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


Anonymous said...

Mike Price is "the coach" in this side of Rio grande world.

Anonymous said...

If you watch a team pick you apart on their first possession, then you ought to figure out what's going on and adjust your defense IMMEDIATELY. The thing you don't want to do is go down 3 touchdowns at your opponent's stadium, especially when the team you're facing is hungry for a win.

And if you see any silver lining in how the Aggies played in the second half, forget it. It's just smoke.

Three games in and we are facing a "must win" against the Lobos. Sad.

Anonymous said...

This game was over as soon as NMSU stepped off the bus. What an absolute embarrasing performance! The aggies were scared and played like a bunch of cowards!

As far as NMSU playing better in the 2nd half? It was against uteps 2nd & 3rd stringers! Stop with the moral victories!
Instead of closing the gap, the loses to utep are getting worse under Walker!!

I'm not sure why we are even talking bowl game. This team hasn't proven anything to merit bowl talk!

I will be at the unm game but, another performance like this and I'll be donating my season tickets to charity and never renewing them again!
I'm so fed up w/ NMSU Athletics...I'm a hair from turning my back on everything related w/ NMSU.

Anonymous said...

I can't do anything about my season tickets because I bought them in June.
However, I think I'm gonna hold off purchasing those bowl tickets the Ath. Dept. is blowing smoke about.

The utep loss was expected. I just thought it would be a game not a rout in 1st quarter!!
Someone said utep takes the I-10 rivalry more serious than NMSU...any questions?

Don't be surprised if we lose to unm. They need a win, & if we see another cowardly aggie performance..unm will beat us on Saturday!

Anonymous said...

The gameplan on offense is unchanging! UTEP's D just watched Manley eye his receiver. On the pick, the safety was so confident of whom Manley would pass to, that he left the center of the field and grabbed the pass. If UTEP studied the film of games 1 and 2...............they had the gameplan figured out at kickoff! C'mon OC!

Anonymous said...

Please stop the talk about what the Aggies need to do in order to go to a bowl. It's insulting to your readers. After Saturday's game, it's no wonder none of the conferences are interested in NMSU. Boston and Couture have signed the death warrant for Aggie athletics. Their arrogance and indecisiveness will have ramifications that will affect much more than NMSU athletics.

Anonymous said...

The only team that has had a worse off season/ early season than NMSU is Penn St.

Can anyone please remind me why I continue to go to the games and support NMSU????

We all know about the realignment mess Couture & Boston have put us in. I thought Football would be a nice distraction for the fans & players.
Seems like realizing that no one want's us has infected the players & staff too!!

Anonymous said...

Blowing smoke is what NMS has been about for years.Every program ends up looking like fools in the end.They must assume that the sports fans in Las Cruces are a bunch of idiots.

In sports it's known as putting lipstick on a pig when you cherry pick a few insignificant moments and ignore all the bad stuff,this is how the Aggie spinners operate.

There are coaches,SIDs and web site owners that exaggerate to the high heavens and some even lie.

Anonymous said...

Hmmmm, I wonder what game plan unm will use?
The 2011 and 2012 utep game plan works like a charm...why change it?
NMSU coaches can't adjust two years in a row or can't figure it out!!

Anonymous said...

I know NMSU was scared of UTEPs running attack but what the frick did they expect would happen by giving their receivers that much of a cushion? Hope that they dropped the ball every time or ran out of bounds? That was just a ridiculous plan considering Coach Walker is a defensive minded coach.

Manley didnt have a great game and even though he was pressured there were throws that were just thrown way off target. He needs to work on that.

Finally, the only thing that was worse than the football team on Saturday was the band. UTEPs band really showed them what a college band should look like.

Anonymous said...

The loss to utep doesn't bother me that much. I knew it was going to happen.

What bothers me is the way NMSU lost.
They had no business being on the same field, against utep of all teams. NOT USC, not LSU...that's the really disturbing part!


Anonymous said...

The NMSU "Pride" Band has been irrelevant for the past few years.

They play the same ol songs over, & over, & over. Like a broken record.
It's gotten so repetitive that we walk out a halftime to have drink and then come back.

Anonymous said...

And now the UTEP flag will flag in Las Cruces. Coach Walker should take all the coaches and players down to City Hall and make them sit the whole day and look at the UTEP flag--in the hot sun, with no food or water except an occasional drive by from a fire truck with high pressure hose to spray everyone. Is it possible that I've lost it and this would be too radical? By the way, this is really a joke, but that's how upset the coaching and play of this team makes me--it makes me a little crazy.

Anonymous said...

I understand that Coach Walker has to deal with coordinators walking out every year and having to instill a new offensive/defensive scheme every year. But its still Coach Walkers team at the end of the day. And its not looking like much of a team. My gripe is that its not a DISCIPLINED team. The Aggies have always lost so that has not been a surprise under Walker. But this is his fourth year, the team should be under his control and silly things should be kept to a minimum. Stupid offside penalties on defense shouldnt happen numerous times in one game. They shouldnt stop playing if they see a flag simply because they see a flag. And they should be ready to play a damn rivalry game. Its year 4 under Walker and yet I feel that we are no better off than we were under Hal. We still lose, but we still lose while looking incredibly inept in things that should be an easy fix.