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.