The Daily Aggie

The Daily Aggie :: 10/01/12

We've turned the page on September and with the dawn of the October hopefully a new beginning for a couple of Aggie teams who suffered through a tough month. The Aggie football and soccer teams in particular did not fare well in the ninth month of the year with the football team going winless in the month of September and the soccer team won just once, right at the beginning of the month, ended the month of September on a 551 minute scoreless drought which included yesterday's 1-0 loss to San Jose State in overtime.

It should be noted that one team at New Mexico State did have a great September and that team was Aggie cross country. The women recorded two first place finishes and fifth place finish while the men recorded two second place finishes and a sixth place finish.

The Aggie volleyball team was also fairly successful in the month of September going 7-4, however, even the spikers weren't immune to some poor play in September. The Aggies lost at UTEP this past Wednesday, their first loss in the I-10 rivalry series since 2004 spanning 14 matches. The Aggies also suffered through some uneven play throughout the month. The Aggies had strong first sets against both Pepperdine and Colorado State winning 25-16 and 25-19 respectively but dropped the next three sets to lose both matches. The Aggies were also pushed to five sets by Seattle (actually losing the first two against the Redhawks before rallying for three straight) and Idaho (winning the first two, losing the next two then winning the fifth), they also lost a 20-11 lead in the first set against Louisiana Tech but went on to win the next three sets. Despite the ups and downs there were certainly more ups than downs for the Aggie volleyball team as they wrapped up the month with a strong showing against Denver on Saturday. The Aggies have a showdown with Utah State in Logan on Thursday night as well as a trip to San Jose against an improved Spartan club.

Aggie football looks to bounce back after another disappointing loss. The Aggies fell 35-14 to UT San Antonio in the Tough Enough To Wear Pink game on Saturday night. The Aggies were looking good early on, the first two drives saw the Aggies play aggressively on both sides of the ball and the Aggies held a 7-0 lead and had just forced a Roadrunner punt. Austin Franklin went back to receive the punt, waved everyone off and called for a fair catch. The ball hit the ground and softly bounced sideways where Franklin tried to pick up the ball but was unable to corral the pigskin and UTSA jumped on the live ball and recovered it. The Roadrunners scored on the very next possession and the entire complexion of the game turned in favor of the Aggies. Had Franklin just let that ball go and the Aggie offense been able to take over, there's a good chance the Aggies would have gone down and scored. Their previous possession had shown a lot of diversity, good play calling and had pretty much kept UTSA's defense off-balance. Instead, the Roadrunners took the momentum and never let go.

One thing is clear about this Aggie football team. Much like the 2010 version of the club, this year's version is very fragile from a mental standpoint. It seems like one bad play snowballs into a multitude of bad plays and the Aggies just aren't able to recover. The 2010 team suffered from this problem as well. The other issue the Aggies are having is on offense. It seems like when the opposing defense decides to turn up the heat from quarterback pressuring standpoint, the Aggie offensive line isn't able to protect Andrew Manley and the offensive production drops precipitously.

This week the Aggies travel to Moscow, Idaho to take on the Vandals who much like the Aggies are really struggling. This represents the Aggies' best chance for a win for the next month and a half as the Aggies will start their brutal five-game gauntlet following the trip to Moscow. The next five opponents are 16-7 overall and you'd never guess but the team with the worst record of those five is Auburn at 1-3. The WAC trio of Utah State, Louisiana Tech and San Jose State is 12-2 (and five points away from being undefeated), you read that right, 12-2. In fact, if you remove New Mexico State and Idaho (a combined 1-9) from the WAC, the league is a ridiculous 19-4.

The Aggies really need to win this game on Idaho or the scenario which we described back on September 17th could very well become a reality.

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The Daily Aggie :: 09/29/12

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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The Daily Aggie :: 09/28/12

The Aggie soccer team is back in action this afternoon as they kick off WAC play by hosting defending conference champion Utah State. The Aggies have played Utah State three times and are still winless against the UtAgs. In fact, the Aggies have yet to score a goal against Utah State losing 3-0, 3-0 and 2-0. Obviously it will be a huge task for New Mexico State today but we really do feel that the Aggies are on the verge of breaking out in a big way. Yes, the team has scored just four goals this season but they've been playing better offensively and their defense has been rock solid.

This is an Aggie squad that at the beginning of the season had a little chip on their shoulders about being picked to finish eighth. Hopefully, despite the tough non-conference, the Aggies still have that chip and will come out this afternoon and play like that. For the Aggies they're 0-0-0 starting today and the results of the non-conference no longer matter. It's all about looking ahead and qualifying for the WAC tournament.

If the Aggies can come out of this weekend with no fewer than two points it will be a successful weekend for the club. Our guess for this team is that they can play with both clubs coming in and that while certainly six points (two wins) is not out of the question, four (a win and a tie) would be a fantastic result and a great way to send a message to the rest of the league that the Aggies will be a team to contend with in the WAC.

This is also just the Aggies' fourth home date this season and they are also looking for their first win in the new Aggie Soccer Complex. It would be great to see them do it against Utah State.

Today's match is scheduled to kick off at 3:00 p.m. (MDT) with streaming video available via Aggie Access (subscription required).

Here's a video story from Stephanie Flores at NMSU's KRWG News 22

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The Daily Aggie :: 09/27/12

It's been a rough start to the year in the rivalry department for New Mexico State. The Aggie volleyball team saw its 14-match winning streak against UTEP snapped last night in El Paso. The Aggies were up 2-1 but dropped the final two sets, 25-20 and 15-11. The loss means that the Aggies have now been swept by UNM and UTEP in football and soccer and have a loss to UTEP in volleyball. It should be noted that the Aggie cross country team defeated UTEP in back-to-back weekends so it hasn't all been bad news for the Aggies in their rivalry series.

The Aggie volleyball also gets a shot at UNM in late October and that match will be important for the volleyball from an RPI standpoint. The Lobos are off to a hot start this season at 15-2. They haven't exactly played a murderer's row schedule but their only two losses are against Duquesne and Oklahoma and they did just pick up a conference win over Colorado State (a team the Aggies lost to in the non-conference). A win by the Aggies over UNM in Albuquerque would look good on the tournament resume late November.

Right now the Aggies' non-conference resume, while impressive, isn't quite getting the help they had hoped for from the teams they beat. North Dakota State has been unable to recover from their brutal non-conference slate and is 4-10 overall and 1-3 in the Summit League. Cincinnati, another of the Aggies' seemingly solid wins, played an absolutely brutal non-conference schedule and is 3-11 overall and 1-1 in the Big East. Cincinnati has the potential to pick up some quality wins over Louisville and Notre Dame which would really help the Aggies' RPI. Wichita State, arguably the best win thus far for the Aggies, is 9-4 overall and 3-1 in the Missouri Valley and is holding up their end of the bargain. The Shockers have three more chances to pick up high quality wins in their conference with home dates against Northern Iowa and Creighton plus a road game at Northern Iowa still on the slate.

What the Aggies really need to hope for is that UTEP continues to play well and makes some noise in Conference USA and we think they will. The Miners, despite being 8-7, only have one bad loss, at Tulane.

The Aggies need to regroup quickly because Denver comes to Las Cruces on Saturday and the Pioneers are 2-2 league play with a five set loss to Seattle and a three set loss at Idaho. On a side note, Seattle has been the biggest surprise at least for us thus far. The Redhawks have played four conference matches and all four have gone five sets with losses to both WAC Aggies and San Jose State and the aforementioned win over Denver.

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The Daily Aggie :: 09/24/12

Still stinging from Saturday night's loss to New Mexico? You're probably not the only one. In successive weekends the Aggies have lost back-to-back rivalry games for different reasons. Against UTEP it was a lack of... something, in the first quarter that led to a too-big-to-overcome 20-0 first quarter deficit. The Aggies trailed 27-0 before cutting it to 27-14 but eventually losing 41-28 in a game that was only close for a few moments in the third quarter before UTEP poured it on (they led 41-14 at one point).

Against New Mexico it was quite frankly an unmitigated disaster. The Aggies were supposed to be the better team. Maybe not decidedly better but certainly better than a team that is in its first year of rebuilding under a new head coach who took over for a coach who destroyed a once routinely bowl contending team. Going into the game we truly felt that if these two teams lined up against each other that all things being equal the Aggies would come out on top and that the Lobos would have to resort to trickery, smoke and mirrors if you will, to defeat the Aggies. Unfortunately we were wrong, really, really wrong.

The Lobos dominated the game on the ground. They did exactly what we said they would try to do and that's keep the clock running and shorten the game. Just how much did they shorten the game? The Aggies finished with just 10 drives in the game. Against Sacramento State and Ohio they had 14 drives. Against UTEP they had 13. Those are three and four extra chances to score that the Aggies did not have in this game. The Aggie defense also did themselves no favors. Poor tackling, something that has been a bugaboo the last two weekends, led to extra yardage and ultimately extra downs for the Lobos. If there's one thing the Aggie defense has done well the past two seasons it has been tackling but for whatever reason the Aggies have really struggled with that the last two games.

The main area where most, if not all, felt like the Aggies had an advantage was in the passing game. The Lobos hobbled into the game with a banged up secondary. The Aggies should have been licking their chops. Instead, there were less than a handful of shots taken deep at the secondary and most, if not all, were taken in obvious passing situations (i.e. throwing deep down the sideline to a double covered Austin Franklin on 3rd and 16).

The Aggie offense also did themselves no favors. Penalties and turnovers killed three promising drives, three drives that it looked like for all intents and purposes that the Aggies were going to score points on. In the end the Aggies are simply not good enough to overcome those kinds of mistakes even against a bad team like New Mexico.

The Aggies don't have time to cry over spilled milk either. This weekend UTSA comes to town riding a five game winning streak dating back to last season. They're 4-0 this season and will be riding high with confidence which is something that currently is lacking with this Aggie squad. The Aggies can ill afford to let the loss to UNM create a hangover effect because if they do, if they go into Saturday's game feeling sorry for themselves, they WILL get beat by the Roadrunners.

Adjustments need to be made on both sides of the ball. Right now the defense is just not aggressive at all. The Aggies appear to be just sitting back, content to give up small chunks of yards at a time. The problem is that those small chunks are adding up and teams are "dinking and dunking" their way down the field for scores. Offensively, the Aggies need to figure out what their identity is (HINT: it's not as a power running football team, not yet).

A couple final post mortem notes on this game. Game ball goes to punter Cayle Chapman-Brown who did his job on Saturday night. He constantly flipped the field position for the Aggies forcing UNM to start well into their side of the field. He had just about the only good performance in the game. Davis Cazares finished with 17 tackles but when your safety is leading the team in tackles, it means your defense isn't doing a good job of stopping the ball on first contact. But kudos to Cazares for producing 17 tackles.

As far as Coach Walker's decision to go for it on 4th down in the third quarter? We had not issue with it at the time and we still have no issue with it. The Aggies need to be aggressive and that was an aggressive call. Hopefully the playcalling on both offense and defense will follow suit and start getting more aggressive this week.

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The Daily Aggie :: 09/22/12

It's Gameday! The Aggies and Lobos tangle for the 104th time today at Aggie Memorial Stadium. The Aggies have won three in a row over their in-state rivals and are seeking their fourth consecutive victory. No coach in history has ever beaten the Lobos four straight times and no Aggie team has beaten the Lobos four straight time since the 1965-68 seasons.

Some quick research by Geoff Grammer at the Las Cruces Sun-News found that there have only been three instances where the Lobos have not won in four consecutive years. Two of the periods saw the Aggies beat the Lobos twice and tie the Lobos twice for 2-0-2 records while the '65-'68 run is the only four game win streak in the series for the Aggies.

This is really a game that the Aggies hold the advantage in, one of perhaps only three games this season in which we can say that with confidence. The Aggies really hold a big advantage in the passing game where the Aggies should do most of their damage. The UNM secondary comes into the game a little banged up with three players questionable for today's game. Teams are averaging 301 yards per game through the air and teams are completing 68 percent of their pass attempts this season. We all know that the Aggies' bread and butter is their passing game and in particular their deep passing game.

As much as we've harped on the Aggies' lack of run game this season for the Aggies, this is a game where the Aggies should pass it deep and often to test the UNM secondary.

The one big area of concern for the Aggies on defense is UNM's run game. The Lobos run a triple-option and are averaging just over 200 yards per game on the ground. The Aggies have really struggled to stop the opponents' rushing attack this season (and struggled in both passing and rushing defense last week).

If the Aggies can jump out to a quick lead like they did last year they will win this game and do it handily. UNM is not a team that is built to come back from deficits, much like the Aggies.

One thing the Aggies cannot do is allow UNM to hang around into the second half of the game. The one thing the Aggies did well in game one against Sacramento State early and against UNM early last year was go for the jugular early. They must, must, must do that today.

The Aggies really need to be aware of trick plays when UNM has the ball as well as when it comes to special teams. The Lobos will probably try to do some different things to score some points. In last year's game against UTEP it was some special teams trickeration that cost the Aggies the game in a game where nearly everyone agrees that the Aggies should have won.

Finally the Aggies must limit their own mistakes and play a full four quarters and also if they do make some mistakes, don't let them snowball. The Aggies were in the game against Ohio in the third quarter but a series of events really killed the Aggies' chances. Against UTEP last week the Aggies had clawed back into the game but allowing a big kickoff return and then failing to defend the deep fade route down the sideline and the Miners scored a few plays later and effectively sealed the Aggies' fate. Those things cannot happen tonight.

Simply put, the Aggies are the better team. UNM is in year one of the Bob Davie rebuilding project, the Aggies are in year four of the DeWayne Walker reclamation project. The Aggies have the edge in personnel and they're playing at home. At the end of the day we think Andrew Manley and the Aggie wide receivers have a big night and the Aggies cruise 45-20 over the Lobos to give DeWayne Walker and the Aggies four consecutive wins in the series.

Tonight's game is scheduled for a 6:00 p.m. kickoff and will be broadcast exclusively online ESPN3.com.

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The Daily Aggie :: 09/21/12

The Aggie volleyball team survived another tough test last night. Louisiana Tech gave the Aggies all they could handle for three out of four sets last night including a stunning rally from down 20-11 beat the Aggies 25-23 in set one. Last night was as good as we've seen Louisiana Tech play against the Aggies for an entire match. As we noted last night, the Lady Techsters have never taken more than one set off the Aggies in a match since the Aggies joined the WAC back in the 2005 season. However, last night not only did they win set one but they had the Aggies on the ropes in set two up 24-22 before the Aggies got four straight points to win the set 26-24. The Aggies dominated set three winning 25-12 with that set looking much more like what we normally see from an Aggie/Techster matchup. Set four was another close one with Louisiana Tech leading 19-15 and 20-17. The Aggies served tough, got Louisiana Tech out of system and won seven of the final eight points.

While the Aggies improved to 3-0 and stay atop the WAC standings, it wasn't easy. One thing we're seeing early in the conference season is that no team can be taken lightly on any night. Not that this wasn't the case before, however, there have been some teams historically that have been as close to guaranteed wins as you can get, Louisiana Tech being one of them.

Last night around the WAC was an example of that as Seattle took Utah State to five sets rallying from down 0-2 and they had a couple match points against the Aggies in set five before USU finally ended it. San Jose State stunned Idaho sweeping the Vandals for the first time since 2006 and did so rather easily winning 25-15, 25-14 and 28-26. The Spartans continue to improve each year. Denver swept UT Arlington last night with the first two sets going to extra points.

It's shaping up to be an entertaining conference season and as we noted earlier this week, protecting home court this year will be even more important than ever.

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The Daily Aggie :: 09/19/12

It's another busy week for the Aggies with the volleyball team returning home (finally) and the football team taking on in-state rival New Mexico on Saturday. Menawhile, the soccer team travels to Lubbock to take on the Red Raiders in the final non-conference match of the regular season.

First off, Aggie volleyball finally returns to the friendly confines of the Pan Am. They've only played three matches at home this season and we're already two-thirds the way through September. The Aggies shook off some sluggishness against Seattle and then held off a game Idaho squad to return home at 2-0 in league play. Life on the road in conference play is never easy.

This week the Aggies host UT Arlington and Louisiana Tech, a pair of teams that played each other last week with the Mavericks besting the Lady Techsters.

With a conference title and return trip to the NCAA tournament set as goals for this season the Aggies must take care of business at home. One thing that was noted by head coach Mike Jordan in last week's interview was that the Aggies haven't lost to any "bad" teams this season and that, no disrespect to UT Arlington and Louisiana Tech, is something that the Aggies must continue to be able to boast. Losing to lower RPI teams (such as UTA, LA Tech, Seattle, etc) can quickly erase any positives built up by the solid non-confernece showing. The Aggies also really need the teams they beat in the non-conference to keep winning (and in some cases, start winning and at an accelerated rate, we're looking at you Cincinnati and North Dakota State).

A couple of weeks ago on the weekly podcast, we compared what the Aggie volleyball team did in terms of scheduling and winning with what Aggie baseball did with their schedule in the non-conference. The one thing that really helped the Aggie baseball team is that including going out and winning big games in non-conference, their opponents went on and had solid seasons and there were times when the Aggies lost and still either held steady or gained in RPI points just because of what their opponents were doing that same weekend.

The same is going to need to happen for Aggie volleyball because the WAC, just as with baseball, doesn't carry a ton of RPI points which makes winning in league (and not losing to bottom tier conference teams) that much more important.

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The Daily Aggie :: 09/17/12

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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The Daily Aggie :: 09/15/12

It's rivalry gameday! The Aggie football team takes on UTEP tonight in the Sun Bowl as they look to move above .500 for the first time under head coach DeWayne Walker. More on the rivalry game in a minute.

The Aggie soccer team played to a 0-0 tie with Montana yesterday afternoon picking up a solid result against a very good Grizzlies squad. Mikaela Bitner was the star of the game as Montana peppered the goal with 29 shots, 12 of them on goal, Bitner coming up aces every time.

The game did not come without a bit of controversy as Montana appeared to score a game-winning goal in the second overtime period but had it waved off by the referees. This account from postgame writeup from the Montana athletic website describes the situation:

"Montana did find the back of the net in the second overtime, but the potential game-winner was waved off by referee Jim Carter. The Grizzlies took a long shot that was caught by Bitner just as a group of attackers descended upon her.

Depending on a person's perspective, Bitner either fumbled the ball to the ground on the catch, which allowed Akins to swoop in and score the loose ball, or else Bitner dropped it only after she was in possession and run into. Carter ruled the latter, and that was Montana's final opportunity."

Whether it was the correct call or not does not matter. The Aggies came away with a tie against a very good team and it's just another piece to build on as the Aggies continue to try to build some momentum heading into WAC play.

The Aggie volleyball team is back in action tonight after surviving a scare from Seattle on Thursday night. The Aggies take on the Idaho Vandals tonight. Idaho comes into the match off a commanding three set sweep over Denver on Thursday night. The win snapped a seven match losing streak for Idaho, however, each of those seven losses had come at the hands of teams with winning records including three straight over the weekend in Hawai'i where they faced #9 Hawai'i, defending national champion UCLA (ranked #3 at the time) and San Diego State (who was receiving votes in the Top 25 poll).

The Vandals are led by their own version of Meredith Hays, senior outside hitter Allison Baker (Walker). Baker is averaging 4.61 kills per set this season (Hays is averaging 4.60 kills per set). Alyssa Schultz is second on the team averaging 2.20 kills per set.

Idaho is a good blocking team averaging 2.16 blocks per set, however, the Aggies this season are the better blocking team averaging 2.47 blocks per set.

The Vandals have pushed the Aggies over course of the past three seasons and the Aggies have left Moscow with 3-1 losses in two of the past three seasons. This will be another stiff test for New Mexico State but coming off the 3-2 win over Seattle (a team who we expected them to sweep) we fully expect the Aggies to come out focused and really try to take it to Idaho.

Match time is scheduled for 8:00 p.m. (MDT) with Live Stats available via the Idaho athletic website.

Back to Aggie football and the Battle of I-10. On paper everything points to a UTEP victory. The Miners, despite coming in 0-2, appear to have a very solid defense, their offense, a bit schizophrenic in back-to-back games has had trouble finding the endzone, however, being back at home against a non-BCS team, one would think that UTEP's offense is licking it's chops to face a defense that just surrendered 51 points.

That being said, we have this feeling that we cannot explain that says that the Aggies are going to win this game. It goes against all logic but we just have this feeling that the Aggies have been playing a little rope-a-dope this week. One of the biggest things that sticks out in our minds is that generally everyone has been patting the Miners on the back for playing close (but losing) to a pair of BCS conference teams. That's great but it can also be a bit dangerous. Recall that last year everyone was patting Minnesota on the back for going to Los Angeles and playing the Trojans close. The very next week the Aggies went into Minneapolis and shocked the Gophers 28-21. Are we saying that's what is going to happen here today? Maybe yes, maybe no but it certainly wouldn't surprise us one bit.

The keys for the Aggies as always will be to establish a run game early, keep the offense balanced and keep UTEP's defense guessing. Tiger Powell may be the key to winning this game for the Aggies. We really believe that if he rushes for 80-plus yards in this game that the Aggies will win.

Second, everyone knows that Andrew Manley loves to throw the deep ball. In this game, we would expect UTEP to do everything possible to take that away from him. That means Manley will need to do a good job of checking down and using the short and intermediate routes that are available. We would expect guys like Kemonte Bateman, Trevor Walls and Jerrel Brown to make major contributions.

Defensively this is going to be as big a challenge for the defense as last week was. How do you prepare for a team that has shown two different proficiencies in two different weeks? Which Miner offense will show up? The one that ran all over the Oklahoma defense but couldn't pass the ball? Or the one that racked up nearly 300 yards passing against Ole Miss but couldn't run the ball?

The Aggies obviously need to limit their own mistakes. Keep the self-inflicted wounds to a minimum. That means not only limiting turnovers but also limiting drive-killing penalties (or penalties that keep a UTEP drive going).

Our prediction? An Aggie win, 27-23 with the Aggies scoring a late game-winning touchdown and the Aggie defense sealing the win for the Aggies late.

Tonight's game is scheduled for a 6:00 p.m. (MDT) kickoff. The game can be heard on the Aggie Sports Network as well as streaming online via Aggie Access (subscription required).

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