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Stevens: Can Aggies' Defense Stop Lobo Option?
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  09/30/2013

New Mexico Lobos Football vs. New Mexico State Aggies

When/Where: 5 p.m., (MT) Saturday – Branch Field – University Stadium

On The Air: ROOT Sports (TV); 770-AM KKOB/Lobo Radio Network, ESPN Deportes (1450-AM)

GoLobos.com: Game Story, Complete Statistics, LoboTV

By Richard Stevens – Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

A former Lobo once called this New Mexico vs. New Mexico State war for football bragging rights "the Super Bowl of the state". That’s really not an exaggeration.

This is a big game; a game of emotions and geographical passion.

A state comes to University Stadium divided with no love lost on either side of this conflict.  And one of the two teams will leave the field undefeated – vs. their in-state nemesis.

Lobo Coach Bob Davie on his post-game radio show after UNM’s loss to UNLV this past Saturday called it the “most important” game of the year.

Yeah, this is a big deal and there is no question that both teams need the win not simply to earn bragging rights for a season.  These teams need a win, period. The Aggies are 0-and-5 and desperate to crack the win column. The Lobos are 1-3.   

The Aggies owned the strutting rights to this game for three straight seasons until Davie’s Lobos went down to Las Cruces last year and carried those rights back up to Albuquerque. That victory in Cruces also snapped UNM’s 24-game losing skid on the road, which was the longest in the nation at that time.

But Lobos don’t need to end skids to feel good about beating Aggies. The Cruces crew feels the same way about smacking down Lobos.

This should be an emotional affair and maybe you can discount the previous games and the team’s records, but you can’t discount some of the obvious things about these two rivals.

The Lobos will run the ball and the Aggies have been vulnerable against the run. New Mexico is No. 3 in the nation in running the football with a gaudy 324.5-yard average.  The Aggie defense is dead last in run prevent, yielding 300.8 yards per game.

The Aggies will pass the ball and the Lobos have shown a few cracks to aerial attacks.

There are some obvious reasons the Aggies have yet to win a football game in 2013.  They average only 15.6 points and yield an average of 45.4 points. NMSU is 116 out of 123 teams in scoring points. They are 122 out of 123 in allowing points.

The Lobos need to run the football to put points on the board and the Aggies need to throw it.  NMSU is 113-of-173 over the top and average 233.6 passing yards a game out of the Aggies’ 340.2-yard total.  NMSU bends at a 572.6-yard clip.  That’s a lot. In fact, NMSU is dead last (123) in the NCAA total defense category, too.

The Aggies’ leading rusher is Brandon Betancourt out of Las Cruces Mayfield High, who averages 32.8 yards per game. NMSU averages 3.2 yards per carry and 106.6 yards per game on the ground.

Senior Andrew McDonald has tossed the ball 136 times and completed 93 of them for a nice 68.4 percentage. He averages 182 passing yards per game. Joshua Bowen is NMSU’s leading receiver with 24 catches for 243 yards.

The Aggies need to pass for an obvious reason. They are having trouble establishing the run.  NMSU is coming off a 26-16 loss to San Diego State in Cruces.  NMSU ran for 40 yards vs. the Aztecs – passed for 228.  NMSU threw for 299 yards vs. UTEP.

The Aggies play hard and play with pride.  They were up 16-5 at the half over San Diego State and up 16-11 going into the fourth quarter.  The Aztecs finally wore the Aggies down to produce the 26-16 win.

The Aggies lost to the UTEP Miners’ team that UNM beat in overtime in El Paso.  The Miners pulled out of a 21-all tie to produce a 42-21 win.  The Aggies allowed 293 yards rushing to UTEP.  That number should bode well for UNM, which rolled out 400 first-half rushing yards vs. UNLV. 

That number also should have the Aggies scrambling to come up with some strategy to stop the UNM option.

It’s no secret the Aggies are having trouble putting points on the board. But the Aggies do a good job converting scores out of the red zone (82 percent) and eight of those 11 appearances in the red zone have gone for touchdowns.

 However, the Aggies don’t get into that zone enough.

They have punted the ball 35 times to 14 times for the opposition. Part of the reason for that punting discrepancy is NMSU converting 27 percent of third-down plays while the enemy converts 56 percent.

The Aggies’ defense has to find a way to get off the field more often.  The Aggie offense has to find a way to stay on the field.

The Aggies’ top defender is safety Davis Cazares followed by linebacker Clint Barnard, a product of Melrose (N.M.) High.   The two combined for 36 tackles vs. UTEP.

Editor’s Note: Richard Stevens is a former award-winning Sports Columnist and Associate Sports Editor at The Albuquerque Tribune.  You can reach him at rstevens50@comcast.net.

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