Saturday night saw the New Mexico State Aggies do some good things, but also lose to a Big Ten team that was, as expected, superior from a physical standpoint.
Minnesota is a power football team, and a very good one - it showed during the Golden Gophers 44-21 win Saturday night at Aggie Memorial Stadium. Offensively they had a veteran line, and the sheer size and power of that unit along with the team's running backs (Rodrick Williams Jr. and David Cobb), along with quarterback Phillip Nelson, wore on the Aggie defense to the tune of 342 rushing yards on the evening.
Ditto for the Minnesota defensive front, which was headlined by tackle Ra'Shede Hageman. The Aggies tried to run the ball up the middle throughout the night, although that wasn't going to happen on a Gophers team that simply held an edge along the trenches on both sides of the ball.
Truthfully, once the Aggies spread the Gophers out - three- and four-wide receivers sets - and used quarterback Andrew McDonald on quick dropbacks and releases to the short-to-intermediate passing zones of the defense, NMSU moved the ball fairly effectively (the team, after all, did accumulate 356 yards of offense on the evening).
The problem arose with the Aggies hitting their offensive stride too late - midway through the second quarter, already trailing 13-0.
Looking back on the game, the NMSU defense did essentially all it could. Of course the unit gave up 342 yards rushing to the Gophers, although such a turn of events was somewhat expected.
NMSU surrendered just 30 points defensively - a Minnesota punt-return touchdown and fumble-return touchdown accounted for the other two scores - and held up physically for over a quarter with Minnesota's bruising attack.
For the Aggies to compete in such a contest - again, against a Big Ten team that entered the evening as 16-point favorites - they had to play as close to perfect as possible.
And when one considers some of the events that unfolded: NMSU's slow start offensively; Minnesota's 65-yard punt-return touchdown to make the score 27-7 going into halftime; two failed fourth-down attempts for the Aggies, both coming in the second half with the team trailing 30-14; and the turnover which resulted in a Gopher touchdown, it was too much to overcome.
But perhaps the Aggies also learned some more about their football team in an early-season contest against another BCS opponent. Next week they'll take on rival UTEP and the two teams figure to be more evenly matched - UTEP lost Saturday night in a 42-35 overtime affair to New Mexico, a contest that saw the Miners give up 395 rushing yards in their own right.
Aggie head coach Doug Martin has been pointing to his team's rivalry games against the Miners and Lobos since he was named head coach of the Aggies in February. This will be his first crack at one of them, in what figures to be a game NMSU can in fact win.
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