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Stevens: Winless Aggies & Winless Lobos Have Many Similarities
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  10/06/2010
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

Oct. 5, 2010

Lobo Football
Saturday:
Lobos at New Mexico State, 6 p.m. -- Aggie Memorial Stadium
On The Radio: 770-AM KKOB/Lobo Radio Network
On TV: Aggie Vision -- Comcast 77, DirecTV 682
GoLobos.com: GameTracker, game story, stats, quotes

By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

It is a team that is winless, desperate, and eyeing its instate rival like a drowning man in a sea of sharks might eye an approaching life raft.

It is a team battered, bruised, looking for consistency at most positions, playing too many young players, and simply getting hammered on the scoreboard.

It is a team that got smashed and shutout by a Top 10 program, lost to UTEP and probably will not have its No. 1 quarterback healthy for the big game.

It is a team being attacked locally, nationally, and probably even questioning itself a little as it approaches arguably it's most winnable game and beatable foe of the season.

Meet the New Mexico State Aggies -- a team facing a whole lot of questions in 2010, but this week is really facing only one: Can you beat the Lobos?

The Aggies surely think so. They are slight favorites , a lean probably based on their win up in Albuquerque a year ago combined with the fact the Aggies have the home-turf advantage with Saturday's tilt set for Aggie Memorial Stadium.

It is a huge game for Aggies and not simply because the bragging rights for a state go to the winner. If the Aggies drop this one, they just might be looking at a winless season with Fresno State, Idaho, San Jose State, Utah State, Louisiana Tech, Nevada and Hawaii waiting down the long road.

It is a pride game for sure. It also is a game that will be lost to either Aggies or Lobos, if they don't improve execution and performance on both sides of the football.

The Aggies, like the Lobos, might not have their No. 1 quarterback healthy for Saturday's game. NMSU's Matt Christian left last Saturday's 59-0 loss to No. 3 Boise State after getting crunched on a pass play.

Christian hadn't distinguished himself at that point going 5-of-14 for 63 yards with an interception and a fumble. But this was Boise State. Any quarterback has to like his chances against a winless UNM defense that is giving up an average of 52.6 points and 492 yards.

The Aggies, like the Lobos, might be making a late decision on who has the pocket. NMSU went with Tanner Rust after Christian went down. Rust is a 6-foot-2 freshman out of Lakeside, Calif. He didn't do much against Boise State, but -- again -- this is Boise State. The Broncos are on a level similar to what UNM faced with Oregon.

Rust went 3-of-8 for 27 yards and carried the ball 10 times for 25 yards in his debut for NMSU. The Lobos might have to watch out for a "quick kick" with Rust in the backfield as he also has handled much of the Aggies[ punting chores this season.

Christian is more of a threat going 55-of-108 in four games with 633 yards and three touchdowns. He has a modest 105.62 efficiency rating, which compares favorably to Tarean Austin of UNM, who comes into the game at 87.88.

It is difficult to shake too many stars out of the 0-4 Aggies, but that's not uncommon with a team that is winless and struggling to score points -- or keep points -- off the scoreboard.

The Aggies are giving up 46 points a game and yielding 541.8 yards in total defense. NMSU scores 11.8 points a game and moves at an average clip of 276.8 yards per game. UNM averages 12.2 points on offense and 259.6 total yards.

Statistically, the Aggies are similar to UNM in numbers and those numbers also are the product of a challenging schedule. NMSU has played San Diego State (41-21 L) of the Mountain West, UTEP (42-10 L), Kansas (42-16 L) and Boise State (59-0).

The Aggies lost by 32 points to the Miners and UNM lost by 18 points (38-20) this past Saturday. NMSU lost in El Paso, so maybe that gap isn't as telling as it might appear.

One of the Aggies' top threats on offense is senior wide out Marcus Allen. He caught four passes vs. SDSU, five vs. UTEP, five vs. Kansas and had three grabs against Boise State. He totals 16 grabs for 314 yards and two scores. This is not an Aggie you want to see catch the ball in the open field. NMSU also likes to throw to tight end Kyle Nelson, who has 15 catches for 116 yards.

As a whole, the Aggie's grueling schedule has brought them poor defensive stats, but there has been some nice individual work. Jonte Green, a defensive back, had 11 tackles, a career high, against Boise State. He is NMSU's No. 3 tackler this season with 34. Donyae Coleman, a safety, is No. 1 with 39 wraps and Boyblue Aoelua, a linebacker, is No. 2 with 36. Coleman has 12 tackles at Kansas.

The Aggies are looking for more tackling productivity up front vs. the Lobos. This is a key for both teams. There are a lot of factors that could kick in to decide which teams leaves the field with a win -- mistakes, special teams, big plays, turnovers -- but both Aggies and Lobos need line production on both sides of the ball.

NMSU is bending an average of 257.2 yards per game via the run. That's awful. The Lobos are better with their 211 average yield. The Lobos will be without their leading rusher, Demond Dennis, who will not play against NMSU. Dennis carries a 3.8 average per carry, but only averages 29.2 yards per game.

The Lobos have the edge in the run game defensively, but NMSU averages 111.8 yards per game on offense to UNM's 80.6-yard average. NMSU averages 165 yards per game passing and gives up 284.5 yards per game through the air. UNM is at 179 yards on offense passing and has an average passing yield of 281 yards.

The Lobos have improved their special teams, but not enough to call this area a UNM strength. The Aggies have the potential to hurt UNM in that area behind Taveon Rogers, who averages 26.8 yards per kickoff. He set a school mark with 219 kickoff yards vs. Kansas, including a season-high 54-yard return.

The NMSU offensive line hasn't opened too many holes for its running backs, but it has allowed only two sacks in four games.

The most important numbers in this game are final numbers on the scoreboard. For one team, a winless season will be a thing of the past.

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