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.
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