It's rivalry week Part II in Las Cruces. The Aggies and Lobos clash this Saturday for state bragging rights. The Aggies are hoping for a fourth consecutive victory over the Lobos and are looking to erase the bitter taste of defeat suffered at the hands of the UTEP Miners on Saturday.
The UTEP was not at all what the Aggies were hoping for. They fell behind 20-0 in the first quarter and 27-0 before finally getting on the board in the second quarter. Unfortunately the Aggie defense did nothing to stop the UTEP offense in the first half and even though they made adjustments at halftime it was a classic example of too little too late.
There were a few things that were disconcerting in the first half. First, concerned with UTEP's rushing attack and big play ability in the passing game, the Aggie defensive played off the Miners giving them about an eight or nine yard cushion off the line of scrimmage. While on the outset it may not sound like a bad gameplan, the Miners quickly found the counterattack to the gameplan and exploited it to no end. Our problem is not with the gameplan itself but with the lack of urgency in adjusting to UTEP's readily apparent ability to exploit said gameplan. The Miners moved the ball with ease throughout the first half and the Aggies' best defense was UTEP not executing.
There was one play in particular that was exceedingly frustrating and we'll let Teddy Feinberg tell the story (from his blog post yesterday): Easily the most frustrating play came with the ball at the Aggie 32-yard line, when officials threw flags as the Miners snapped the ball. NMSU's defensive backs either assumed it was a false start on UTEP or thought they heard a whistle during the sequence, and stopped playing. Quarterback Nick Lamaison obliged by throwing to a wide open Jordan Leslie in the end zone for a touchdown as UTEP went ahead 20-0.
Whether the Aggies heard a whistle or not you've got to finish the play. No excuses.
It was not all gloom and doom (though it certainly seemed that way). The Aggies came out strong in the third quarter and cut the UTEP lead to just 13 points and certainly had UTEP fans feeling a bit nervous. Unfortunately, allowing a big kickoff return on the ensuing kickoff, followed by a deep ball down the sideline (which may or may not have been caught with a sliver of a toe out of bounds by the UTEP receiver) ended the Aggies' rally. In that situation, having clawed back into the game, the last thing you can do is let UTEP get a big return on a kickoff and then score three plays later and the score was 34-14. Another UTEP touchdown in the fourth and the game was clearly out of reach at 41-14. The Aggies did add two late touchdowns to make the score look respectable at 41-28 but just as the Aggies did to the Lobos last year, the game wasn't really in doubt and the final score is a bit deceiving.
There was one play in the game that deserves mention and it stands as our play of the game. In the second quarter running back Akeelie Mustafa took a handoff from Andrew Manley, tried to run up the middle, spun around, reversed course and headed right to the outside. For all intents and purposes it was going to be another loss of yardage on an Aggie running play. Out of nowhere Austin Franklin comes barreling in and absolutely de-cleats a UTEP defender and Mustafa is able to turn the corner and gain two or three yards. At the end of the day it was an insignificant play in terms of the final result but it showed that the Aggies had not given up on the game despite being down big.
It's time to flush the game and get ready for UNM. Sadly, we're three games in and the Aggies are facing a must-win game. If the Aggies don't win the UNM game, there's a distinct possibility of a hangover from a UNM loss carrying over into the UTSA game. The Roadrunners will come to Las Cruces likely at 4-0 (the most deceiving 4-0 record of ALL time) looking to make a statement and pick up their first WAC win (and really, their first true good win of the year). After that the Aggies will have to head to Moscow, a place where they've had little success since joining the WAC. Following that road trip they face the murderous five game stretch of Utah State, LA Tech, Auburn, San Jose State, BYU. These next three games represent the Aggies' best chances for wins but it all starts with New Mexico on Saturday. Win that game and they could conceivably win three in a row. Lose that game and they could be staring a 10-game losing streak straight in the face (let's hope that is not the case).
The Aggie soccer team kicked off the Rio Grande Rivalry week by nearly earning a tie with UNM. The Aggies and Lobos were deep into the second overtime and just 1:51 away from ending in a tie before the Lobos scored ending the game in the 108th minute.
It's been a bit of a rough go for the soccer team this year offensively having scored just four goals through nine games, however, they remain competitive. The UNM loss was the Aggies' fourth one-goal loss of the year and their fourth overtime match of the year.
The Aggies continue to put themselves in a position for success but just aren't getting favorable bounces. One thing is certain, this will be a battle tested team when they enter conference play. They've got one more non-conference match, this coming Sunday at Texas Tech. A win or tie would be a tremendous result for the Aggies and could give them a boost for the start of league play.
The Aggie volleyball team returns home this week fresh off of a pair of 3-2 victories on the road. After the first weekend of play just three teams are undefeated in WAC play. The Aggies and Utah State are both 2-0 while UT Arlington (one of this week's opponents) is 1-0. The Aggies will face UTA and Louisiana Tech this week with both matches being played at the Pan Am.
The Aggie cross country teams hosted their home meet this weekend and the Aggie women won their second meet of the season while the men took second place. It was a successful meet for the Aggies with Courtney and Camille Schultz taking second and third individually behind UTEP's Risper Kimaiyo who has a pair of Top 10s and a Top 25 at the NCAA Championships.
Both Aggie teams are ranked regionally with the men coming in at 13th in the always tough Mountain Region and the women holding stead at 9th in the Mountain Region.
The Aggies are off this weekend.
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