The Daily Aggie :: 08/29/14

It's our first Daily Aggie post of the 2014-15 season (and hopefully we'll get back to blogging a little more frequently). Before we begin, some shameless self-promotion, be sure to check out our 2014 Aggie Football Preview and 2014 Aggie Volleyball Preview. The Aggie volleyball team opens their season today when they play Missouri State from the Missouri Valley Conference as part of the Utah Classic in Salt Lake City. The Aggies will continue play tomorrow as well when they take on Montana State and Utah.

The Aggie football team opened up the 2014 season last night with a 28-10 victory over Cal Poly. Here are a few thoughts on the team's debut. Number one, the Aggie defense was much improved over last year's disaster. There were far fewer missed tackles and missed assignments, players for the most part looked in position to make a play and overall the defense looked a bit faster to the ball. The performance wasn't without its issues, the Aggies had a bit of trouble all night long with the pitch on the option play and they also gave up a couple of big quarterback runs but that's bound to happen when you're playing an option team and in particular when you're a young defense playing an option team. One thing to keep in mind about the performance last night was that the Aggies really didn't have to defend the pass at all. Cal Poly attempted just seven passes for a grand total of six yards and Cal Poly's lone attempt to get the ball down the field through the air was an absolutely awful decision. At that point in the game the Aggie defense had not shown the ability to stop the option and the Mustangs were in the midst of putting together what would have likely been at least a field goal scoring drive, if not a touchdown scoring drive. That was probably the turning point in the game because the Aggies were able to turn that turnover into a touchdown and take the lead for good. The best defensive play of the game came on third and 2 early in the fourth quarter. The Mustangs had started a drive at their own 11 and had gotten it to their 40 yard line. The Aggie defense strung the option play out to the sideline and Kawe Johnson blew up the Chris Nicholls on the pitch for a loss of three yards. The Aggies scored a touchdown on the next drive and effectively sealed the game, going up by 18 points. The Aggie defense also forced another turnover early in the second half just one play after the Aggie offense had turned it over and once again the Aggies capitalized and turned it into seven points going ahead 21-10.

On offense, it was all about freshman running back Larry Rose III. The coaches have been raving about Rose all preseason and it's easy to see why. Despite being a smaller back, Rose runs with surprising power. That combined with his shiftiness and ability to make people miss on tackles, it's clear that Rose has a bright future at New Mexico State. One small caveat again, Rose's performance comes against a lower division opponent (Cal Poly is a Football Championship Subdivision team while the Aggies are a Football Bowl Subdivision team) so it makes it a little harder to gauge how much of the performance is the competition and how much of that performance is Rose, we suspect the largely the latter. One other aside to Rose's performance, the offensive line looked good last night. The group is the Aggies' most experienced and potentially the deepest returning unit and they looked like it last night.

Tyler Rogers looked pretty good in his first game as an FBS quarterback going 18-of-27 with two touchdowns and an interception. Obviously we didn't get to see the full arsenal of Tyler Rogers and the game plan seemed to be fairly vanilla, perhaps because it was Rogers' first game. The Aggies were definitely run heavy last night. The team ran 74 plays, 47 of them were run plays (just over 64 percent). It's unlikely that we'll see that kind of disparity in the play calling the rest of the season, unless of course Rose continues to run for five yards per carry, then we could very well see a 65/35 run/pass split.

The much heralded freshman wide receivers Greg Hogan and Teldrick Morgan were largely quiet on Thursday night. Hogan caught one pass for 25 yards, Morgan caught the Aggies' one pass down the field, a 30-yard completion. We'll undoubtedly see more from these two in week two than we saw in week one.

The special teams were unspectacular, though they avoided being the disaster that we were accustomed to seeing last year. The Aggies didn't do much on punt returns returning four punts for a an average four yards per punt return. The kickoffs were equally average though the sample size was small, just two kickoff returns for an average of 13.5 yards. We doubt the coaching staff has too much issue with having just two kickoff returns. If Aggie opponents continue to average just two kickoffs per game (highly unlikely for obvious reasons) it won't matter too much what the kick returners average because the Aggies will be winning most of those games.

All-in-all the performance was a solid B-. There were certainly players that stood out, Larry Rose III, Derek Ibekwe and Rodney Butler on defense all immediately come to mind. There's still work to do offensively, Having only 118 yards passing isn't going to win the Aggies many football games this season and the passing game will have to be more of a factor, in particular the aforementioned Greg Hogan and Teldrick Morgan. Defensively, while it was an improvement over last year, the Aggies were also playing an incredibly one-dimensional team (again, just seven pass attempts by Cal Poly). The true test will come against a more balanced offense, similar to what they'll see in the upcoming game against Georgia State who rolled up 566 yards of total offense in their season opening win against Abilene Christian. The punt return game still needs to get better. Last season the Aggies' average 6.1 yards per punt return so after just one game, the Aggies are below last year's average which was below average.

It's said that the biggest improvement that a team will make is between week one and week two. We'll see what improvements the Aggies can make next week when they travel to Georgia State.

Check out the highlight video from last night's win after the jump:

LINKS
Jason Groves of the Las Cruces Sun-News recaps the Aggies' win

Sun-News photographer Robin Zielinski provides photos from last night's game.

Joshua D. Scroggin from the San Luis Obispo Tribune recaps last night's game.