It's Gameday! The Aggie volleyball and football teams are back in action and both are looking to reverse course after losing against bitter rivals. The Aggie football team is actually looking to reverse a three game losing streak that includes back to back losses to rivals, 41-28 at UTEP and a very disappointing 27-14 loss at home against New Mexico this past Saturday.
Aggie volleyball meanwhile will look to bounce back after an ultra-rare rivalry loss to UTEP on Wednesday night. The Aggies lost to the Miners for the first time in 14 meetings, a streak dating back to 2004.
For the volleyball team a win would keep them atop the WAC standings where they currently sit alone with a 4-0 record. Utah State and UT San Antonio sit just behind the Aggies at 4-1 and 3-1 respectively with USU at UT Arlington and UTSA at Idaho.
The Aggies are hosting Denver, an old conference foe who is now a new conference foe. The two teams squared off back in the Sun Belt. The Aggies have won eight in a row in the series but the two teams have not faced each other since 2004.
Denver is led by junior opposite Colleen King leads the Pioneers with 139 kills through 14 matches, averaging 2.84 kills per set. She is one of four Pioneers to average at least two kills per set. The Pioneers are also a very good blocking team averaging 2.72 blocks per set with middle blocker Faimie Kingsley leading the way.
The Aggies will definitely need to bring their 'A' game to the court today against the Pioneers.
First serve is scheduled for 12:00 p.m. (MDT) and can be heard on KSNM AM 570 in Las Cruces and streaming online via Aggie Access (subscription required) with new play-by-play man Jay Sanderson calling the action.
The Aggie football team will take the field at 6:00 p.m. (MDT) against first year WAC foe UT San Antonio. This is a tale of two teams, two programs that are seemingly on different trajectories. The Aggies have been playing football for over 100 years and yet have not seen much success since 1960 (the team's last bowl win). UTSA has been playing football for just 14 games (just a little over a season and a third) and yet comes into the game riding a wave of confidence and a five game win streak dating back to last year. The Aggies are on a three game losing streak and are doing some serious soul searching after last week's loss to a not-very-good UNM club.
Other dissimilarities include the two programs' futures. The Aggies have no conference after this year while UTSA is bound for Conference USA after just one season in the WAC.
In reality this is a statement game for the Aggies moreso than UTSA. This is a game that the Aggies need to come out and prove to everyone that they are better than they've been showing and also that they're better than a team that's just 14 games into its existence. The Aggies would also like to avoid being a historical footnote -- i.e. UTSA's first conference victory and first victory over a full-fledged FBS team (South Alabama, UTSA's first win this year, is in their first year of FBS status).
So what do the Aggies need to do to avoid another loss? First and foremost the Aggies need to be aggressive. We really thought that last week the Aggies played tentatively and passively on offense. They didn't attack a secondary which came in with several injuries to key players. Their defense played soft coverage on wide receivers which for the second straight week proved to be a strategy that the opposition was more than willing to take advantage of.
Second, the Aggies absolutely have to cut down on the self-inflicted mistakes. Penalties and turnovers have killed the Aggies in their three losses to Ohio, UTEP and New Mexico. Against Ohio it was an Andrew Manley pick-six that got the downward spiral started. Against UTEP, Manley threw an interception on the very first drive and against UNM it was a pair of fumbles on drives that very much looked like they would result in touchdowns. For all the competitiveness that the Aggies have shown over the last couple of seasons, this is still not a team that is good enough to overcome its own mistakes and still win.
UTSA presents a unique challenge in that it's hard to gauge just how good this team really is. The majority of their victories have come against lesser competition and yet at the same time, a win is a win. The Roadrunners present multiple problems for the Aggies on offense. They are the very definition of a balanced offense averaging right around 200 yards per game through the air as well as 200 yards per game on the ground. And to say that the Roadrunners like to spread the ball around would be a ginormous understatement. Fifteen different UTSA players have caught a pass this season and of those 15, seven of them have caught a touchdown pass. In fact, no Roadrunner player has more than one touchdown catch. There is literally no way to know which player to target. It will be a huge task for a shaky Aggie secondary. And then there's the ground component. We've been told that the Roadrunners run some option. That will be an issue. The Aggies have not fared well against teams that run any variation of the option nor have they been particularly successful against mobile quarterbacks (see Nevada's Colin Kaepernick and Utah State's Chuckie Keeton as examples).
Defensively, Coach Walker has said that UTSA is pretty vanilla, however, they are well coached and fundamentally sound. Once again, it would stand to reason that the Aggies have a matchup advantage at wide receiver. The Aggies really need to exploit that advantage. We'd also love to see more involvement of the tight ends Perris Scoggins and our favorite, Trevor Walls. The Aggies got both invoiced on the touchdown drive in the first half against UNM but that has been the extend of their involvement in the offense this season. The duo has five catches this season, four of them came in the game last week.
The Aggie ground game also needs to get "ungrounded". We hope to see much more of Tiger Powell in the game tomorrow. We really feel like he's the Aggies' best shot at establishing a strong run game. He got just one touch last game but had been starting to run with some confidence, particularly in the first half against Ohio. If the Aggies are going to be insistent on trying to establish a power run game (between the tackles) then it would behoove them to use the running back who looks like a small offensive lineman. If Powell can get some tough yards on the ground then that might open things up for the Aggies' quicker, shiftier backs, Germi Morrison, Akeelie Mustafa and Robert Clay.
These next two games against UTSA and Idaho represent the Aggies' best chances for wins the remainder of the season (save for the final game of the year against Texas State). If they can win today they can head to Idaho with a little bit of confidence and have a shot at entering the middle of the season at .500. However, if they lose today, not only will they have lost four straight heading into Idaho, they will have lost back-to-back games against teams that heading into the year, should have (at least on paper) been able to be marked down as "W's."
The first ten minutes of this game are critical. If the Aggies win the coin toss and take the ball first, we want to see them attack the Roadrunners through the air. Take an early shot deep down the field. Test their coverage and in particular see how they're going to defend Austin Franklin. On defense, what we don't want to see is the Aggie secondary playing 10 to 12 yards off the receivers. It would be a big mistake for them to do that, particularly against a team that has shown no hesitation in spreading the ball around. They're already going to find the open receiver, don't make it easy on them by giving them a six to eight yard head start off the line of scrimmage.
After a rough couple of weeks thanks to a pair of rivalry losses, we think the Aggies will rebound, make the necessary adjustments and just simply start playing to their potential.
We're predicting a 35-17 victory for the Aggies in this game. Unfortunately, our predictions over the last two weeks have been horrendously wrong. Hopefully the Aggies will make us (and themselves) look good today.
Game time is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. (MDT) and can be seen on AggieVision as well as streaming online on ESPN3.com and can be heard over the airwaves on the Aggie Sports Network and streaming online via Aggie Access (subscription required).
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