos game

Defending the option: The Lobos don’t run a true triple option — more a variation of one — yet the Aggies ability to defend their scheme could very well be the deciding factor in tonight’s game. This is about assignment football — all 11 players on defense knowing their jobs and executing it with zero breakdowns. If such a slip-up does happen, that’s when UNM looks to capitalize. From the defensive tackles and middle linebacker stopping the dive, to the outside linebackers and defensive ends spying the quarterback to the secondary shadowing the pitch, the Aggies will need to hold their positions and tackle well — something they didn’t do last weekend against UTEP.

Taking a lead: Considering the Lobos run it well and haven’t shown a penchant to throw the football (the team has completed just 19-of-38 pass attempts all season for 148 yards and a touchdown) it also figures to reason UNM isn’t built to make a big comeback. Last year the Aggies took a 21-0 lead in the first quarter, a knockout blow in their 42-28 triumph. Perhaps the Aggies won’t replicate that success, although getting up a couple scores on the Lobos would certainly lend a helping hand in NMSU’s success.

NMSU passing game: The Lobos secondary is suspect — even more so with three players in the unit listed as doubtful for this weekend’s game. That, and if there’s one thing the Aggie offense does well, it’s throwing the deep ball. Quarterback Andrew Manley looks long first and foremost and is flanked by a talented group of wide receivers. The key here? Running the ball effectively to set up play-action passing; and giving Manley maximum protection so the deep passing routes develop and he can deliver the football downfield to his targets.

On the lookout: If both teams line up and play football, all things equal, the Aggies would likely win this game. But the football can bounce funny ways. In terms of turnovers and special teams, NMSU will have to hold its own in those battles. UNM sophomore Chase Clayton has two 98-yard kick-return touchdowns this year and corralling him should be key. And the trick play needs to be accounted for. Perhaps the Lobos attempting a pass off their speed-option to the outside. Or think back to last year, when a UTEP fake punt was the deciding factor in another rivalry game at Aggie Memorial Stadium. The Lobos could try to sneak into the end zone a time or two tonight.

UNM targets: While New Mexico doesn’t throw the ball often — senior B.R. Holbrook is a better passer than freshman Cole Gautsche — they do have some talented targets in the passing game. Wide receiver Lamaar Thomas missed last week’s game at Texas Tech but will return to the field tonight. The Lobos also have a fine tight end in Lucas Reed, who caught 55 balls the two years prior, yet has just one grab for four yards in 2012. Bob Davie is an experienced coach, and don’t be surprised if he gets his skilled senior involved in the passing attack this week.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Teddy and Brook Show (9/20)

LCSN duo preview Aggies vs. Lobos football game, high school football weekend.

This week's podcast: Aggies vs. Lobos football

This week, I dive into Aggies vs. Lobos football talk with Click here and simply press play for insight on Saturday's game.

Q&A: Aggie volleyball coach Mike Jordan

(Mike Jordan directs his team in a conference match against San Jose State during a recent season. The Aggie volleyball program holds a 93-21 lifetime record in the Western Athletic Conference/Photo courtesy of NMSU athletics)

Mike Jordan is in his 15th season as head volleyball coach at New Mexico State University.

During his tenure, Jordan’s put together arguably the most consistent athletics program at the school. Holding a 324-143 career record at NMSU, Jordan’s teams have made NCAA Tournament appearances from 2003-04 and 2006-08. They opened this year ranked No. 1 in the Western Athletic Conference preseason polls and hold an 8-3 mark thus far on the season (2-0 in league play). They open their home WAC schedule this week with a Thursday match against Louisiana Tech at 7 p.m. followed by a Saturday contest versus Texas-Arlington at noon.

Earlier this week Jordan sat down to talk Aggie volleyball, where the program’s been and where it might be headed in the midst of the 2012 campaign.

Sun-News: You and your program have a good relationship with the local community. Talk about it.
Mike Jordan: “Something that stuck in my brain early on was a side-out club function. I had more than a few people tell me at a side-out club function - boosters - say ‘we love getting the know the players. We love getting to know the players.’ You could just tell it was important to them. Maybe they’re all empty nesters or whatever, right? And they’re looking for something to do. They kind of in their own way adopt some of our players. That always struck a cord with me. So we started doing little things. Instead of after a game, and a team leaves and bolts to the locker room, we stay out. Talk, say hello, meet new people. Ingratiate yourself, and they’re going to want to come back because they’ve got a connection. And, who better than 99 percent of our players, who are really fun, nice, polite, social young women? They’re easy to like. That had a big impact. Just sort of kept people coming back .... That’s important. That helped sort of build, I guess a solid core of fans that started to grow. Starting to win more helped a little bit too. But, trying to be as helpful as you can in the community, just by going to things and saying hello to people. We ask our entire program to do that, and I think it’s helped.”

SN: You’ve also had a tremendous amount of success with transfer athletes. Maybe talk about that avenue of your program. The transfer results have been outstanding.
MJ: “It’s an important aspect of our recruiting. There’s a couple things that stick out with recruiting here: New Mexico’s not a highly-populated state. A lot of schools have the suburbs and the city’s around them, that sort of thing .... there’s not a lot of volleyball players in the state of New Mexico. We don’t have a lot of traction there, we don’t have a lot of possibilities there. So you have that as part of it. I think the fact that we recruit a lot of kids. We may lose out on them, but if they liked us, if they liked the program and it doesn’t work out for them at the place they go, maybe they’ll consider us again. And that’s happened a couple times. Most of the transfers we’ve gotten, we recruited initially and it didn’t work out where they were for whatever reason, and they thought ‘hey, you know what? Maybe that’s a good option for me.’ We’ve got to use that as part of our recruiting philosophy. If there’s a good, athletic transfer out there, we’ll take a look at em’.”

SN: You’ve taken athletes and turned many into volleyball players. Is that a common philosophy, a unique philosophy?
MJ: “I think all coaches in all sports will look hard at a great athlete. A Kim Oguh, a Krystal Torres. We have to look at them. We’d be insane not too. Even if, maybe early in their careers, they don’t play very good volleyball or aren’t very skilled. We know eventually they’re going to be with time and experience. It is a big part of what we do. And a lot of those kids like that were under the radar. Kim, for instance, didn’t play club volleyball. Krystal only played one year. If they were out on the club scene, playing in big tournaments all the time, I probably wouldn’t get em’. Maybe we would, because we’re local and they want to stay home. Maybe. But, yeah, we’d have a tough time getting those kids. So we’re always looking for those diamonds in the rough. That we know we’re going to have to spend a lot of time working with. And it may be a while before we start seeing them producing. But eventually they’ll get there.”

SN: You’ve coached in three leagues - the Big West, Sun Belt and WAC. Most of the time, you guys were chasing someone in the standings. How is this year different? Is it different as the front-runner? Does it feel different?
MJ: “Even though we’re the favorite, we were picked by the coaches, I don’t think we’re that much better than the rest of the teams in the league. Where we can be just coasting. Where, if we hope we can stay healthy, we should win it. I don’t feel that way. I think there’s some good teams in the league. Anything can happen. I have a lot of respect for a lot of our opponents. The difference in talent between us and these other schools isn’t that great. It’s certainly not as great as the talent between Hawaii and the rest of us when they were in the league. You know what I’m saying? ... Plus, we haven’t won it. We were co-champs in ‘08. We haven’t won anything since then, we haven’t been to the tournament in .... three years now. There’s a lot to shoot for. And I certainly don’t feel like we can be sitting back going ‘hey, we’re the favorite.’”

SN: What do you think the ceiling is for this year’s team? What’s the potential for this particular group?
MJ: “I love our athletic ability. I think there’s a lot of room for improvement in particular with ball control, passing and defense. As we get better at those things, the offense will take care of itself. We’ve got good arms. More than we’ve ever had here. We’ve got the ability to change the lineup, which we’ve done already multiple times if we need to. I do see us having the same kind of physical ability that we had in ‘08 and ‘07, ‘06 (NCAA Tournament seasons), we’ve got the same kind of athletes. We’ve just got to get better at volleyball. I think it’s a high ceiling.”

SN: It’s a new-look WAC. Who should fans be on the lookout for?
MJ: “I have a ton of respect for Debbie (Buchanen) and what she does at Idaho. They’re a veteran team and they’ve got some really good athletes. I’ve always had respect for them, Moscow’s a tough place to play. To get away with a win there, I felt fortunate almost, especially since they spanked us there last year. Utah State, Grayson (DuBose) does a great job at Utah State. They got a lot up there. They’re tall, really good athletes, they play a good system. They’re good at what they do. You know how they always used to talk about Bobby Knight’s Indiana teams were always so good at man-to-man? Everybody knew they were going to play man-to-man the whole time but they were so good at it. I feel that way about Utah State and what they do. They’re just very, very good at it. It’s why they were able to knock off Hawaii in the conference tournament the year before last. That system and the athletes they have are pretty good. I have a lot of respect for those guys. The Texas schools, UTSA and Texas State, have a lot of talent. I think they’re all pretty good.”

SN: As a competitor, as a head coach, do you miss having Hawaii around?
MJ: “I do. I do. Not just in our conference, of course, but even nationally they set the bar at a really high level. To have a program like that, that has the kind of athletes they have. The tradition they have. The support they have. I mean, so impressive. When you get an opportunity to compete with them, if you win - which we were only fortunate enough to do twice - when you get a chance to compete with somebody like that, it gives you an idea with where you’re at on the national scale. Those times where they beat the daylights out of us, we knew we weren’t very good, or we were OK. And the times we were able to either win or a lot of the times we went five games with them, then we could feel like, ‘hey, we’ve got a pretty good team here. It’s something to build on and a lot to look forward too.’ And it gave us confidence a lot of times, even if we didn’t win, as long as the scores were close and the games were tight.”

SN: You’re down 2-0 to Seattle the other night, you go into intermission. What’s said to the team there to get them on track? Obviously you guys came back to win the match.
MJ: “You hope that, before I even get in there - we typically spend a couple minutes outside the locker room just talking as a staff, trying to figure out what we want to do. Do we want to change the lineup? How do we handle this? That kind of stuff. You hope that by the time you get in there, they’ve already started to go ‘OK, this is crap. We’ve gotta get it together.’ If you’re competitive, you should. But, my message in there was pretty simple: pull your head out of your butt. And, if you do anything, don’t even thing about volleyball. Just think about competing. Get the fire in your belly to win and beat somebody. And take this personally. And understand, they’re not just going to give us points and lay down and die. We’re going to have to make plays, comeback and win.”

SN: Does the volume level of the voice rise?
MJ: “Not all the time. That one for sure. Just because I was so disappointed. I didn’t feel like we were ready to compete. That’s frustrating. And that’s when you get angry. When you get frustrated.”

SN: Different circumstances cause different reactions. That one called for some frustration.
MJ: “Lack of skill is one thing. If you’re losing to a team because you’re not doing something very well like passing or whatever, that’s something you’ve got to deal with as a coach. You gotta go make your team better, find ways to pass the ball. When it just seems like it’s a lack of competitiveness and that the other team - cliche again - but wants it more, that’s not OK.”

SN: That pushes a button.
MJ: “Absolutely.”

SN: Is there anything in particular you want to see this team work on? The No. 1 thing you want to see this team get better at?
MJ: “Passing and the ball control. I don’t want any of our players to be one-dimensional. And I think there’s a lot of them that are pretty good hitters. They hit the ball well, it’s what they like to do. They need to understand that they need to get better at the rest of the game too. And, if we do that, I think we can be very good.”

SN: You’ve built a solid, consistent program at New Mexico State. Has it been hard to sustain that level of success?
MJ: “It’s been hard to get to the next level. When we started to win in ‘03, ‘04, when we won the Sun Belt titles, we beat a couple of good teams. In ‘03 we beat Santa Barbara, that was the first time we beat a ranked team. So we knew we were a pretty good team nationally. We’ve tried to do more. We’ve tried to schedule tougher the last few years, we’ve tried to take on the big boys more often. The hardest part is getting to that even next level. Where the perennial powers live. That’s the challenge of it. I think we’re a really good volleyball team, some years better than others. We’re always a top-50, -60 caliber team, I think. We can play at that level. But to play with the top-25 teams on a consistent basis is the challenge. And, so, being where we are, I think the way we’re doing things, I think we can stay where we’re at. That challenge is there to try and do more. And that’s what kind of motivates us all the time.”

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Scouting report: New Mexico Lobos

(A site seldom seen for the Lobos: tight end Lucas Reed trying to turn a reception into positive yards/Associated Press photo)

The Lobos are an improved team under first-year coach Bob Davie. They’re also a rebuilding team.

Davie has put young players on the field, with the New Mexico depth chart dotted with freshmen. This is a sound way to build a program, assuming such freshmen prove to be good players in the long run.

Simply put, the Aggies should win this game and have to win this game. They’re favored by a touchdown on their home field. It’s a VERY BIG game for New Mexico State.

Still, expect the Lobos to come out ready to play some football — they’ve lost three-straight games in the rivalry series and are competing in it for the first time under Davie.

The X’s and O’s part of this matchup appear well defined, at least days before kickoff. The Aggies bread and butter is the deep passing game, and the Lobos have struggled defending that particular area throughout the season. That, and four Lobos defensive backs are considered doubtful for Saturday’s game, according to Davie. NMSU quarterback Andrew Manley’s protection will be key (it always is) and, if he’s provided time, the Aggie wide receivers can make plays in a downfield passing game.

As for the Lobos offense, they run the triple option and not much else. When watching their game last week against Texas Tech (a 49-19 loss) quarterbacks B.R. Holbrook (a senior) and Cole Gautsche (a freshman) looked similar in this respect: both are athletic enough and seemed reluctant to actually pitch the ball on the option, rather preferring to take it on the carry themselves.

As for the passing game, the Lobos haven’t had much of it in the first three games of the season. The team has completed 19-of-38 passes all year, with their leading receiver (Carlos Wiggins) catching just four passes for 36 yards.

One intriguing player is Lucas Reed, a fine tight end who caught 55 balls over the past two seasons leading up to 2012. With the sweeping changes in the team’s passing game, however, he’s been swept off the map, making just one catch for four yards on the season. In part, Reed’s role has changed in the offense — against the Red Raiders, for instance, he was seen lining up in the backfield as a blocker. Could he be more involved in the Lobos passing attack? Undoubtedly. Perhaps the better question is, will he more involved in the passing game and will his inclusion occur this week?

The Lobos do have a threat in the kick-return game, that being Chase Clayton, a sophomore from Carson, Calif. Clayton strutted his stuff with a 98-yard return to the house Week 1 against Southern, and then repeated the feat last weekend at Texas Tech. Another player to keep an eye on Saturday night.

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Racapping NMSU's loss at UTEP

(UTEP running back LaQuintus Dowell carries the ball with Aggie safety George Callender in pursuit. Dowell and the Miners won 41-28 on Saturday/Photo by Robin Zielinski)

New Mexico State's 41-28 loss at UTEP was disappointing, just for the fact of how the Aggies came out and played in the first half.

We knew UTEP was the better team and they proved it. We also knew they would come out FIRED UP for the game and NMSU would need to handle that early barrage to be competitive. And the Aggies didn't handle it well. Simply put, everything that couldn't happen for the Aggies in hopes of a win, did happen.

NMSU was poor in all phases of the game in the opening two quarters — their only good looking performer was punter Cayle Chapman-Brown. Not what you want.

UTEP scored on its first four possessions of the football game. The Aggies didn't tackle well defensively and UTEP gained big yards on the ground early. On some Miners runs there wasn't an Aggie in sight and big gains followed.

Concerned about the Miners rushing attack, NMSU brought a safety closer to the line of scrimmage and, in turn, moved their cornerbacks off the line in pass coverage. Here's why: NMSU wanted to prevent the Miners big-play ability and counter-act the team's speed at wide receiver. But such a tactic also conceded 10 yards in coverage and UTEP took advantage of the first-half gameplan. While the Miners dinked and dunked their way to first downs, NMSU was slow to adjust.

Easily the most frustrating play came with the ball at the Aggie 32-yard line, when officials threw flags as the Miners snapped the ball. NMSU's defensive backs either assumed it was a false start on UTEP or thought they heard a whistle during the sequence, and stopped playing. Quarterback Nick Lamaison obliged by throwing to a wide open Jordan Leslie in the end zone for a touchdown as UTEP went ahead 20-0. No real excuse for the play right there.

It was simply too easy for the Miners throughout the first quarter and, with NMSU down 20-0, it's just too big a blow for many teams to recover from.

And lets not act like the offense was exempt from the debacle.

UTEP changed nothing from a season ago when defending NMSU and their gameplan worked again. They blitzed quarterback Andrew Manley and forced the Aggies to take advantage, which they couldn't.

Manley was hurried and hounded — never a good thing — and looked rushed and uncomfortable. He was inaccurate at times and his statistics (290 passing yards, three touchdowns) were deceiving. Of course he threw some nice balls, but he also had a number of passes batted down at the line of scrimmage.

The Aggies need to revamp some things offensively because right now they appear too easy to defend. They throw the deep pass well, that's it. To execute, Manley needs elite protection and the line can struggle. Their short-to-intermediate passing game still needs work. One tight end caught a pass last night — the first reception from the unit this year — when Perris Scoggins made a 25-yard reception on a well-executed play. They actually did try the running-back screen-passing game, although could also incorporate the draw-run more often.

The team did run the ball better in the second half. At times they went to a two-running back formation with Manley in shotgun and using H-back David Quiroga as a blocker. They had 13 carries for 64 yards in the third quarter with the game still somewhat competitive. Perhaps something to build off going into next weekend's home game against New Mexico.


To the Aggies credit they came out and played better in the third quarter.

First off, down 27-7 at halftime was somewhat of an accomplishment. Again, NMSU was trailing 20-0 after the first quarter and the deficit at intermission felt closer to five touchdowns than just under three.

The line of thinking at half: The Aggies played very poorly yet were down just 20. A couple third-quarter scores, hold UTEP to zero points, and enter the fourth quarter within striking distance.

NMSU came out of the locker room and I liked what I saw: the team did stretching and calisthenics before the third quarter began. In a sense, it looked as if they wanted a fresh mindset entering the period, and also a change of pace in an attempt to correct their third-quarter struggles from the first two games of the year.

An early touchdown to start the third followed, with the Aggies driving 61 yards on seven plays, culminated by Tiger Powell's 1-yard TD run to make the score 27-14.

If the Aggies get a stop following the sequence, get the ball back and put another scoring drive together they would be in business.

But it didn't happen. They would give up a long kick return to midfield and then Lamaison hit Leslie for a 34-yard gain to the Aggie 20. The play was originally ruled incomplete on the sideline, then was overturned. UTEP would eventually score a touchdown on the possession and that was just about it. Two big plays in the football game.


How important is next weekend's Aggie football game against New Mexico? Huge. Another way to look at it: as NMSU's season.

The Aggies host the Lobos, then play host Texas-San Antonio before visiting Idaho. It's not far-fetched to say the Aggies need to win all three of these games to keep bowl hopes alive before the schedule's second half gets considerably tougher. If they lose to UNM? Don't even go there.

An early look at the game says the Aggies should hold an advantage on the Lobos pass defense. As stated before, Manley can throw the deep ball and the Aggie wide receivers should have an edge on the UNM defensive backs.

But make no mistake, New Mexico will enter with the same mindset as NMSU: that this is a game their team needs to have on their win record.

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Predicting the Aggies at UTEP game

The Aggies will need to play a COMPLETE game tonight. Four quarters of football, where they control the clock and the game’s tempo. Running the ball effectively is a must. NMSU ran the ball 16 times for 53 yards in the first half against Ohio. They finished the evening with 30 carries for 71 yards. The Aggies need to take those first-half numbers and replicate them the whole game.

The belief here is that they’ll be opportunities in the short-to-intermediate passing game. UTEP will look to take away the Aggies deep-passing attack — similar to how the Miners did last year with a pressure-based scheme — which means NMSU will have to look short. Quarterback Andrew Manley will need to play possibly his best game as an Aggie — he just won’t have much margin for error. We hate to say a player must perform perfect, but in Andrew’s case, it could very well ring true. He’s going to have to be superb tonight.

We remember last year’s Miners game and the first thing that comes to mind is special teams. UTEP was exceptional, and the Aggies were not. In most respects that was the game in a nutshell. This is always a key to watch and it will be no different tonight, where NMSU has to at least be head-to-head with the Miners.

The logical pick in this football game is UTEP. They’re 12-point favorites for starters, on their home field in the Sun Bowl. Secondly, so much has to go right for NMSU to win.

With that being said, we’ve been hearing all offseason the Aggies believe they’re a bowl team. We know how important this season seemingly is for Aggie football. And, at 1-1 on the year and with the schedule that lies before them, we understand the importance of this particular game.

Upsets do happen in college football. This would qualify as such.

My prediction: New Mexico State 30, UTEP 27

Friday, September 14, 2012

Five keys to Aggies vs. Miners game

A complete game: The Aggies third-quarter struggles have been well documented this season — the team’s been outscored 33-10 during the period including giving up 24 unanswered points last week in their 51-24 loss at Ohio. Perhaps it’s attitude and intensity coming out of the locker room, halftime adjustments or just sheer coincidence. Whatever the case, it needs to be corrected this week. UTEP will come out fired up for this game, meaning the Aggies must keep it close going into halftime and play well in the early portions of the third period in order to have a chance at winning in the fourth. A mistake-free football game in its entirety is a must.

Moving the sticks: The Aggie offense has been of the big-play variety — in short, the team throws the deep ball well, is inconsistent in the short-to-intermediate passing attack and hasn’t ran the ball well enough. The short passing game could very well be available against UTEP (assuming the Miners look to take away NMSU’s deep pass) and the Aggies could use a 100-yard rushing effort, say at a three-to-four yards-per-carry average. Such an approach would allow NMSU to control the clock and the game’s tempo, important against a good UTEP team.

Secondary concerns: The Miners possess a big-play offense — they look to hit the opposition both with the screen-passing game and by throwing the deep ball. NMSU’s secondary has shown its inexperience at times and has blown some coverages at others. Don’t think UTEP hasn’t taken notice. If the Aggies can prevent the big play, they’re defense has a shot. But they will be tested through the air.

Special teams: Lets rewind to last year’s game, a 16-10 Aggie loss in Las Cruces where special teams played a key factor. The Miners nailed three field goals and pulled off a well-timed fake punt that led to the game’s go-ahead touchdown. These units could very well be important again. Be aware of UTEP’s Mike Edwards, a threat as a punt-return man.

Important game: Leading up to the season the Aggies talked bowl game — the team will need seven wins to be granted postseason eligibility and could still be in the conversation with a 6-6 record. With that being said, to be a bowl-caliber team, winning Saturday’s contest would seem like a necessary requirement. Yes, it’s just one on a 12-game schedule, but it could provide a jolt of confidence. That, and the team hosts New Mexico next week, plays Texas San-Antonio the following weekend and then visits Idaho. After that, the schedule gets considerably tougher. The time is now to get some wins and build momentum.

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Scouting report: UTEP Miners

(UTEP quarterback Nick Lamaison avoids the pass rush of E.J. Epperson as the Miners played Ole Miss last Saturday. UTEP lost 28-10. They'll take the field again Saturday, at home against New Mexico State/Associated Press photo)

The UTEP Miners have a deceiving record.

Sitting at 0-2 on the season, the Miners lost to No. 5-ranked Oklahoma (24-7 at the Sun Bowl in El Paso) and Ole Miss of the SEC (28-10 on the road). They were competitive in each game, and played well defensively.

Offensively, the team has shown an ability to run the ball (207-yards rushing vs. Oklahoma), throw the ball (274 yards vs. Ole Miss) and possesses a good offensive line (looked impressive in first half against Sooners). Unfortunately for UTEP, it hasn't put together such facets of the game simultaneously. Again, their competition could very well have something to do with that.

The Miners running game is highlighted by junior Nathan Jeffery, who went wild against Oklahoma, then sat out with injury during the Ole Miss game. The Miners need this game as bad as the Aggies, so we expect Jeffery to be on the field Saturday.

UTEP has a big and experienced offensive line, runs a zone-blocking scheme up front, and features the zone-read in their rushing attack.

Yes their passing game struggled vs. Oklahoma, but lets not forget the Sooners secondary is of the Big 12 variety, and a very good one at that. Simply put, few Miner receivers were open on the that evening.

Quarterback Nick Lamaison is a senior and wide receiver Mike Edwards is a good player. UTEP will run the screen-passing game to the fullest and will also take its shots downfield. Under head coach Mike Price, the Miners have taken pride in throwing the football effectively, a big-play offense in the passing attack. The New Mexico State secondary has shown its inexperience at times and has blown some coverages at others. Expect UTEP to notice, and for this unit of the Aggies to be tested. Simply put, preventing the big play will be a key component to the contest for NMSU.

And lets not forget special teams. Last year's Battle of I-10 saw the Miners win 16-10, spearheaded by three made field goals and a well-timed fake punt that led to the go-ahead touchdown. On the flip side of the equation, NMSU missed a short field goal. Aside from being a quality receiver, Edwards is a threat in the kick-return game. This will surely be an area to watch throughout Saturday's contest.

For NMSU, the mission is not complicated. Weather the Miners storm early — expect this 0-2 UTEP team to come out fired up — and keep the score close going into halftime. Perhaps the Aggies get the ball coming out of intermission — perhaps not — but in any event, if the game is tight, the first half of the third quarter will be huge. The Aggies have struggled in that particular period all year, a problem that needs to be corrected by Saturday's kickoff.

We talked about the Aggie defense — namely the secondary's challenge and preventing UTEP's big-play ability.

On the offensive side of the ball, the running game has to get going like it did in last week's first half vs. Ohio, only this time for the game's entirety. In short: A 100-yard rushing effort would fit the bill, with a three-to-four yard average per carry.

That and the short-to-intermediate passing game must be in effect. We know the Aggies bread and butter is the deep ball, which means opposing defenses do too. Teams might play a deep zone in the defensive secondary to take such a gameplan away. Last year UTEP pressured the Aggies frequently and hounded quarterback Andrew Manley — essentially, the Miners didn't afford Manley time to take a seven-step drop and get ride of a deep pass downfield.

But with opposing defenses adjusting to the Aggie offense, opportunities will now arise in the shorter passing zones. Manley looks for the deep ball first and often, but going to shorter drops looking towards his check-down options would be beneficial, and he couldn't pick a better game to start capitalizing on such opportunities. Spreading the ball around to his other targets — Aggie tight ends have zero catches on the season and only one reception has come from the running back position — would also be a plus.

In any event, NMSU would help itself greatly by moving the chains, getting first downs and chewing up the clock while controlling the tempo.

A complete football game from the Aggies will be required in this one.

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

Teddy and Brook Show (9/13)

Sports duo talk Aggies at UTEP, high school football, banter:

Weekly podcast

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Monday, September 10, 2012

Aggies can't afford lapses against Miners

The most important gameplan formulated by the New Mexico State Aggies in preparation for Saturday's football game at the University of Texas-El Paso, will be playing a complete contest.

For starters, UTEP is going to be fired up for this one. The team's played well in the early-portion of its schedule — don't let their 0-2 record fool you. The Miners were competitive in losses to power-conference programs Oklahoma (a 24-7 loss at the Sun Bowl) and Ole Miss (a 28-10 defeat). They were in those games going into the respective fourth quarters and have looked like a good football team doing it. They'll be hungry for their first win of the 2012 campaign going into Saturday night's tilt.

For the Aggies, weathering such a storm and being in the game going into halftime would be a good place to start.

If they accomplish that, coming out in the third quarter and carrying their good play into the second half will be the next step in completing the process. Two-straight weeks the Aggies have played poorly in such a scenario — coming out of the locker-room intermission — and they simply can't afford such a lapse this weekend.

In the home opener against Sacramento State, it meant being outplayed in the third quarter, which really didn't matter to the end result — the Aggies beat the Hornets 49-19 that evening, although Sacramento State scored on four-straight possessions and had the ball once again, down 28-19, before a costly turnover in its own territory.

Last Saturday it came in the form of an abysmal third period that saw the Aggies get outscored by Ohio 24-10 — Ohio scored 24-straight points, sandwiched between an NMSU field goal and kick-return touchdown. The Aggies gained just 16 yards in the quarter, and completed five passes in the second half all together.

When reflecting on the game, there's no apparent reason for it. The Aggies performed as well as could be expected the first half. They were competitive with the favored Bobcats, and blocking a field goal just before halftime should have provided an emotional lift, down 21-14 and ending the second quarter on a high note. Yet it didn't carry over.

Maybe it's a lack of general intensity or halftime adjustments. Maybe it's sheer coincidence. All we know is that it's a trend that must to change, beginning this week.

The NMSU camp has made no secret of it — they see themselves as a bowl-caliber team. If that's the case, getting the required seven wins — heck, even six victories — means coming out of this game victorious would seem to be a necessary requirement.

It will be a tough game. A game the Aggies will be underdogs, and will have to play their best this season. And always an important game against one of the school's top rivals — either UTEP or the University of New Mexico hold that billing, take your pick.

It will also have to be a complete game for the Aggies. Two halves of football, in hopes of one critical victory.

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Recapping the Aggies loss to Ohio

(Ohio running back Beau Blankenship looks for the end zone against New Mexico State on Saturday. Kevin Laudermill (No. 56) and Dele Junaid (right) are a couple Aggies trying to bring him down/Associated Press photo)

The first half was encouraging.

The third quarter was an abomination.

And such a turn of events boiled down to a 51-24 road loss for the New Mexico State Aggies against the Ohio Bobcats.

NMSU did some good things during the first two quarters of football Saturday night.

To recap: After the first Bobcats drive it looked like things could get ugly right off the bat. Ohio's receivers were wide open in the passing game and it simply looked too easy after quarterback Tyler Tettleton took in a touchdown from 6-yards out. An ominous sign to start things off.

But to the Aggies credit, they responded. Their next drive was well-played — an 11-play, 75-yard march where the play calling was effective and the running game was established. Tiger Powell rushed six times for 26 yards and a two-yard touchdown to tie the score at 7-7.

While Ohio running back Beau Blankenship had a good game — he's a tough runner who had 164 yards on the evening, 138 of which came in the opening two quarters — the Aggie secondary covered better for the remainder of the first half.

Ohio wide receiver Donte Foster made a great catch over Darien Johnson to put Ohio ahead 14-7 — nothing a cornerback really can do on on a play like that — and NMSU blocked a field goal to close out the first half on a high note, down just 21-14 to a very solid Ohio football team.

Bu the Aggies couldn't build on such prosperity.

Ohio outscored New Mexico State 24-10 in the third quarter — after NMSU forced a three-and-out to begin the period, the Aggies got good field position and kicked a field goal to cut the deficit to 21-17. After that, the game got blown open.

There were two passes that didn't go the Aggies way. The first was when, down 24-17, Andrew Manley overthrew an open Kemonte Bateman streaking down the middle of the field. If Bateman is hit in stride, the score is likely tied. The second was a Manley interception that was returned 22 yards by Ohio's Nate Carpenter for a touchdown, putting the Bobcats ahead 38-17 midway through the third. It just felt like that play was a back-breaker for NMSU.

Defensively, two pass interference penalties stood out during the quarter also. One, on third down deep inside Aggie territory, kept an Ohio drive alive that the Bobcats eventually scored a TD on to go ahead 31-17.


Last week the third quarter didn't treat the Aggies kindly — Sacramento State outscored New Mexico State 9-0 in the period and generally outplayed the Aggies in that portion of the game. Really, if NMSU eliminated that period, it's an even better contest against the Hornets.

We broke down much of what happened last night in the above portion of this blog entry. Another stat: NMSU gained 16 yards total in the third quarter. The team also completed just five passes in the second half.

The Aggies need to play complete games — last year that was something head coach DeWayne Walker preached throughout pre-season and in the early portion of the year. The team did just that in their 28-21 win over Minnesota — leading from start to finish, playing tough. It doesn't mean they have to play perfect football. Just four quarters of football. And it needs to start next weekend at UTEP.


The Aggie rushing attack was better this week, getting 53 yards on 18 carries in the first half. Powell started for Robert Clay who didn't make the trip due to a concussion suffered last weekend, and Germi Morrison was also involved.

Ohio elected to rush their defensive ends aggressively upfield in an attempt to take away the Aggies play-action, bootleg passing game — NMSU's bread and butter. In this respect, it worked — think back to when Manley would execute the play-action fake, turn around and a Bobcats defender was right there in his face. But such a strategy does open rushing lanes up front which benefited the Aggies ground attack.


Akeelie Mustafa returned a kickoff 91 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter to make the score 45-24.


The tight end position was held without a catch. That's two-straight weeks to start the season that the unit hasn't recorded a reception.


Desmond Anaya had a fumble recovery, his second in two weeks.

The defensive end, a Roswell, NM, native, has been somewhat of a surprise in the early season. He certainly has gotten playing time and his name has shown up.


Some very interesting scores from Week 2, locally and beyond.

Sacramento State, which lost at NMSU 49-19 in Week 1, went on to beat Colorado in Boulder, Colo., 30-28.

UTEP lost at Ole Miss 28-10, while New Mexico lost at Texas 45-0.

In the WAC, Louisiana Tech beat Houston 56-49; San Jose State beat UC Davis 45-13; Texas State lost to Texas Tech 58-10; Texas San-Antonio beat Texas A&M-Commerce 27-16; Idaho lost at Bowling Green 21-13; On Friday night, Utah State beat Utah 27-20.

The biggest upset of the weekend nationally came when Louisiana-Monroe won at Arkansas 34-31 in overtime.


The Aggies will have a HUGE GAME this upcoming weekend when they travel to El Paso to take on rival UTEP. We've been saying on the Cruces Sports Blog all fall that NMSU has to sweep its rivals this year, and UTEP obviously is one of them. The Miners have beaten the Aggies three-straight years, including last season when NMSU really should have won the game, but didn't (special teams and a key goal-line fumble early hurt the Aggies in that one). At 0-2 on the season, we know UTEP will come in hungry for a win. A game of critical importance.

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Predicting Aggies at Ohio game

Ohio enters as 21-point favorites, and this will be a real uphill battle for the Aggies to win this football game.

A few things are going to have to break NMSU's way here. For starters, the team appears to have an advantage at wide receiver (over Ohio's cornerbacks) and perhaps something can give in this department.

Last week, Ohio played a soft zone defense early on against Penn State, laying their corners 10-yards off the Nittany Lions wide receivers at the line of scrimmage. This allowed Penn State to throw the football underneath. If the Bobcats come out again with such a strategy, this can allow NMSU to dink and dunk their way for short gains, perhaps move the chains a bit, and eat up some clock. As we've stated throughout the week, establishing a running game is a must for the Aggie offense. NMSU would do itself well by winning the time-of-possession battle in this one.

A key to the game is going to be if — or more likely when — Ohio elects to bring the blitz. In their win last week against Penn State, they went to it during the second quarter and into the second half, which seemed to turn the momentum. How the Aggies handle this blitz — and protect quarterback Andrew Manley — will be of critical importance.

Defensively, it will be a huge test for NMSU's entire unit. The front-seven against a solid and experienced offensive line, a dual-threat quarterback in Tyler Tettleton, and a tough runner in Beau Blankenship. And a secondary that had some mistakes last week against Sacramento State, and their ability to rebound against a better opponent in Week 2 of the season. Realistically, controlling Ohio's offense begins with controlling Tettleton. NMSU will have to keep him in the pocket as a passer. Perhaps put a spy on him (which in this case one would figure to be either Donte Savage or Trashaun Nixon). Taking away his ability to run first is a good place to start.

Do I see it being a blowout? Not so much. I do think Ohio can beat NMSU soundly, in this the Bobcats home opener.

My prediction: Ohio 31, NMSU 13

Aggie gameday
Who: NMSU at Ohio
What: College football game, Week 2
Where: Peden Stadium; Athens, Ohio
When: Tonight, 5 p.m.
Weather: Chance of thunderstorms, high temperature of 71 degrees
Spread: Aggies +21
Radio: KGRT-FM 104; Vista-FM 98.6
Internet: ESPN3

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Robert Clay out for Ohio game

New Mexico State University running back Robert Clay will miss the team’s Saturday game at Ohio with concussion symptoms, according to NMSU’s sports information department.

Clay suffered a concussion last weekend during the Aggies 49-19 win over Sacramento State. He ran the ball 11 times for 33 yards against the Hornets. The Aggies utilized four running backs on the evening, with Germi Morrison (eight carries, 32 yards), Tiger Powell (seven carries, 19 yards, two touchdowns) and Akeelie Mustafa (nine carries, 32 yards) all seeing action.

The Aggies take the field against Ohio this Saturday at 5 p.m. (MDT). The game can be heard on the radio (KGRT-FM 104 or Vista-FM 98.7 for Spanish-speaking audience) or seen on the internet provider ESPN3.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

High school football preview capsules, Week 2

(Las Cruces High will take to the Field of Dreams again this week, hosting Eldorado on Friday at 7 p.m./Photo by Robin Zielinski)

We look at the area teams in action this weekend, as well as preview some marquee matchups. For a preview on Mayfield's game at El Paso Franklin, click here.

Thursday’s games
The game: Socorro (Texas) at OƱate
The location and time: Field of Dreams, 7 p.m.
The rundown: The good news for the Knights? They were competitive last week at El Paso Bel Air — certainly not one of the Sun City’s elite teams, although it was nice to see OHS battle back from a two-touchdown deficit only to lose 20-14. Are the Knights better this season than they were last year at this time? Of course. They’re about where they were at the tail-end of 2011. Will it be enough to beat Socorro tonight at home? That’s the hope. Still, another competitive game would at least be a step forward in their building process.

The game: Centennial at El Paso Chapin junior varsity
The location and time: Chapin High School, 7 p.m.
The rundown: After falling to El Paso Americas junior varsity last weekend 38-35, Centennial re-affirmed what we already suspected — for a first-year program, its pre-district schedule is right where it should be. Americas has a very good football program and the fact the Hawks were competitive — even against the junior varsity roster — was a good sign. Wins could be hard to come by for the Hawks — particularly when the District 3-4A schedule rolls around — although they hope to have a shot at victory tonight against the JV squad from Chapin.

Friday’s games
The game: Eldorado at Las Cruces High
The location and time: Field of Dreams, 7 p.m.
The rundown: After Las Cruces High’s 38-14 win over El Paso Chapin, a few things were evident: the Bulldawgs can throw it well, run it a little, and can get hit for the big-play on defense (particularly in the passing game). Make no mistake, this is still one of the top teams in New Mexico, one who’s passing atttack is much improved from a season ago. With that being said, the Eagles are no slouch either, coming to the Field of Dreams as one of the state’s premier programs as well.

The game: Rio Rancho at Gadsden
The location and time: Gadsden High School, 7 p.m.
The rundown: The Panthers are 1-0. Repeat that if you must, but it’s a good start for the program, particularly when considering Gadsden beat Hobbs (a Class 5A team) 34-33 in Week 1. New head coach Roy Gerela has looked to bring a spark to the Panthers and an understanding of the Gadsden community as a whole. All the while this week’s opponent, Rio Rancho, promises to provide a much stiffer test than Hobbs.

Other area teams playing Friday night
Mesilla Valley Christian at Tornillo, 7 p.m.
Santa Teresa at Austin (El Paso), 7 p.m.
Chaparral at Irvin (El Paso), 7 p.m.
Estancia at Hatch Valley, 7 p.m.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Scouting report: Ohio Bobcats

(Ohio wide receiver Landon Smith runs for daylight vs. Penn State. The Bobcats won 24-14 over the Nittany Lions/Associated Press photo)

This promises to be a very tough game for the New Mexico State Aggies, when these two college football teams meet Week 2 of the season this Saturday.

Ohio is coming off a 24-14 win over Penn State last weekend and looks like a very sound squad under head coach Frank Solich.

Offensively it starts with quarterback Tyler Tettleton, a dual-threat QB who's the key cog in the Bobcats machine. Tettleton is an athlete and slowing down Ohio begins with slowing him down.

The team also has an effective running back in Beau Blankenship, who can average between four and five yards a carry while picking up the tough yards inside.

This combo operates behind an experienced and physical offensive line coached by former Aggie assistant Kevin Lightner. He is not the only former NMSU assistant coach on the Bobcats staff, joined by co-offensive coordinator Gerry Gdowski (both were with the Aggies under Tony Samuel) and defensive line coach Jesse Williams (who was at NMSU the past three years).

For all intents and purposes, the New Mexico State front-seven will be in for a stiff challenge this weekend in Athens, as the Ohio offensive line is capable of wearing down the opposition over the course of a game.

Last week against the Nittany Lions it appeared as if Ohio's defensive secondary started the game playing off the Penn State wide receivers in a zone. Meanwhile, they rushed four up front and played man coverage underneath.

It didn't take long, however, for the Bobcats to adjust, blitzing Penn State more frequently and manning up in the defensive backfield.

What they elect to do this Saturday will be a key storyline going into the game, although much of the same wouldn't surprise. The Bobcats want to feel out the opposition early, formulate a gameplan, then attack.

The earlier strategy could benefit the Aggies, who could use a short passing scheme with their wideouts to control the ball, and the clock. If/when the Bobcats elect to go after NMSU more aggressively, and how NMSU handles such a tactic to protect quarterback Andrew Manley, will be worth watching as one of the game's keys.

As stated earlier, containing Tettleton will be the Aggies chief challenge defensively, and the secondary will have to play better than it did last weekend against Sacramento State (we do expect this unit to improve as the season moves along).

Perhaps the bigger concern for New Mexico State is establishing a rushing attack. Last week the team managed just 101 yards on 40 carries (a 2.5 yards-per-attempt average) in a game where, frankly, more was expected. The Aggies struggled running the ball in between the tackles when playing the Football Championship Subdivision Hornets, and now face a much better team this weekend.

We harken back to last year, when NMSU implemented a run-option offense with draws, misdirection, and a screen-passing game. Granted, that gameplan was put into place with Matt Christian at quarterback and Kenny Turner at running back — both were the perfect complement and fit the offense well. Can the team do it again in 2012 with different personnel in place? Maybe they'll look at it, maybe they won't, but something has to be done here to get this area moving in the right direction.

Expect NMSU to open this week as two-to-three touchdown underdogs going into Saturday as it prepares to face one of the top teams on its schedule. A tall challenge will be in order, although one where we should learn something about this 2012 Aggie football team.

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg