Sept. 24, 2009
What: New Mexico State at Lobos
When/Where: 8 p.m. Saturday, University Stadium
Radio: 770 KKOB-AM, Lobo Radio Network
TV: The Mtn (Comcast 276, DirecTV 616)
Online: GameTracker; game story on GoLobos.com
By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
The New Mexico State secret weapon of a few weeks ago still might be found in the Aggies' backfield, but it's no longer Seth Smith.
Smith was discovered in NMSU's 21-18 win over Prairie View when he ran for 150 yards in his first start as an Aggie. First-year Aggie coach DeWayne Walker called Smith his secret weapon.
The 5-foot-8 running back was not listed on the NMSU two-deep chart going into the season and sat out the 2008 season. Walker had to let the cat out of the bag when he inserted Smith into the backfield as a fixture.
Now, Walker has another little secret brewing in his backfield. Will he start Jeff Fleming or Trevor Walls in the QB spot when the Aggies invade University Stadium Saturday night?
Actually, it might not matter much.
"I don't know if their game plan will change depending on which quarterback is in there," said Doug Mallory, the Lobos` defensive coordinator. "We`ll plan for both, but it might be just a different guy running the same offense."
What the 1-2 Aggies are looking for from the QB spot is the same thing the 0-3 Lobos were looking for when Coach Mike Locksley was planning to throw both Donovan Porterie and B.R. Holbrook at the Aggies: execution, consistency, touchdowns.
Locksley`s two-headed huddle disappeared when Holbrook went to the bench this week with an ailment. Walker is being coy on the winner of the Fleming/Walls battle, but the Lobos basic plan for the Aggies might go back to the Aggies` old secret: Smith.
Smith, like James Wright for UNM, has been the only true bright spot coming out of the NMSU huddle. He ran for 99 yards against a decent UTEP team in the Aggie`s 38-12 loss this past Saturday. He averaged 7.6 yards per carry against UTEP and averages 88.7 yards per game and 6.3 yards per carry on the season. The Aggies also have a decent runner in Colston Marque, who averages 51.7 yards per game.
If the Aggies can control the line of scrimmage, expect NMSU to tighten their package and run at the Lobos.
If not, the arm of Walls or Fleming might be a factor. Mallory expects to see a lot of Smith.
"They will give you the two-back run offense, with two tights (tight ends) two backs and get physical with you," said Mallory. "They come off the line of scrimmage hard trying to run it at you.
"I'm impressed with their fullback and their tailback. They hit it up there pretty hard. They are physical kids. We haven't seen that type of offense yet."
Most good running attacks need some help with an arm. Most good passing attacks need help from the feet. It keeps the defense guessing.
Neither Lobos nor Aggies have gotten enough out of their arms to put much scare in any defenders. Fleming went 6-of-13 vs. UTEP, threw two interceptions and no touchdowns. Walls came off the bench and wasn't all that impressive in going 4-of-10, but he threw no picks and did have a scoring strike.
That scoring stuff is good. The Aggies average 13 points a game. The Lobos average 9.7 points a game. It's a good guess that Saturday's winner probably will exceed that average.
Fleming has been the Aggies' starter, going 35-of-66 with no scoring passes and four interceptions. Walls is only 5-of-11 on the year. Fleming, like Porterie, is the starter because he has shined in practice. Fleming, like Porterie, has not shined in games and has no touchdown passes. Walls has been given more snaps this week in practice in anticipation of more playing time vs. the Lobos.
The Aggies, again like the Lobos, have made a drastic shift in offensive philosophy. The Lobos went from basic to diverse with a no-huddle, multi-Lobo attack. The Aggies went from a pass-happy spread to more of a blue-collar attack.
The simplification has helped the Aggies on the ground, but there isn't much guesswork when the Aggie's line up tight. They plan to run the ball. The like to give it to Smith.
"But they can be diverse in their attack and give you a spread package," said Mallory. " It`s probably just a matter of time before they start clicking."
The problem, so far, with the Aggies' spread is that it hasn't been impressive in moving the ball through the air. NMSU averages 97 yards passing and 187 yards on the ground. Walls` longest completion out of four passes against UTEP went for six yards.
The Aggies need quarterback production. Will it be Fleming or Walls? Will it make a difference?
Editor's Note: Richard Stevens is a former Associate Sports Editor and sports columnist for The Albuquerque Tribune. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Previous articles are available at The Richard Stevens Corner