Sunday, December 29, 2013

Taking a short break

Taking off a bit for the holiday season. Don't expect many posts over the coming few days.

In any event, happy holidays to all and may everyone have a wonderful New Year...

Miller hired by FAU; report links Marshall as replacement

As reported previously, Aggie offensive line coach Bart Miller was officially hired by Florida Atlantic this past weekend.

With that in effect, a report on has linked Steve Marshall as Miller's replacement at NMSU.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Aggie offensive line coach Bart Miller headed to FAU

(Bart Miller works with the Aggie offensive line during a 2013 practice/Photo by Robin Zielinski)

Aggie offensive line coach Bart Miller will be headed to Florida Atlantic to coach the Owls in the same capacity. The move was confirmed by an NMSU official Thursday night.

Miller was hired by FAU head coach Charlie Partridge, as the two worked together at the University of Wisconsin from 2011-12.

Miller did a nice job with the Aggie offensive line a season ago, a unit that showed much improvement from the year prior. It will mark the third-straight offseason the Aggies have lost an offensive line coach. Proceeding Miller was Jason Lenzmeier (who was hired by the University of New Mexico) and Brad Bedell (hired by Arkansas State).

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

Of late, Aggies have had strong play from backcourt

(Point guard K.C. Ross-Miller has shown an improved game this season, which has contributed to NMSU's overall backcourt success/Associated Press photo)

Recently wrote a story on Aggie point guard K.C. Ross-Miller, who’s seen his comfort level, confidence and, in turn, performance all improve in this his second season as New Mexico State’s starting point guard.

To read more, click here.

I also took some time to talk to Ross-Miller and head coach Marvin Menzies about the overall play of the Aggie guards, which has been a strength.

Ross-Miller and Daniel Mullings have made a good pairing this year. Mullings continues his standout play as a sensational defensive player, while averaging a team-high 16.6 points per game.

Said Ross-Miller of the combination:

“I like playing with Mullings. He’s a good player. He’s really active. I try to watch a lot of stuff that he does. We both kind of feed off of each other. He’s a good defender. We’re both always trying to compete, trying to get the most steals. We push each other that way. We just understand each others' game. I know what type of shots he likes, I know he where he wants the ball, in certain areas. There’s a really good relationship.”

Ross-Miller was sure to point out the shooting abilities of Kevin Aronis and Matej Buovac, while adding DK Eldridge has been a good addition to the team.

And don’t overlook Ian Baker, the freshman who’s been playing combo guard for the Aggies and has flashed potential.

“Kevin, Matej, Daniel as well, have done a good job from the perimeter. Which has aided our ability to be a little more one on one on the inside,” head coach Marvin Menzies said. “Getting our bigs an advantage. One thing always plays well off the other.”

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Replacing Austin Franklin, and a look at Aggie football recruiting

Wrote a story for Monday’s Sun-News print edition regarding Aggie football recruiting, and how the team can replace, or least try to fill in, for departed wide receiver Austin Franklin.

For the full story online, click here.

Here’s a segment of the story, where Aggie head coach Doug Martin has big words for Greg Hogan, who was a redshirt freshman last year at NMSU:

Such a question, in part, comes back to recruiting, and head coach Doug Martin believes the Aggies have done a good job in that particular area.

“We’re really upgrading the talent level here,” Martin said during a recent interview. “Speed, size, what we’re getting, the quality of player we’re getting. And I think the academics that we’re getting. We’re actually competing with the Ivy League (schools) on some players. We’re doing very well in that competition. I think we’re getting a better-quality player.”

Martin said he wants to see specific upgrades at the quarterback and running back positions.

“We need guys in the backfield that are explosive,” Martin said. “We need more speed in the backfield. Guys that can make people miss in the open field.”

Martin made sure to point out the wide receiver unit a season ago was deep in personnel. The head coach also mentioned specifically wide receiver Greg Hogan, a 2013 redshirt freshman who the head coach described as a “phenomenal talent.”

“He’s gonna be a lot of fun to watch. He’s an Austin Franklin-type guy, but bigger,” Martin said. “And probably a little faster than Austin. He’s going to be a guy that’s going to be really fun for us to look at.”

High praise a redshirt freshman, although perhaps Hogan and some other newcomers can bring some juice to the Aggie offense.


Martin also said the team wouldn’t replenish the defense - at least not substantially - with junior college players.

The Aggies had a pretty good run of success recruiting through the junior college ranks under head coach DeWayne Walker, although Martin would prefer to build the program recruiting primarily high school players.

Martin said the team would sign three to four junior college players at the most. If those three or four signees are Trashaun Nixon-type players, then that would seem ideal for the Aggies.

Martin said the Aggie defense will likely be a young outfit next season but, “They’ll be fast, and that’s what we’re after.”


Aside from Hogan, Martin said he has high hopes for redshirt freshman offensive tackle Thomas McGwire. Martin said McGwire could very well step in and start for Davonte Wallace, who was a four-year starter at left offensive tackle.


Some tidbits that were reserved for the blog:

Martin said the team could redshirt former Aggie quarterback Travaughn Colwell, who was used throughout the offense last year as the team tried to find ways to get him the football.

Ditto for running back Brandon Betancourt, who suffered a season-ending foot injury Oct. 26 against Abilene Christian.

“If we’ve got enough depth in here where we could put those guys on a redshirt, and build some more depth down the road, that would be a good help too," Martin said. "So that’s something that will come under consideration as we keep moving forward.”


The Aggies will also have to fill a void at punter, where Cayle Chapman-Brown was a very good player the past two years, although just completed his senior year of eligibility.

Martin said the Aggies wouldn’t use a scholarship this offseason on a punter, and are looking at Brock Baca as a candidate for the spot this season.

“Brock Baca has been punting and is actually pretty good. He’s a guy we could use next year,” Martin said. “And we’re going to try to keep bolstering the kicking process through our walk-on program. We really did a great job getting walk-ons in here last year. Some of them are going to be guys that we are going to put on scholarship in the future. I think that’s a good way for us to keep evaluating kickers and punters. You can get them in here, watch them for a year and see if they can really do it under pressure.”

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

Friday, December 20, 2013

Caleb Hull resigns as Oñate football coach

(Caleb Hull coaches his Knights football team during August, 2013 practice/Photo by Steve MacIntyre)

Caleb Hull announced his resignation Friday morning as Oñate High School football coach. The announcement came at a team meeting.

Hull was head coach of the Knights for three years, compiling a 7-23 record during that time and no state playoff appearances. The Knights finished with a 3-7 record this past season.

Check back momentarily for news, updates and analysis of Hull's departure.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Aggie football holds 13-game schedule in 2014, working on resolution for Rice game

The New Mexico State football team currently holds a 13-game schedule in 2014, one more than the standard 12-game college football docket.

Anticipating the possibility of playing an independent schedule in consecutive years, NMSU scheduled as such for the 2013 and 2014 seasons. Of course, the Aggies received a football-only membership into the Sun Belt Conference this past March, meaning they'll have an eight-game conference schedule in 2014. According to the website, NMSU also has 2014 road games at Rice, LSU and UTEP, along with home contests against Cal Poly and New Mexico.

As a result, the Aggie athletics department is currently trying to find a solution for the scheduled road game at Rice. The Owls came to Aggie Memorial Stadium this past season as part of a home-and-home agreement with the Aggies.

Athletics Director McKinley Boston said the Aggies are trying to find the Owls a replacement game - an agreement with another program to visit the Owls and fill the Aggies scheduled visit to Rice in 2014.

Boston also said NMSU has appealed to the NCAA to play a 13-game schedule next year if the Aggies can't find the Owls a replacement opponent. If such an appeal were to be upheld, the Aggies would in fact play at Rice after all.

“It’s not common. But the uniqueness of the WAC (dissolution) of football makes it different," Boston said of the 13-game appeal. "There’s not very many conferences that one year’s playing football and the next year is not.”

Boston said a buyout of the Rice agreement would cost about $200,000.

"Obviously that’s not the option that we’re pursuing," he said.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

New Mexico State wide receiver Austin Franklin to enter NFL Draft

New Mexico State Aggie wide receiver Austin Franklin will forgo his senior season and enter the 2014 NFL Draft.

Franklin has led the Aggies in receiving the past two years.

Last year, despite missing the first four games of the season due to academic ineligibility, the 6-foot, 194-pound junior led the team with 52 catches for 670 yards and seven touchdowns. He added 14 rushes for 76 yards and even completed three passes on the year.

The 2011 season saw Franklin catch 74 passes for 1,245 yards and nine touchdowns.

“It’s something he had talked about all year,” said Franklin’s father, Ken. “He told me, ‘dad, I think I’m ready.’ I told him that it’s his decision. I told him ‘I’ll support you on it. I’ll back you up 100 percent.’”

Check back later for further updates and analysis.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

NMSU head coach football Doug Martin will coach special teams in 2014

New Mexico State head football coach Doug Martin said he'll remain Aggie special teams coordinator for the 2014 season.

The Aggies struggled in the special teams department this past year - in reality, they struggled a great deal in punt and kick coverage and had a few kicks blocked late in the year. Their kicking game - punter Cayle Chapman-Brown and field goal kicker Maxwell Johnson - played well for the majority of the season.

With that being said, it seemed the Aggies surrendered a big play just about every other week on special teams: a punt-return touchdown vs. Minnesota; a kickoff-return fumble inside their own 5 that set up a UTEP touchdown; a kickoff-return touchdown against New Mexico; a kickoff-return touchdown against Boston College; and blocked kicks late in the year against Florida Atlantic (punt) and Idaho (field goal).

Martin said throughout the season the Aggies kick-coverage issues came down to recruiting - or a lack thereof prior to his tenure. Martin said the team didn’t have enough overall speed on kick coverage, and it showed in the results. He reiterated that point during a recent interview.

"Your kicking-coverage teams should be filled with linebackers and defensive backs," Martin said. "This year, ours were mostly wide receivers, because those were the fastest guys on our team. That’s an indictment on the lack of recruiting here over the past couple of years."

When asked if he would look to bring in help on the coaching staff to assist on special teams, Martin said, “I’m comfortbale with the way it’s structured. Coach Vance helps me a lot on the special teams, especially on punt return and kickoff coverage. No, we’ve got that handled pretty well.”

Friday, December 13, 2013

VIDEO: Teddy and Brook Show (12/12)

Flying solo this week without Brook in tow. Recapping the State Football Championship:

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Q&A: Las Cruces High football coach Jim Miller

(Head coach Jim Miller, center, celebrates with his Las Cruces High football team following their 27-26 State Championship victory over Mayfield this past Saturday. It was Miller's sixth State Championship during his 16-year tenure as head coach of the Bulldawgs/Photo by Robin Zielinski)

Jim Miller continues to solidify his greatness as a premier coach of high school football.

One who’s coming off his sixth State Championship victory during his 16 years as head coach at Las Cruces High School, and following the Bulldawgs 27-26 win over city rival Mayfield this past Saturday for that state title.

Miller recently took some time to reflect on the moment, and look at his career moving during a recent interview at the Bulldawgs practice facility:

Sun-News: So how have things been since the State Championship?
Jim Miller: “You work so hard to win it. Once it’s over, it’s just a big relief. It’s so much pressure, so much time. It’s like when you wake up at night, 1:30 in the morning, you don’t have to worry. You can relax a little bit. Not ‘I got to hurry up because I’ve got to get up at 5. I got to get back to the film room.’....It’s just a lot more relaxing.”

SN: When you think of this year’s team, what stands out?
JM: “Mindset above all....They come up with their pretty neat slogans, and for this team I think it was pretty much a mindset for these kids. We had a very smart group of kids. Very hard-working group of kids....intellectual group, I think....I think we were very driven with preparation. This was probably the most well-prepared team each and every week.”

SN: It seemed like you guys lost a lot after last year. Was it surprising that your team, for the most part, just rolled through the competition?
JM: “It was surprising that we rolled through it as much as we did. You look at the scores, there wasn’t really a team that stayed with us. Unless Mayfield....other than that, there wasn’t much competition. Not to be mean to the other have to have pieces fit in. You have a sophomore quarterback, but with that his leadership was huge. If you don’t have a guy that’s going to run the team that’s respected by (his) peers, you’re not going to do very well. And I think he gained that through his offseason preparation. That was the A-No. 1 question mark coming in. Now if he was a junior or a senior, it would have been like a Jon Joy. There were question marks about Jon Joy...coming in too (last year) as starter....he was a senior, so there wasn’t as much (as opposed to) a sophomore....That was the first thing people looked at. Next thing was the line, I think. If you want to put it in order. You lose all those linemen....Of course, you look at receivers, you lose all those offensively. And then you go to the defensive side of the ball, you lose your defensive coordinator. Then you lose seven out of the 11 of those guys....there was a little more incentive because of all that....fuel to the fire, questions. For a head coach, and being a father, and being the defensive guy now, it’s inevitable. For me as a competitor, I was going to help Kam out as much as I could. If they don’t score, they don’t win type of thing. I put (in) numerous hours to be able to do that defensively....As all the coaches did. That’s, I think, the icing on the cake....From where we started, all the question marks, until where we ended - going back-to-back.”

SN: From a defensive standpoint, what philosophies did you have as coordinator?
JM: “My philosophy was, we’re going to go after people. We’re not going to sit back. If they’re doing something, well we’re going to change it....We probably stunted 90 percent of the time against Mayfield in the State Championship. And we probably brought the heat more this year than we did, probably, in the last 10 years....I think that was the big difference.”

SN: How special was it to win a State Championship with your son at quarterback?
JM: “It was great. Especially since he’s wanted it for so long....there were chances that we could (move) when he was a sixth, seventh, eighth grader. He always told me, ‘dad, we can’t move. I want to play for you here.’ I’d say, ‘you can play for me wherever we go.’ He goes ‘No. I want to play for you and be your starting quarterback at Las Cruces High. And win the championship.’....That’s been his mindset from Day 1....I think that makes it so much more special. Him being a quarterback, him saying what he wanted to do to begin with, and getting it done....He even told me, ‘two more dad.’ When we won (last Saturday).”

SN: What kind of pressure was on you and Kameron coming into the year? How did you deal with that?
JM: “Huge pressure. He understood that. We talked about it. As a sophomore, and him coming in and being the son of a head coach. There’s going to be a lot of questions out there....naysayers....There’s always those questions of a head coach’s son: ‘being a sophomore, that’s the only reason you’re playing.’ And I told him be aware of that. And I told his mom, ‘you’re going to be up in the stands and hearing the same thing.’ But you know what quiets those critics? Is W’s. And, fortunately, we got them. But I couldn’t imagine if we didn’t. Not necessarily for me....But, with him, I didn’t want that pressure and those critics to demoralize him. Because he’s busting his butt....Like I said, W’s solve a lot.”

SN: Austin Salas, J.J. Granados, Sam Denmark. How do you replace those players? What’s in the pipeline? Word is there’s a pretty good talent stream in the middle school ranks.
JM: “Huge talent stream coming up. Brothers of these kids who are graduating this year....there’s really good athletes coming in this eighth-grade class. I guess they demoralized everybody they played....We have a really good freshmen class from this past year. Big-sized kids, good athletes. And this junior class, that will be seniors, were district champs as freshmen....Are we going to miss those kids? Yes. Sam Denmark, I don’t think you can replace a kid like that, because everything he brought to the table. Not just his athleticism as middle linebacker or tight end. But his leadership, his work ethic, his drive. You very seldom get a kid like that to be in your program....J.J., how many yards? How many touchdowns? Jalen, J.R. .... The leadership....And that’s the first thing I’ll tell them next week when we start out offseason: leadership is huge. Who’s going to step up? It doesn’t have to be a senior. Whoever it might be. And I think we have good leadership coming back.”

SN: What are the goals and expectations for the next year or two?
JM: “Same thing...We had a shirt a long time ago. It says ‘championships are won when nobody’s watching.’ And these kids understand that. It’s from January to August. When you get to August, everything should be in by that time....We’re going to start next week. You’ve got to work hard, because everybody is trying to catch you. Everybody’s closing the gap. To be able to go back-to-back is great. But, as coaches, it’s like hey, enjoy it for a week. And then get back on it.”

SN: Talk about winning in different eras?
JM: “I think it’s a lot harder now than it was 15 years ago. Because of the coaching. The north, the teams. There’s more teams now. You open up Rio Rancho....Volcano Vista, Atrisco....More teams, a lot more kids....There’s more teams in the city now. And it depletes you. It’s inevitable, right? You open up a new school, well they’re going to deplete from every school. I just think it’s so much nicer this year....For us to get two later on, it’s hard to do.”

SN: What, in your mind, do you have left to do as a high school football coach?
JM: “It’s not about me, it’s about the kids. We’ve given them every avenue to get things done. I think I look at it, as a father aspect, because we are so close and it’s been a great ride....I think these next two for (his son), I owe it to him to give him everything. And not be complacent.”

SN: What drives you at this point of your career?
JM: “It just so happens to be right at my career where I’m at the end of it. I’m not going to be a 40-year guy. I’m not going to be a 35-year guy. Thirty? Maybe. It’ll be 26 (at LCHS) starting next year. I have a daughter that’s going to come through when Kam’s a senior, she’ll be a freshman. I look at it too, it’s been a long time....I think what drives me is the success that we’ve had. And you want to continue that.”

SN: Fast forward a couple years. Kameron graduates. You’re eligible for retirement. What’s the next step?
JM: “When Kam graduates, I think I’ll be 50, 51....I’m not going to sit on my butt and do nothing. I love coaching.... That’s something I think I’ll definitely look into. I know a lot of people have asked me, ‘do you want to get to the next (level)?’ You know what, I would. I think that would be a neat thing. Especially with my kids being done. That’s an 11-out-of-12 month type career....I would love to look into something like that.”

SN: So the college game is something that interests you?
JM: Definitely. I had an opportunity when Tony (Samuel) was here. He asked me....It was when my daughter was born....It just wasn’t the right opportunity, I just had a new-born little girl. And family comes first for me. And it always will. Now that I’m not getting any younger, my kids are getting through....It will definitely be something I’d like to explore.”

SN: What about a coaching position somewhere at New Mexico State? That’s obviously your alma mater?
JM: “You know, I don’t know....You look at it, I think they’re going in the right direction. It’s not like I want to get a head job or be a coordinator. You’ve got to put your foot in the door. It’s not like I think I’m Mr. Great because I’ve got six championships. You’ve always got to start all over. And that’s how I would look at it too. At a program that I believe in, in a program where they have the same parameters that I have....There’s all different types of programs. I don’t want to put myself in a situation where I retire and I go to a situation where I’m miserable. Because of the values and the things that I’ve done for 28 years, or whatever it might be. And then get into a situation (that doesn’t fit that). That’s not what I want. I would definitley look at something that’s very similar to what I believe in. I think that would be a neat thing to do. If it happens, it happens. If not, hey, there’s plenty of golf courses out there.”

6-0: Record in State Championship games for the Bulldawgs under Miller
33: Miller’s age when he won his first State Championship at LCHS in 1999
48: Miller’s age today, less than a week after his sixth state title
2: State Championships for LCHS prior to Miller’s arrival
6: Winning seasons for the Bulldawgs from 1970-1993
14: Winning seasons the program’s had during Miller’s 16-year tenure at the school

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

VIDEOS: Las Cruces Bulldawgs react to 2013 State Football Championship

In case you missed it, here's video of Las Cruces High head football coach Jim Miller and Bulldawg players reacting to last Saturday's state title-game victory over Mayfield:

Sunday, December 8, 2013

NMSU volleyball coach Mike Jordan discusses winning in NCAA Tournament competition

The New Mexico State volleyball team made it to the NCAA Tournament for the seventh time in 17 years under head coach Mike Jordan.

Last week the team lost in the opening round of the NCAAs in San Diego, Calif., 3-0 to the University of Arizona of Arizona (25-14, 25-23, 25-19).

The Aggie volleyball team has been arguably the school's most consistently successful program over the years - a postseason contender on an annual basis, and one that's made the NCAAs the past two seasons. The 2008 campaign saw the team win an NCAA Tournament match, a 3-1 victory over St. Mary's.

Following last Friday's defeat to Arizona, Jordan said he was proud of his team for winning the WAC for the second-straight year. He then added on NCAA Tournament play, "We've been here enough. We're trying the establish ourselves as a team that can go deeper….You're going to have to play at a higher level to beat a quality Pac-12 opponent."

He would later say, "We have to use this as motivation in the offseason."

When asked if he had gotten the most out of the Aggie volleyball program over the years, Jordan said, "If you feel that way as a coach, you're doing the team and players a disservice. You've got to have a vision and get your team to that point."

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

VIDEOS: Jim Miller, Michael Bradley address crowd

Las Cruces High and Mayfield football coaches speak at Wednesday press conference leading up to Saturday's State Football Championship:

State Football Championship: What to watch for

There is truly nothing quite like it: the State Football Championship, played between the two teams in the state’s top rivals — No. 2-seed Mayfield and No. 4-seed Las Cruces High. These two clubs met two weeks ago, with the Trojans topping the Bulldawgs, 28-20, in a certified upset. They now meet again, this time with a state title on the line. Here, we take a look at key factors to watch for entering Saturday’s 1 p.m. kickoff at Aggie Memorial Stadium:

• Bulldawgs offense: It starts up front for the Bulldawgs, who need to get the ground game going and take the pressure off sophomore quarterback Kamryn Miller. The Trojans did a good job neutralizing the Bulldawgs’ running attack and putting the contest in Miller’s hands the last time these two teams met in early November. Miller, in turn, struggled to take advantage. If Mayfield can do the same thing Saturday — contain the LCHS rushing attack — the Bulldawgs will still get their opportunities in the passing game. In turn, the Bulldawgs must capitalize. For Las Cruces High in general, an improved offensive performance across the board — blocking between the tackles, generating a ground game and throwing the football effectively when opportunities arise — will be imperative.

• Offensive consistency: This goes for both teams. Realistically, the last time these two met, it worked out perfectly for the Trojans: a 28-20 Mayfield victory, that saw the Bulldawgs score their lowest point total of the year. Truth be told, Las Cruces High could score 40, 50 or 60 points in any given contest and few would blink an eye. In other words, Mayfield must find a way to keep the Bulldawgs’ offense in check once again. In terms of the Trojans’ attack, quarterback Kavika Johnson was a one-man wrecking crew the last time these teams met and is a highlight waiting to happen — a difference maker with the ball in his hands. Mayfield’s offense seems at its best when kept simple: a heavy run game with Johnson and the team’s backs, which sets up play-action passing for the junior signal caller.

• Fundamental Trojans: In the last meeting against LCHS, Mayfield didn’t turn the ball over — and hasn’t done so ever since during its state playoff run. The Trojans have also improved on their penalty problems over the course of the year. In general, the team’s been winning by playing mistake-free football. That trend will need to continue Saturday against a strong LCHS team looking to bounce back from the last time these two rivals squared off. Make no mistake, the deck is still stacked against the Trojans in this rivalry matchup. They can’t afford to give away opportunities against the Bulldawgs.

• Fluke or fact?: When these two teams met in early November, it was the only time Las Cruces High looked mortal all season. Was it a matchup issue — namely, the Trojans’ personnel and scheme simply matching up exceedingly well with their crosstown rival? Or did Las Cruces High not play a good game — flat and overconfident after rolling opposing teams for much of the year? What adjustments will both clubs make? And can the Trojans replicate such an outstanding effort for the second time this year? Tough questions to answer today. Yet ones that will be further crystallized during and following Saturday’s title tilt.

• One of a kind: This rivalry is like none other, and it will be significantly amplified Saturday in front of 25,000 to 30,000 fans with state supremacy on the line. The atmosphere will be like none other, with all eyes on 17- and 18-year-old athletes laying it on the line. Considering that, this is truly a contest that’s impossible to predict and one that will be a must-see event. While on paper Las Cruces High likely remains the favorite, anything can happen in this high-octane rivalry, particularly with respective seasons on the line.

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Aggie football will not bring back defensive coordinator David Elson

The New Mexico State Aggie football team announced Sunday evening that it will not bring back defensive coordinator David Elson. Also gone is defensive line coach Romeo Bandison.

To anyone paying attention, this shouldn't have been a huge surprise. The Aggies couldn't defend the run all season (ranking last in FBS football by giving up 299 yards rushing per game). In turn, they really couldn't stop anyone either (giving up 549 yards per game of total offense). Many of these results were a concern going into the season, and certainly playing a challenging independent schedule didn't help matters.

The question is, where do the Aggies go from here? For one, they have to replace the majority of their defense, as 12 of the 22 players on the team's depth chart were listed as seniors. And they're going to have to bring in a very good coordinator. A complete overhaul appears to be in effect.

But one thing we can also say: it seems imperative that the Aggies pay better money to fill the position. When Elson was hired, it was reported he would make $100,000 annually. For a Division I coordinator, that is not a lot.

And yes, paying good money does matter and helps a team's chances, simply because it allows a program a better chance of bringing in a quality coach with experience.

Simply look at the offensive side of the ball this past year: the team hired Gregg Brandon as offensive coordinator, and reportedly signed him to a two-year contract that pays $180,000 a year. This is a lot of money for NMSU, although Brandon also trotted out a respectable offensive scheme (far improved from years past) and the Aggies clearly got better as the season moved along.

One would think the Aggies, if possible, should look to pay similar money when looking to hire their next defensive coordinator. If for no other reason that both sides of the ball are equally as important to a team's success.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

PODCAST: Aggie volleyball in WAC Tournament, Aggie football at FAU and Aggie hoops at UTEP

Sitting down with Sam Wasson of to breakdown the week that was Aggie sports. Listen in here.

To win down stretch, Aggies must play well in all phases

Can the New Mexico State Aggies win a game or two to wrap up the 2013 college football season? It’s certainly not out of the question.

The team travels to Florida Atlantic this Saturday for a 1 p.m. game against the Owls. They then host Idaho to close the year on Nov. 30 at Aggie Memorial Stadium.

Looking at the immediate future, a win over FAU would in fact be an upset. The Owls are 22-point favorites, and aren’t a bad football team. FAU sits at 4-6 (two wins away from being bowl eligible) and have competed against some quality teams. Two of Florida Atlantic’s losses came to Miami (34-6) and Auburn (45-10). The Owls played Rice tough, losing 18-14 on the road in Houston (NMSU fell to the Owls earlier this season 45-19).

Granted, the Aggies are playing better of late, at least offensively. The team’s scored 34, 35 and 34 points in consecutive weeks, and have looked like an entirely different unit in the process.

But the real key if the Aggies want to find success in the win column to close out 2013? That would be improved play in two areas that have struggled mightily this season: defense and special teams.

Defensively, we’ve understood the Aggies deficiencies since the beginning of the season. That would be stopping the run, as the team’s given up 312 yards per game rushing this season and, in turn, 46 points per contest. It’s just very hard to win with those types of numbers. The Aggies could score 30 to 40 points all they want, and it wouldn’t matter if the defense can’t keep the opposing team off the scoreboard. At least getting some key stops in the fourth quarter, come crunch time, would be a plus. If they do that in the final two weeks, the Aggies might have a shot at victory.

In terms of special teams, the kicking game’s been fine. Brock Baca’s been adequate on kickoffs, and the team has a strong punter in Cayle Chapman-Brown. Placekicker Maxwell Johnson’s done the job on field goals.

But the coverage units have been an issue this season. This is an area the Aggies can’t afford to lose and, frankly at this stage of the program’s development, must win in order to to pull off a couple upsets here and there on the schedule. There’s been too many breakdowns and big plays given up in this department, as well as some touchdowns surrendered.

Yes, the Aggies can beat the Owls and/or the Vandals. That is, if the offense continues producing at its recent level, while the defense and special teams pick up their level of play to close out the season. Until then, it’s tough to win when two-thirds of a team is struggling.

“That’s the only we can win,” head coach Doug Martin said. “We’re not good enough in any area just to win on offense or on defense. We’ve got to play well in all three phases. If we do that, we’ve got a chance in both those games.”

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

Monday, November 18, 2013

With increase in production, Franklin could see more double teams down stretch of season

(Austin Franklin's been a handful for opposing defenses during the second half of 2013/Photo by Robin Zielinski)

The New Mexico State Aggie offense has picked it up in recent weeks.

Such a performance has coincided with an uptick in production from wide receiver Austin Franklin, who's really come on after missing the first four games of the 2013 season due to academic ineligibility. After catching eight passes for 141 yards and a touchdown in his first three contests of the year, Franklin's hit his stride over his three most-recent outings: 34 catches, 407 yards and four touchdowns during that period.

In the last two most games - particularly it seemed during the first half against both Louisiana-Lafayette and Boston College - Franklin saw his share of single coverage, and found a way to cash in. Think back to his second-quarter score against Boston College when, with the ball in the red zone, quarterback Andrew McDonald found Franklin inside the 10-yard line along the left side. The wide receiver, one-on-one with the cornerback, essentially walked into the end zone for a touchdown, slicing the Aggie deficit to 13-10.

"I don't know. I guess they just don't think I'm a good enough player," Franklin said recently, when asked about getting single coverage from opposing secondaries. "To me, I love when they do it. I'm going to win. One on one, I'm going to win."

With that, don't expect teams to continue testing Franklin much more in this regard. He's a physical player, and once he gets the ball in his hands he's adept at turning up-field and getting yards after the catch.

"He's as good as anybody with the ball in his hands," NMSU head coach Doug Martin said. "That's why coach (Gregg) Brandon put him in the backfield as the wildcat quarterback and that type of stuff. Try to get him the ball in a variety of ways. He's exciting when he has the ball."

When asked if he expected more defensive attention to come Franklin's way, Martin said, "Everybody's already started that. Lafayette, when we went down there, were already keyed in on him. Everybody talks about that. Again, that's the battle. Can you keep moving him around in different places to disguise what you're doing."

Offensive coordinator Gregg Brandon and wide receiver's coach R. Todd Littlejohn said Franklin's presence has opened up the offense for other players. Littlejohn spoke specifically about a third-quarter play last week, explaining Boston College rolled it's coverage Franklin's direction, and McDonald was able to hit a wide open Jerrel Brown for a 16-yard touchdown down the middle.

When Brandon was asked specifically last week about Franklin seeing more double teams down the stretch, the offensive coordinator said, "There might be a chance for that. I would have to study the future opponents to just see within their schemes, if they have the ability to do that. Austin's certainly a player that, his numbers have gotten people's attention. Whether or not that (causes defenses to) double team him, try to take him away, I don't know. It will be interesting to see how people respond."

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

Monday, November 11, 2013

Aggies play Boston College tough, fall short against ACC program

The New Mexico State football team has played well the past two weeks of the season, with the latest improved performance coming against Boston College this past Saturday at Aggie Memorial Stadium.

Yes, NMSU lost 48-34. But was it nice to see an entertaining game where the team was competitive on their homefield? Absolutely it was.

A wild contest ensued, one that saw the Aggies trail just 20-17 at halftime and the score tied 34-34 in the final quarter.

Yet with that, it was a game that could also be broken down by three plays that went against NMSU: a 98-yard kickoff return touchdown from Myles Willis to make the score 34-27 Boston College; an 80-yard touchdown run from running back Andre Williams, which proved to be the go-ahead score at 41-34; and then the last TD of the day, a Williams 47-yard run for the final margin.

And with that, the Aggies biggest issue this season was exposed again: giving up big plays, particularly in the run game and occasionally on special teams.

NMSU's problems in run defense have been documented - the team ranks last in the FBS this area (312.9 yards per game), total defense (555.0 yards per game) and scoring defense (giving up 46.4 points per game). In this case, going against Williams was a bad recipe - the senior currently leads the nation in rushing (1,471 yards, 163.4 per game) - and he rumbled for 295 yards on 30 carries.

In truth, the Aggies had some moments defensively against Boston College: they forced a turnover with the score tied 34-34, and came up with the occasional big stop. But it's also been an all-or-nothing unit for much of the year, and such was the case Saturday.

BC - which has had a good season to this point, playing in a strong Atlantic Coast Conference - is a grind-it-out group. Even Williams is more of a pounder and grinder than gamebreaker. But they banged away at the the Aggies on the ground and eventually broke off some long ones (35 carries, 320 yards on the day).

In terms of special teams, the Aggie kicking game was solid: Maxwell Johnson went 2-for-2 on field-goal attempts (making from 43 and 32 yards); kicker Cayle Chapman-Brown was superb (a 51.9 yards per punt average, four punts downed inside the 20-yard line); and Brock Baca had four touchbacks on seven kickoffs.

But head coach Doug Martin said Baca made an error on the TD return by kicking it down the middle of the field, adding the kick-coverage unit doesn't have enough speed to adequately cover.

This season the Aggies have given up two kickoff-return touchdowns (while surrendering 24.52 yards per return) and also a punt-return touchdown. Saturday's return came after Johnson's 32-yard field goal tied the score 27-27.


With that, the Aggie offense has performed about as well as one could have hoped at this point of the season.

Lets put it this way: going into the past two games, if someone said the unit would have scored 35 and 34 points against Louisiana-Lafayette and Boston College, would that have been fathomable? After all, those are two good football teams with good defenses, and the Aggie offense topped the 30-point threshold once prior this season (in their 34-29 win over Abilene Christian).

Yet this is a team that's received good coaching on that side of the ball, and the recent success can be attributed, at least in part, to the apparent connection developed between quarterback Andrew McDonald and wide receiver Austin Franklin.

McDonald has put together back-to-back strong performances: against Lafayette (24 of 34, 327 yards, three touchdowns, one interception) and BC (41 of 55, 384 yards, three touchdowns, one interception). In this his senior season, McDonald's found success down the stretch drive.

Franklin's addition to the offense was crucial at midseason, and offensive coordinator Gregg Brandon is finding ways to get him the football (against BC, the wide-receiver bubble screens to Franklin was a bread-and-butter play for the Aggies). As Franklin's gotten into a groove and the offensive personnel continues to build continuity and familiarity, here's been the junior wide receiver's numbers: vs. Abilene Christian (11 catches, 122 yards, two touchdowns); vs. Louisiana-Lafayette (13 catches, 140 yards, two touchdowns); and vs. Boston College (10 catches, 145 yards, two touchdowns).

While the offense's performance is coming on, the wide receivers as a whole continue to play well and look like a well-coached group. Eight different players made receptions on Saturday, while such contributors ran well after the catch and blocked well in the screen-passing game.

The offensive line continues to perform well and to its level this season.

And while there's been injuries in the backfield - running back Brandon Betancourt is out for the season with a torn ligament in his left foot, while senior Germi Morrison has missed the past two weeks with an injured shoulder - freshman Xavier Hall's been a pleasant surprise. While he isn't the biggest of players, Hall's ran well the past two weeks, carrying the ball 14 times for 95 yards and a touchdown against the Eagles. He also caught four balls for 32 yards in the passing game on Saturday.

The coaching staff is getting the most out of the group at this point of the season, and the results and statistics speak for themselves.


Can the Aggies beat Florida Atlantic and/or Idaho to close out their season (the team has a bye before traveling to FAU next weekend).

Why not? Florida Atlantic isn't exactly a model of stability at the moment, although that game will be on the road in Boca Raton. We'll see.

Idaho does in fact come to Las Cruces, although the Vandals offense has shown some life.

The Aggies are going to have to continue to play better and, if they do, a win or two down the stretch would appear very possible.

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

Friday, November 8, 2013

What to watch for when Bulldawgs take on Trojans

The Las Cruces Bulldawgs and Mayfield Trojans meet again this Friday in the annual rivalry football game played at Aggie Memorial Stadium at 7 p.m.

Per usual, the contest will be big in the standings - each team stands at 3-0 in District 3-5A play, meaning the showdown is for the league championship - and big in the community, with a large crowd anticipated once again. As kickoff approaches, here's a look at key elements to watch for as city rivals square off.

1. Running the ball: This goes for both teams. For LCHS, it's simply their identity, a team that's won state championships with such a mantra and is averaging over 300 yards per game on the ground in 2013. As for the Trojans, they have some running backs of their own, and QB Kavika Johnson is a gifted ball carrier. A good rushing attack would allow Mayfield to control the ball, while opening up play-action passing and hopefully keeping the game a low-scoring one.

2. Turnovers: Statistics figure the Trojans need to finish plus-two to plus-three in turnover margin in Friday's game. It's simple logic, considering Mayfield is the proverbial underdog on paper, meaning takeaways and ball protection figure to play key roles. Ditto for the Bulldawgs, at least if they want to increase their advantage. The nature of this contest typically suggests turnovers are, have and always will play a major factor. Friday night shouldn't be different in this regard.

3. Kameron Miller vs. Trojans secondary: The Bulldawgs sophomore quarterback has shown good progress this year, although the team doesn't necessarily ask him to win games either. With his supporting cast, Miller simply needs to be solid most nights. Friday's contest, however, is against a Trojans team that's struggled in pass defense this season. Will the Bulldawgs be able to hit some big plays through the air? And will Mayfield be able to pressure the young signal caller?

4. Who blinks first?: The Bulldawgs haven't played in many, if any close games this year, outscoring the opposition by an average of 46-7. Will they be over-confident? And how will they respond to adversity if and when it hits? For Mayfield, it's about competing and trying to lay the first blow. Hard facts entering Friday's contest: LCHS has won five of six meetings between these two rivals. Whichever team's more focused and disciplined in this one likely wins.

5. Why the game is played: Again, Las Cruces High is the figured favorite entering Friday's game. LCHS is 9-0 on the season (Mayfield sits at 8-1), is ranked No. 1 in the state (Mayfield is No. 4) and has been trouncing the opposition this year. Nothing can be discounted in this game, however. The Trojans need to win key categories to spring an upset, though: establishing a running game, forcing turnovers and the trick-play element all figure as such.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Aggies compete, fall short against Louisiana-Lafayette

The first half of Saturday's New Mexico State vs. Louisiana-Lafayette game was nothing short of astounding.

The Aggies entered the game as nearly 30-point underdogs, only to score on their first four possessions of the game to take a 28-7 lead, and an eventual 28-14 advantage into halftime. In short, they looked like an entirely different team.

NMSU would in fact eventually fall 49-35 to a superior opponent, but it was also clearly the best game the team's played this season.

Lafayette is a very good team - NMSU head coach Doug Martin said throughout the week the Ragin' Cajuns will likely win the Sun Belt Conference championship - and the Aggies competed with them and played tough.

Offensively, the Aggies did about as much as they could. Quarterback Andrew McDonald played very well (24 of 34 passing, 327 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. He also ran for a TD); the team, despite being without injured running backs Brandon Betancourt and Germi Morrison, was able to generate a rushing attack. NMSU ran Travaughn Colwell out of the wildcat formation, as well as standout wide receiver Austin Franklin. In total, the team ran for 120 yards on 42 carries. And, Franklin continued to show his skills as the team's true gamebreaker offensively (12 catches, 140 yards and two touchdowns). The 35 points scored were a season high, and the most the Aggies have put up since August of 2012.

Still, the team hasn't seemed to win a second half all season and Saturday was no different. The Ragin' Cajuns outscored NMSU 35-7 in the final two quarters of play, as surely they woke up following the early deficit. This year, the Aggies have been outscored 212-64 during the third and fourth quarters of games, including contests against Texas (42-0), Louisiana-Lafayette (35-0), San Diego State (21-0), New Mexico (24-3), UCLA (28-13), UTEP (21-7) and Rice (17-7).

The team also remains last in the FBS in scoring defense (46.2 points per game), total defense (555 yards per game) and rush defense (312 yards per game). While NMSU needs help in all three phases, this is clearly an area that needs to get rectified first and foremost.

It won't get any easier for the Aggies this Saturday, who host a much-improved Boston College team. The Eagles stand at 4-4 on the year, and are coming off a big 34-27 home win this past weekend over Virginia Tech.

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Quotes from NMSU weekly football press conference

Here’s what head coach Doug Martin and two select players had to say during the Aggies weekly press conference at the NMSU football facility:

Head coach Doug Martin
On facing Louisiana-Lafayette this week?
This week we’ve got a huge challenge at Lafayette. This is the best team in the Sun Belt Conference that we’re going to play. I think there’s a lot of parity in the Sun Belt, except for this team. I think they’re head and shoulders above everybody else, talent-wise. I think what they’ve done facility-wise and what they’re putting into their program, they’ve certainly made a great commitment. And it shows on the field. They’re an excellent, excellent football team. So, we’re going to have our work cut out for us.”

You’re going to be without some people this week?
“Brandon Betancourt, actually. will be for the rest of the season. He’s having surgery today. He has a torn ligament in his foot that will have to be repaired. That’s a loss. He’s really played well and has been very consistent for us.
“Germi Morrison was beat up, was able to come back into the game last week. He’ll be a day-to-day issue, trying to get him healthy for Saturday. He certainly showed a lot of toughness and played hard on Saturday.
“Davis Cazares, don’t know if we’ll have him back. See how he does this week. But I know he still has quite a bit of pain in his foot.”

If Germi gets hurt some more, is it Travaughn (Colwell)?
“You got any eligibility?
“What we have is, Tra Colwell has to work at both places. Backup quarterback in case King can’t go - we’re still waiting to get his issues resolved, which may or may not be - and then we need Tra also to be at the running back position. We have Xavier Hall who came in and played well for us Saturday when he came in. Him and Tra would be the only scholarship running backs, right now, if you want to classify Tra as a running back. We have Marquette Washington, who’s a true-freshman running back who we’re redshirting. We don’t want to burn that redshirt at this late time in the year. We’ll go with Xavier Hall and Tra Colwell and hopefully Germi will be able to go.”

Senior cornerback Cameron Fuller
On his performance last week against Abilene Christian
“I got my first career interception, so that’s real big. I was real excited about that. I was able to make a couple other plays, late in the game. Our coach put us in position and what not, calling certain plays. I was just able to help our team win.”

Is this the best game you played since you got here?
“Yeah. I got an interception....Like I said, just trying to do whatever I can to help win.”

What does the winning do for the guys? What does it do for them mentally?
“It’s definitely a great feeling. We never gave up on ourselves and each other and all that. I feel like that’s why we were able to, at the end of the day, overcome it and kick down a wall and win a game. But it definitely reassured us that we are capable....Compete and go out there and actually finish a game and win. It’s definitely a good boost for our team.”

A morale boost?
“Definitely. You could just see it in the guys around the locker room. Day-to-day, class-to-class, in our faces, our attitudes. We definitely feeling good about the win.”

What are people talking about on campus?
“It’s a good feeling. I have a lot of people in class that come up to me, congratulating me and stuff. Ever since I’ve been here - I’m a JC guy - I’ve been here for two years and I haven’t won a game. This is my second game since the first game of last season. It’s just a real good feeling. To come in and people are patting you on the back and congratulating you. It’s something that we want to keep going.”

And the hunger for the next one? What’s that like?
“It’s that much stronger. We got a little taste of what it’s like to win. We want to come back, that game is over with now. We’re focused on Louisiana this week. We definitely want to take that win and use it as a stepping stone.”

How much of a stepping stone is it to possibly beating Louisiana-Lafayette on the road?
“It’s definitely going to be a challenge. Louisiana is a good team, a good football team. They’ve done a lot this year so far. Watching film on them so far, they’re definitely going to give us a challenge. I just feel like if we go out there and compete, give it our best shot, anything is possible. That’s the general feeling in the locker room. We’re playing for us at this point of the season.”

Sophomore offensive lineman Andy Cunningham
What are you playing this week?
“They have me at tackle.”

And where’s Dada (Richards)?
“They’re working him into the interior now.”

Is Dada ready to go this week?
“Yeah. He played pretty well last week.”

Talk about making that switch from guard to tackle?
“I feel like I’ve done pretty well. The only real difference between playing guard and tackle is, moving out you’re playing against lighter guys. Against Rice and against Abilene, they’re defensive ends average maybe 240, 250. Compared to playing on the inside where, you have the bigger defensive linemen. But, nothing really changed.”

Aren’t you working against more athletic people when you’re out there?
“For the most part, yeah. But, being in the tackle stance and, just switching up my stance, gives me the advantage in the pass protection. When their defense goes and does the run, they’re not as wide. I haven’t really played any wide defensive ends yet. They’ve mainly been tight in their alignment.”

What does it mean for the offensive line when a running back has a game like Germi Morrison had this past week?
“We were ecstatic. When we get a running back up that high in yards, just having him bust through the holes that we make on the offense. We were very proud of that. I don’t know the actual statistic of the rushing yards. But we knew they were pretty high. I think they were around 240, or something. When (offensive line coach Bart Miller) told us that, that was a feather we could put in our hat.”

What’s your attitude going into this next game?
“My attitude’s great. I’m looking forward to it. We’re going out on the road. It’s been a while since we’ve been out on the road. We’re going out there, we’re coming off of this win, even though it was down to the last nine seconds of that game. But, coming out with that win, it’s been a real mood changer for us in the locker room. So, we’re getting into our books, studying film, their formations, their personnel. All that. We’re just gameplanning to the best of our ability.”

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Five keys to Aggies vs. Abilene Christian

We preview tonight's NMSU vs. Abilene Christian football game with our five keys:

Aggie defense: We've been saying it all year and this week is certainly no different. The Aggies need to be able to stop the run first and foremost - they haven't done so throughout the season - if they want to avoid this upset. NMSU should be able to score some points on ACU, although if the Wildcats can score the ball at a frequent rate, it will make this contest a competitive one.

Turnovers: Abilene Christian has been astounding this season in the turnover margin (the team's forced 25 takeaways and have given up the ball just seven times total). Aggie head coach Doug Martin has been harping on turnover margin throughout the 2013 season, and it's never rung more true than entering tonight's contest. For the record, NMSU sits at minus-six in turnover margin (eight interceptions, nine lost fumbles) on the season.

Offensive production: Martin said running back Germi Morrison will return to the lineup after suffering a concussion Oct. 4 against New Mexico. Then again, the head coach told multiple media outlets this week that freshman quarterback King Davis III did in fact suffer a concussion last weekend against Rice, and his status for tonight's game is in question. Either way, scoring four-to-five touchdowns could very well be a realistic goal for an Aggie offense searching to top the 21-point mark for the first time this season.

Fast start, quick finish: The one thing that can't be quantified entering this game is the mental state of both clubs. For the Aggies, the question revolves around the team's confidence following an 0-7 start that saw the program overmatched most weeks at the outset of its independent schedule. Abilene Christian, on the other hand, will be ready to play - a game the Wildcats likely feel they can win, and their first contest against an FBS opponent since 1980 (a 41-0 defeat at Hawaii). In NMSU's case, jumping on the Wildcats early and putting the game away before the fourth quarter would be the ideal scenario. If for no other reason, it wouldn't allow thoughts of an upset to set in, and possibly linger.

The lines of scrimmage: You can say this just about any game, although it might have extra emphasis going into tonight. In truth, we don't know how these teams match up, simply because there's nothing close to a common opponent on the respective schedules. NMSU has to control Abilene Christian's offensive and defensive lines - pressuring the quarterback and containing the run, while protecting their signal caller and establishing a ground of of their own - to assure itself of victory.

Aggies need a win, and need to get it Saturday

If the New Mexico State Aggies were to play in a football game where on paper they should win, this would be the one.

Or, perhaps more accurately, this has to be the one.

While the term 'must-win game' is an over-used cliche, tonight's contest against Abilene Christian is certainly one the Aggies can't afford to lose.

Not after an 0-7 start to the 2013 season; compounded by an 18-game losing streak (which is tied with Southern Mississippi for the nation's longest); and not against a former Division II program making the transition to the Football Championship Subdivision, on homecoming Saturday.

What would the critics say - those who believe the Aggies would be better served themselves in a lower football division - if the team can't pull out a victory tonight? Clearly they would gather further ammunition, and such barks would grow louder.

But such a storyline is also removed from those voices. The university, still, doesn't seem close to dropping football from it's current level.

In truth, the Aggies just need the win, because they need a win.

This is a team that hasn't tasted victory since last August, in the their 2012 season-opener against Sacramento State. That's a long time to go without such a feeling - for players, for fans, for coaches.

On paper, one would figure the Aggies should be favored by two touchdowns. It's not a knock on Abilene Christian, just a fact: NMSU plays in the Football Bowl Subdivision, while ACU - at the moment - is a low-end Football Championship Subdivision program. While the Aggies have played power teams such as UCLA, Texas, Minnesota, Rice and San Diego State (in most cases, insurmountable opponents this season), Abilene Christian has wins against the likes of Concordia, McMurry, New Mexico Highlands, Houston Baptist and Incarnate Word.

Then again, such a point spread wouldn't factor in the mental component and preparation leading up to such a game. For the Aggies, that would be battling fragile confidence, while Abilene Christian will take the field ready to play, against an FBS team they'll believe they can compete with, or possibly beat.

It's certainly an intriguing angle for what would ordinarily be a game few would recognize. A dogfight wouldn't surprise many.

But is it a must-win game for the home team?

If the Aggies want to snap their current losing streak, than yes. And if they want to avoid a winless 2013 season, than it very well could be as well.

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Quotes from NMSU's weekly football press conference

Here’s what head coach Doug Martin and select players had to say during the Aggies weekly press conference at the NMSU football facility:

Doug Martin
On last week’s game against Rice and looking ahead to Abilene Christian this Saturday
“Our same Achilles heels are biting us. We’re not stopping the run on defense and that makes things really tough on you when teams can run the ball that effectively. Whether that’s a talent issue, scheme issue, whatever that is, that’s our worst problem on defense right now. And we’ve got to find a way to get that fixed if we’re going to win some games down the stretch. And especially this week.
“The other part offensively, our main problem is the consistency of the quarterback play. I’ve said all along, you can watch any mid-major program, especially, across the country, the ones that are winning have really good quarterback play. Those (players) make plays and make the guys around them better. We just haven’t been able to get that this year. We’re doing the best we (can) with what we have here right now. Obviously, we’ve got to recruit and get some guys in here that can compete for that job and make us better on that side of the ball. Until we get those things cleared up - run defense on the defensive side and the quarterback position - it’s going to be a struggle.
“I told our team, you better be ready to play some football. I know the impression about I-AA and all that stuff, these guys play winning football. They’re, like, plus-16 in the turnover margin, which is extrordinary. The quarterback’s thrown 27 touchdowns and only two interceptions. I think their defense has caused 23 turnovers for the season, which is remarkeable. They’ve got players. They’ve got guys that can play here. It will be a tough task for us to get this win. We better bring our big-boy pads.”

On winning first game of season and snapping 18-game losing streak
“I think that’s big for the players. I wasn’t here last year so I didn’t go through all of that. But it certainly would help the coaches sleep better, I’m sure. And would make the players feel a lot better. I think they carry that around probably more than I do right now. I’m just so involved in the process of putting the program together, that I just kind of stay right there. I don’t worry about what’s happened in the past and all that type of stuff. But I think it would be big for our team. And our guys are working hard, they’re competing, they’re doing all the right things. It’d be nice to see them get rewarded for that. They need to get a taste of winning so they can understand what that feels like and hopefully get a hunger for it to want it again.”

How does this game compare as a winnable game to your season so far?
“I think a lot of games have been winnable for us if we don’t beat ourselves. Like we did (against) UTEP and San Diego State and we had winnable games there. This one is right along those type of games. But, again, we’re going to have to play really well. We’ve got to win the turnover margin or we will not win this football game. I know that for a fact. And the rest of it’s about guys making plays. We’re playing a good football team.”

Does the confidence level change when the opponent is not Texas or UCLA?
“You’d probably ask the players that. I’m not sure. It doesn’t change with me as a coach. I understand, they’ve got scholarships too. And we do not have a full 85 scholarships right now. We’re at 76, and I think I-AA has 64 so there’s not a lot of difference in the amount of scholarships that both of us have going into this game. That’s one of our recruiting profiles that we’ve got to change. There’s not a lot of difference in my mind.”

What would a win do for confidence?
“Winning certainly helps your confidence. But I tell our players all the time, when you’re prepared you’re confident. It doesn’t just come from winning. I think it would certainly help us to learn how to win football games. We’ve got to learn that you’ve got to raise your level of play on game day. We do things in practice really well, and then all of a sudden we get to a game and we drop a punt, we drop a snap on an extra point. That stuff never happens in practice, it only happens in a game. Which means either guys can’t handle the pressure of playing in a game or they’re not prepared mentally, emotionally to play a game. Those are things that losing teams do that you have to transition it into winning. And you either do that by changing your roster or the guys that are here change their mentality.”

How do you feel about your offensive line’s performance?
“I think we’ve been pretty good in the offensive line. We had a couple of games where I didn’t think we played as well as we could. The Rice game, I didn’t think we played as well as we could. We didn’t protect the passer as well. We ran the ball pretty effectively. We did some good things there. And we have guys who are playing really well. Abe Holland had his first start and I really liked what I saw from him. He played physical, he took their best defensive lineman and put him on his back a couple times. He made some mistakes. It was the first game he started. But, you know, another New Mexico kid that’s stepped in here and played really well for us.”

Could you expand on some other guys you believe played well?
“I think Ume’s played pretty well for most of the year. Again, I think Abe Holland’s played well, Cunningham’s played pretty well for us. Dada was playing well till he got the ankle rolled and didn’t play this past week. Overall, we’ve been pretty good there.”

With Laudermill and Cazares, how did they heal up? And, of course, King. How are they all?
“It’s a little bit of a mash unit right now. Cazares, we got a good report back. His X-Rays were nagative so he doesn’t have anything broken or anything like that. He probably has a pretty good bone bruise in his ankle. Those are painful. He’s one of the toughest kids I’ve been around in 28 years of coaching. If he can play, he’ll play. But that’s going to be kind of a day-to-day deal, see how he can do. Of course, at his position, you’ve got to be able to move and change direction and all those types of things. If anybody can do it, it’d be him. I wish I had about 40 of him. We’d be winning a lot of football games. And that’s what we’re out after, to get guys like him.
“King is a day-to-day issue. He won’t practice today. We’ll see how he does as the week goes on. Laudermill had a neck stinger type of thing. His MRI’s came back positive, it didn’t have any permanent damage any of those types of things. Again, he’ll probably be a day-to-day decision.”

Did King suffer a concussion or having concussion symptoms?
“We’re not giving out those information, specifics of that. He’ll be evaluated day-to-day.”

With their scholarships, can they split those up?
“Some I-AA programs do that. They can give you just tuition, or just books, or whatever it is, and split the scholarship up. You can’t do that at the I-A level...I coached at that level and I know how all that works and everything. The thing I would say is this: Any time you play a team from Texas, you better load it up. Because they’ve got players. They are all from the state of Texas. And their is outstanding high school football, and there’s a lot more scholarship football players in Texas than there are schools. A lot of these guys that are playing for them could play anywhere in the Sun Belt or the Mountain West or any other conference. I watched the film. There’s a couple of those guys I’d love to recruit. They’ve got a good football team.”

Valerian Ume-Ezeoke, offensive lineman
Your performance last week against Rice?
“I played pretty well. When you’re not winning in the win column, then I didn’t do enough. I would say I didn’t do enough. Because, if I did enough, if everybody did enough, we’d have a win in the win column.”

How do they look defensively, in relation to the teams the Aggies have played. Primarily the people you’d be working against, the defensive line?
“I’m not going to downgrade them. They’re a smaller group of defensive linemen and defensive front. But they’re very gap-sound, disciplined and they know how to get to the ball. They’re players and they’re on scholarship too. They’re going to come out and try to play their hearts out.”

What do you think a win would mean for the program?
“It would be huge. We’ve been having a drought ever since last year. Just getting that win would be a great thing to the players, the coaching staff who’s really deserving....Just getting that win would be really, really nice.”

Is the team lacking confidence right now at all?
“No, you can come out and watch practice every week, we come out and practice our heart out. We just know that it only takes one. Once that win comes, it’s going to start rolling. We just come out and try to play our heart out, practice our heart out every time. We know it’s going to come.”

How much better has the offensive line played this year compared to last year?
“Last year we totaled about 42 sacks. And this year, the O-line has only given up nine. Which is a huge difference since last year. We averaged about 120 yards last game, rushing. I feel like we’re a better offensive line this year. We’re better disciplined, we’re more disciplined. We’re more physical....I feel like the O-line play this year’s a lot better.”

How much has the scheme helped improve the unit’s performance?
“You’re not as predictable, you don’t know if the quarterback’s going to have the ball or the running back’s going to have the ball. Just being unpredictable. The spread offense, also, we can throw the ball and we can run the ball. (It) definitely helps the O-line because, nobody knows what we’re going to do. That’s a big difference.”

Adam Shapiro
When you look at the schedule, how would you characterize this as a winnable game compared to what you’ve had on your schedule?
“You could obviously say that some of the teams that we’ve played this year are on a difference caliber than Abilene. At the same time, they’re still a good team and we’ve played a lot of good teams this year. Just got to go out there and take it like as one of the other games that we’ve had and keep playing.”

Does the streak that you’ve gone through mean anything in a negative way, where the team gets down? Or is it truly one game at a time?
“I think everyone’s just trying to take it one game at a time. I don’t know if anybody’s thinking about the loss streak or anything like that.”

Saturday, October 19, 2013

5 keys to Aggies vs. Owls

We take a look at tonight's New Mexico State vs. Rice football game, beginning at 6 p.m. at Aggie Memorial Stadium:

Coming off a bye: This is one thing the Aggies have going for them against a heavily favored Rice team. Having two weeks to prepare is a big plus, and it will be interesting to see if the Aggies implement any new wrinkles into their gameplan. Some defensive adjustments have been made — safety George Callender has been moved to outside linebacker, while Trashaun Nixon has slid to middle linebacker — in an effort to get more speed on the field. Head coach Doug Martin also talked about opening up competition at every position and having possible movement on the depth chart during the off week. Perhaps some further personnel changes will unfold, and new players could get an opportunity to step up.

The 0-6 Aggies: NMSU is still looking for its first win of the 2013 season and is riding a 17-game losing streak. While the team will have its hands full against Rice (the Owls hold a 4-2 record and have the look of a quality club) NMSU does welcome in Abilene Christian next week. Will the skid end soon? One or two wins would make a difference for everyone involved. If the team beat, say, UTEP in Week 3 of this season, for instance, the mood could be much different at this point of the season.

Control the ball: Perhaps the best chance the Aggies have at competing tonight is by having a ball-controlled offense, and in turn using the clock to their advantage. Establishing an effective running game and throwing to the short-to-intermediate zones in the passing attack would allow the Aggies to at least have a chance in the time-of-possession battle. Success in this area would keep the Owls’ offense — and, in turn, the Aggie defense — on the sidelines.

Run defense: This has been a major weakness for the Aggies and it’s tough seeing it being that much better tonight. Rice enters the game with the 40th-ranked rushing offense in the Football Bowl Subdivision (200-yards-per game) and has a balanced offense (a variation of running plays and the ability to throw the ball as well). The Aggie defense has played well in spurts, although the numbers don’t lie: last in the NCAA in rush defense (340 yards per game) and scoring defense (48 points per contest).

Unknown for Aggies: Who will play the majority of the game at quarterback for the Aggies? Will Travaughn Colwell see playing time for essentially the first time of 2013 (this time possibly at running back)? Will wide receiver Austin Franklin have his first breakout performance since returning from academic ineligibility two games ago? Will the Aggie defense have any success against the run? And can the team compete against the Owls? Plenty of questions face the Aggies following their off week.

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

Sunday, October 13, 2013

ANALYSIS: After rough start, Aggie football looks to regroup for second half of 2013

(Wide receiver Adam Shapiro is part of a core group of native New Mexicans who've made positive contributions to the 2013 Aggie football team/Photo by Robin Zielinski)

There wasn't much positive to take from the first half of New Mexico State's 2013 college football season, except maybe the fact that it's over.

The Aggies sit at 0-6 on the year, and are coming off a 66-17 defeat at rival New Mexico last weekend. A bye this weekend at least gives the team a chance to rest, regroup and collect itself for the second half of the season.

The schedule does get more manageable from here on out, and perhaps consistent development and progress will come from the team over the final six games of 2013.

With that, here's some takeaways and observations one can make moving forward, as NMSU enters the second half of it's 2013 football schedule:

Development of a young quarterback
Head coach Doug Martin said the Aggies opened competition - and possible playing time - across the board during the team's recent bye week, including at the quarterback position.

With that being said, expect freshman King Davis III to continue seeing increased playing time in the second half of the season.

Davis hasn't taken live snaps since being knocked out of a Week 4 game at UCLA. He got his first career start against the Bruins, only to take some big hits throughout, and suffered a concussion after taking a big lick in the third quarter.
Martin said Davis was held out the past two weeks because of the concussion. The freshman also had his left middle finger bandaged prior to Aggie practice this past Thursday (the wrap was on Davis' non-throwing hand).

But Martin has maintained the freshman is fully recovered from injury, and will compete for playing time accordingly.

"That depends on him. How well he plays in practice and how well he plays in games," Martin said when asked about Davis' role moving forward. "And that's true for every position. It's all about competition."

The reality of NMSU's current position also suggests this: the Aggies have spoken throughout the first half of the 2013 season about finding high-end quarterback play - to this point, it hasn't appeared they believe they've gotten such performance from that position. Davis is a freshman with great athleticism and running ability, although he still needs to prove himself in other areas of the game - specifically, his passing.

"He can get out of trouble in the pocket. He's good on his feet. A good athlete," said offensive coordinator Gregg Brandon. "Now, can he complete enough passes? To me, right now, that remains to be seen."

While the second half of the Aggies schedule is more manageable, it can also provide the coaching staff a chance to see the freshman under center, allow him to develop, and give them a chance to evaluate the position.

"It's a big priority," Brandon said. "He's shown flashes of being a capable quarterback for us. It's unfortunate that he got dinged and he couldn't continue that development. But the bye week's been good for him, getting a lot of reps that way. We'll see where it goes."

Progress of local players
Perhaps the biggest bright spot for the Aggies this season has been the performance of New Mexico-based players on the roster.

Running back Brandon Betancourt has been consistent - the Mayfield High School alum is currently the team's leading rusher (74 carries, 303 yards and two touchdowns). Wide receiver Joshua Bowen (Manzano High School) leads the Aggies in key categories (26 catches, 253 yards and two touchdowns) while fellow receiver Adam Shapiro (Rio Rancho High School) has found a niche as well (15 catches, 205 yards and a touchdown).

Linebacker Clint Barnard (Melrose High School) has also started throughout the year, while defensive tackle Matt Ramondo (Mayfield) has seen his role increase. Kickoff man Brock Baca (Mayfield) has taken the field the past two weeks and has gotten the ball to the end zone.

"All the New Mexico kids we've got have played well," Martin said. "They're making great contributions."

Such players are also underclassmen and will return to the Aggies next season, meaning their continued development as part of the team's core can be monitored.

"I feel like we've all done pretty good," Shapiro said of the New Mexico contingent. "But at the end of the day, it's all about winning. And we still need to do more and step up more. ... We can all improve."

Special teams
This area has largely been a disappointment, particularly the team's coverage units.

In truth, NMSU's kicking game has improved. Punter Cayle Chapman-Brown has performed better of late and averaged over 50 yards on six punts last week at New Mexico (his play has picked up since a down performance at UCLA three weeks ago). Baca, for his part, has gotten the ball to the end zone on kickoffs since returning to the lineup.

In the return game, the Aggies haven't shown much explosiveness, yet have to avoid beating themselves first and foremost (such as fumbling the opening kickoff against UTEP during Week 3 of the season).

Kick coverage could be the main area where improvement is key, however. Whether it be surrendering a punt-return touchdown against Minnesota, a kickoff-return touchdown against New Mexico or a near kickoff-return touchdown against UCLA, there's been breakdowns.

"We've got to be creative with how we kick, because we've got a lack of team speed right now covering," Martin said. "We've got to be creative with how we're kicking the ball and giving us the best chance to succeed. And we've got to go recruit."
When asked what kicking adjustments can be made, Martin said, "You can squib kick on kickoffs, you can sky kick it. Punting, you can directional punt. There's a lot of different things you can do to help."

Consistency, playmakers
The Aggies have played well in spurts during almost every game this season (minus last week's contest at UNM). And while the team has won its share of plays this year, it hasn't made enough big plays overall.

Whether it be playing good first quarters or first halves, the Aggies need to find a way to translate that to an entire game.
Martin has said the team needs its playmakers to step up and for the offense to put more points on the board (the team's averaging 15.8-points-per game).

The Aggies did bring back junior wide receiver Austin Franklin after the standout missed the first four games of 2013 because of academic ineligibility. That, and Martin said the team would try to move Travaughn Colwell, a quarterback who was switched to wide receiver prior to the season, to running back during the bye week.

Colwell, a fine athlete in his own right, has played sparingly if at all this season, in part because of an injured shoulder suffered during August practices.

"We're trying to find a place to play the kid. He has good running skills. He's one we've got to find a spot for," Brandon said. "The last few days he's been playing running back. And we'll see where it goes."

While the team has pointed at its offensive production as a hinderance, defense could be the bigger issue. NMSU ranks dead-last in the Football Bowl Subdivision in rush defense (340-yards-per game) and scoring defense (surrendering 48.8-points-per game). Last week they were exposed against the Lobos, who rushed for 540 yards on their way to 66 points.

"Everyone had a specific assignment that they had to execute. If not, the running back could slip through a crack. And it was tough to cover," linebacker Bryan Bonilla said following the contest. "We're not going to face every offense with the same scheme UNM had. At the end of the day, we have to execute what we're supposed to do. And take care of our assignments."

A glimmer of hope
How will the Aggies finish off the 2013 season? It would be nice if they hold things together, stay motivated and make some improvements down the stretch.

While the team sits at 0-6, the tough part of the 2013 independent schedule is over - the Aggies opened play against three BCS-level opponents - and perhaps some wins will be in the offing (frankly, a couple victories seem essential). Beating the likes of Abilene Christian (an FCS opponent) and Idaho (an FBS foe who's in a similar spot as the Aggies) would at least mean the team survived the year. Anything more than that could be considered a big step forward.

"I think that's big for our football players. They've worked hard and they've paid the price and they're sacrificing," Martin said. "If they're willing to keep working and they're willing to keep playing hard and keep giving it everything they've got, than they can make that happen. That's big for them. You know, we're going to build a good program here in the future because we're going to go recruit well and do all the things we've got to do to get that done. But it would be nice for these guys to experience some winning."

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

Friday, October 11, 2013

PODCAST: Discussing Aggie football going into the team's bye week

We sit down with to talk about NMSU's football loss to UNM and the season moving forward entering this weekend's bye. We also touch on Aggie volleyball continuing its winning ways in WAC play, as well as Aggie soccer looking to get kick-started against its league counterparts.

Click here to listen.

VIDEO: Teddy and Brook Show (10/10)

LCSN sports duo talks Aggie football going into bye week, high school football teams going into district:

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

In building program, Aggies will start at QB

(Head coach Doug Martin talks to freshman quarterback King Davis III on the sidelines this past Saturday at UNM/Photo by Robin Zielinski)

If one thing has been made apparent at the midway point of New Mexico State’s 2013 college football season, it's that one of the team's top priorities - or perhaps its No. 1 priority - is finding top-notch quarterback play.

Head coach Doug Martin has made it a point of emphasis throughout the year, talking about the quarterback position specifically - along with other skill positions at times - during media interviews.

Simply by inference and observation: under Martin and offensive coordinator Gregg Brandon, the Aggies want a high-level player at the position, one where the offense essentially revolves around their presence. Do they need a superstar? That’s not entirely clear, although certainly a dual-threat athlete who raises the play of those around him would seem ideal.

For these reasons, expect freshman King Davis III to play more frequently following the team’s bye week and moving into the second half of the season.

The team moved Davis into the starting lineup two weeks ago against UCLA. It was a high-end challenge for the freshman - the Bruins were clearly the best team the Aggies have faced this season, and Davis took some big hits in the contest, one of which knocked him out of the game with a concussion. He hasn’t taken a snap during live-game action since.

But Martin said Davis is now back at full strength and will compete for playing time.

Reality also suggests the Aggies need to get Davis on the field during the season’s second half to evaluate if he can in fact be the quarterback the program desires. Certainly from an athleticism standpoint, he brings a lot to the table.

With that, in fairness to the quarterback position as a whole, there is more required than just placing a skilled player under center and letting them take over.

A solid offensive line is necessary, along with a running back that can consistently churn out strong production. Of course, a solid core of wide receivers - something the Aggies have been able to attract over the years - is necessary.

This year, people have brought up Matt Christian, who was a great, tough quarterback for the Aggies during his senior season in 2011, when Martin was offensive coordinator at the school.

And, while that is true, Christian also had a strong supporting cast around him: a respectable offensive line, a gamebreaker at running back (Kenny Turner was in a league of his own) and a strong group of wide receivers (Taveon Rogers was in a similar class, flanked by senior Todd Lee, the underrated Kemonte Bateman and a young standout in Austin Franklin).

“Our skill at the skill position offensively is not producing points,” Martin said of the Aggies 2013 production thus far. “The perfect example is when we went to New Mexico the year I was here as offensive coordinator in 2011. Matt Christian made plays, Kenny Turner made plays, Todd Lee made plays, Taveon Rogers made plays. Those guys were playmakers. And that’s what we’re not seeing right now.”

With that being said, it appears the Aggies will begin building by finding such a quarterback. That push will likely include during the season's second half, and in their recruiting efforts.

“The need part of things, obviously the quarterback position is crucial,” Martin said. “If you look across the country, mid-major programs that win, especially, win because they have great quarterback play. After this season, we will only have one quarterback here on scholarship. And then that’s a recruiting hole that we’ve got to fill. We definitely have to hit that area really hard.”

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

Monday, October 7, 2013

Aggies ran out of Albuquerque by rival UNM

(Kasey Carrier and the New Mexico Lobos ran through the Aggie defense on Saturday evening, accumulating a total of 541 rushing yards/Photo by Robin Zielinski)

Saturday night's Aggie loss - a 66-17 dismantling at the University of New Mexico - was an embarrassing performance.

Simply put, the team played poorly on offense, terribly on defense, and continued the special teams breakdowns that have existed this season. In short, nothing went right for NMSU in Albuquerque.

On paper it was a bad matchup for the visitors. The Lobos came into the contest with a very effective - and unorthodox - rushing attack, ranked third in the nation with 324-yards-per game on the ground. The Aggies, in turn, were dead-last in the FBS in rush defense (giving up 300-yards-per game on the ground) and it showed. UNM wracked up an astounding 541 yards via the ground game on Saturday night, and the 66 points was a Lobo record in the Rio Grande rivalry.

It should be noted, such an output isn't necessarily out of the ordinary for the Lobos this season.

After all, the week before saw New Mexico rush for 497 yards on 59 carries against UNLV; and earlier this season, the team tallied 395 rushing yards on 57 carries against UTEP. So UNM running wild on an Aggie team that's had trouble stopping the run since spring and fall practices was, frankly, a fairly predictable scenario.

The difference is that, while the Lobos should continue scoring points in the Mountain West Conference, their defense can be had. UNLV, for instance, may have had trouble defending the UNM ground game, but the Rebels managed to put up 56 points in the contest (and won by 14).

And, while expecting the Aggies to score that many points was simply unrealistic - the team hasn't topped 21 in a single game this season - their 17-point showing wasn't nearly enough, and was a disappointment. For NMSU to have any shot in Saturday's game, putting up at least 30 points seemed necessary. And the reality was, after falling behind 21-0 in the first quarter, any hope at a comeback was essentially lost: the Lobos weren't going to be stopped (UNM scored on its first six possessions of the contest) meaning the Aggies would be in catchup mode, likely, the entire night.

Of course NMSU would eventually score, when a 13-play, 75-yard drive ended with an Adam Shapiro 4-yard run, slicing the deficit to 21-7. There was some hope.

But it was dashed when Carlos Wiggins returned the ensuing kickoff 100-plus yards for a UNM touchdown - a massive gap formed in the middle of the NMSU coverage unit as Wiggins took off, unthreatened, the other way.

From that point forward, the game was essentially over, with the Lobos taking a 42-14 lead into halftime and the Aggies never truly being in the contest.


Where does NMSU go from here?

For starters, the team needs to get a win or two this season. After their bye this weekend the Aggies have six games remaining on their 2013 schedule, and the best chances at victory - at least on paper - would seem to be home games against Abilene Christian (Oct. 26) and Idaho (Nov. 30). Other contests include home games against Rice (Oct. 19) and Boston College (Nov. 9), along with road affairs at Louisiana-Lafayette (Nov. 2) and Florida Atlantic (Nov. 23).

One can also expect more from freshman quarterback King Davis III in the second half of the season.

The team inserted Davis as its starting quarterback two weeks ago at UCLA, only to see him take a number of big hits, one of which caused a concussion.

NMSU head coach Doug Martin said he held Davis out this past weekend because of that injury (when asked if anything else was bothering Davis besides the concussion, Martin said no). In any event, the coaching staff clearly wants to see what the true freshman can do and has made it clear they haven't been thrilled with the club's offensive production to this point of the season.

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

Saturday, October 5, 2013

ANALYSIS: Run defense, offense's scoring prowess will dictate Aggies success at UNM

The 105th I-25 rivalry football game between New Mexico State University and the University of New Mexico will be played Saturday, in Albuquerque, between two teams that could use such a victory.

Neither club has been particularly good to this point of the 2013 season - the Aggies enter the contest with an 0-5 record while the Lobos hold a 1-3 mark - while UNM is favored by nearly 11 points as kickoff approaches.

Both programs have talked this year about the in-state rivalry’s importance, however, and for the Aggies it would be their first win under first-year head coach Doug Martin.

Here, we take a look at the key elements going into Saturday’s contest for state supremacy:

The Lobo run game: This is obviously a major storyline, as UNM has a prolific rushing attack (the team ranks No. 3 in the nation with 1,298 yards on the ground while scoring 14 rushing touchdowns). The Aggies, in turn, are dead last in the FBS (No. 123) in rush defense (surrendering nearly 300 yards per game).

UNM runs a variation of the triple option: The Lobos will often line up with quarterback Cole Gautche in semi-shotgun, which can also come with him flanked by three backs. The team will play power football, utilizing the zone-read to run the ball up the middle, between the tackles. Gautche will also take the ball to the outside as well - with the pitch runner in tow - in an effort to break off a big run on the perimeter.

The Lobos offensive line, coached by former Aggie assistant Jason Lenzmeier, is a strength.

In short, such a gameplan will test the Aggies discipline on defense throughout the evening.

A handful of players highlight the Lobo stat sheet, headlined by leading rusher Kasey Carrier (93 carries, 559 yards and five touchdowns). The team will also utilize running back Crusoe Gongbay (21 carries, 200 yards, one touchdown) and wide receiver Carlos Wiggins (five carries, 133 yards, two touchdowns).

Gautche is a big player (6-foot-4, 223 pounds) who can be tough to bring down (44 carries, 276 yards and five touchdowns) and the team can also bring in backup quarterback Clayton Mitchem (24 carries, 38 yards and two touchdowns) to aid in the rushing effort.

Another element of the Lobo attack: they’ll keep their eye on the Aggie safeties, and their proximity to the line of scrimmage. If they feel the NMSU defensive backs are too close for comfort, a play-action pass will likely be ran, with a deep ball to follow.

Stopping the Lobos rushing attack all together is a likely impossibility - they’ve had big efforts against UTEP (57 carries, 395 yards) and UNLV (59 carries, 497 yards) and a respectable showing against BCS program Pitt (52 carries, 213 yards). The team averages 31 points per contest, while scoring 42 points on two separate occasions this season.

Slowing it down, however, is a must if the Aggies want a chance at victory. At the very least, NMSU has to make UNM earn what it gets - short gains and a ball-control offense would be preferred rather than watching the Lobos rip off a handful of long runs, something they’re capable of.

Aggies offensive production: Martin said in order for the Aggies to win Saturday, a high-scoring attack must be in the offing.

The reasoning is simple: while UNM has a unique offense, the Lobos certainly shouldn’t be considered a team that’s capable of playing in catchup mode. And, if the Aggies can play from ahead, and perhaps get up by multiple scores, UNM might be forced out of its run-heavy comfort zone.

The Aggie offense also must get first downs and sustain drives of its own. Last week against San Diego State - a 26-16 loss - the Aggies got off to a hot start, although the offense fizzled, and the defense was on the field far too long.

Who starts - or better yet, who plays the majority of the game - at quarterback will also be an area of intrigue. While senior Andrew McDonald has proven to be a consistent passer (70-percent completion percentage, 910 yards, six touchdown passes to two interceptions), freshman King Davis III’s lone start of the season against UCLA saw NMSU run for a season-high 187 yards (with Davis III accounting for 51 of those yards). Davis suffered a concussion against the Bruins, however, and just returned to practice this past week.

Offensive gameplan: Last week saw the Aggies attack San Diego State through the air early. NMSU completed 15 of 20 first-half passes for 174 yards and two touchdowns, while building a 16-0 lead.

Sure enough, the offense lost its zip in the second-half. The team tried establishing a running game to no avail (40 carries on 27 yards) and the passing attack lost it’s effectiveness.

Regardless, the Aggies need to be the aggressors from the start Saturday, and carry that through the game’s entirety.

On paper, the team just might be able to make plays through its passing game once again. UNM ranks No. 120 in the nation in pass efficiency defense (920 yards surrendered, nine touchdowns given up and just two interceptions recorded) and the Aggies welcomed back standout receiver Austin Franklin last week after the junior missed the first four games of 2013 due to academic ineligibility. NMSU has since elevated Franklin atop the depth chart, and certainly a couple big plays Saturday - and perhaps a touchdown or two - would seem necessary against the favored Lobos.

Finishing: Through five games of the 2013 season, the Aggies have yet to play at a high level for a game’s entirety. Such a fact goes for both sides of the ball, and special teams.

The team is riding a 16-game losing streak, and the last time it defeated an FBS team was in November, 2011 (a 48-45 win over Fresno State).

Tonight’s contest is a winnable one (NMSU has won three of four meetings against UNM). With that being said, the Aggies must play a complete game - all four quarters - and capitalize at every opportunity that’s presented.

Who: New Mexico State (0-5) at New Mexico (1-3)
What: College football, Week 6
Where: University Stadium in Albuquerque
When: Saturday, 5 p.m.
Radio: KGRT-FM 104; Vista-FM 98.7 (Spanish)
TV: ROOT Sports on DirecTV channel 683; DISH Network channel 414
Spread: NMSU plus-11
Weather: Clear, temperatures in the 50s