Stevens: Lobos Look To Snap Three-Game Skid to NMSU Aggies

Sept. 16, 2012

New Mexico Lobos at New Mexico State - Las Cruces

When/Where: 6 p.m. (MT), Saturday - Aggie Memorial Stadium
On The Air: ESPN3; 770 KKOB-AM, Lobo Radio Network; pregame at 3 p.m.
GoLobos.com: GameTracker, Game Story, Stats

By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

In the minds of the Lobos and in the hopeful eyes of Lobo fans, the playing field shifts close to level, close to even, come Saturday in Las Cruces.

The New Mexico State Aggies, who have held the football bragging rights over Lobos for three straight years, might not be thinking the same thing.

However, the Aggies are not Texas or Texas Tech and there are two streaks the New Mexico Lobos can snap in Aggie Memorial Stadium - provided the Lobos don't look anything like the Lobos who were squashed 49-14 in Lubbock by the Tech Red Raiders.

A win would snap UNM's ugly 24-game losing streak on the road - the longest in the nation.

A win would snap a three-game skid to the Aggies, which might be a streak that is uglier and more distasteful for Lobo fans - and might seem just as long.

The Aggies aren't a juggernaut on the nation's college football fields, but they have been good enough to be looking for a fourth straight win over UNM on Saturday.

The last game wasn't that competitive. NMSU roared to a 21-0 first-quarter lead and played rope-a-dope with the Lobos to seal the 42-28 victory in University Stadium.

The Aggies are coming off a similar loss on Saturday to Texas El Paso. The Miners jumped up 27-0 and coasted in for the 41-28 win in El Paso's Sun Bowl. UTEP was up 34-14 after three quarters. The loss dropped NMSU to 1-2 on the year - same mark as the Lobos.

The Aggies and the Lobos have taken similar paths to their 1-2 mark, however, you give the edge to UNM in losing to superior opponents. New Mexico State opened with a 49-19 romp over Sacramento State and then fell 51-24 at Ohio and 41-28 at UTEP.

The Aggies might be looking at the loss to UTEP the way Lobo Coach Bob Davie looked at UNM's loss at Texas. The Aggies played better than the score might suggest. They also played badly early, and gave up big plays, to help the score get away.

The playing field tips on a talent-vs-talent basis but also in the quarterback that the Lobos have to chase down and stop in Cruces. Aggie sophomore hurler Andrew Manley is no Seth Doege (Tech), but Manley might be the best quarterback on the field on Saturday.

We'll see.

He went 20-of-47 with 290 yards and three touchdowns against the Miners. The Aggies also had a duo of 100-yard receivers in senior Kemonte Bateman (115) and sophomore Austin Franklin (107).

The Aggies probably will rely heavily on Manley's arm against the Lobos, for a couple of reasons. The UNM secondary was shredded by Tech and Doege. The Aggies also are having problems running the football.

NMSU is averaging 2.7 yards per carry and 94.7 a game. The Aggies average 33.7 points, but scored 24 and 28 against Ohio and UTEP. Germi Morrison tops NMSU on the ground with 147 yards and a 5.4 average per carry.

Manley averages 263.0 yards passing per game going 46 of 93 with two picks and seven touchdowns. He has thrown all but three of NMSU's 96 passes. He has two favorite targets in Franklin (20 for 415 yards) and Bateman (3 for 193). Franklin has five scores through the air. No other Aggie receiver has more than three receptions.

Manley didn't play against the Lobos in the Aggies' 42-28 win last year in Albuquerque. NMSU's Matt Christian threw for 296 yards and four touchdowns. The Aggies' offensive line, (then coaching by Jason Lenzmeier, who now handles the UNM O-line) ripped holes in the UNM defense and the Aggies ran for 242 yards.

UNM did OK with 428 total yards vs. the Aggies and were beaten in first downs by a narrow 27 to 25 count. But UNM fell into a 21-0 first-quarter hole and couldn't climb out. The Aggies sacked UNM's B.R. Holbrook four times. NMSU went up 35-7 at the 6:30 mark of the third quarter and cruised in for the easy win.

It's too early to evaluate the Aggies of 2012, but they look a lot like the Aggies of 2011. Coach DeWayne Walker is in his fourth year at NMSU and his system is being run by his recruits. However, he has a first-year offensive coordinator and a first-year defensive coordinator.

The Lobos looked solid in their win over Southern, but did not look good in Lubbock - on either sides of the ball.

Still, one of these teams will snap a two-game losing skid on Saturday.

The Lobos left Texas Tech talking about improving their passing game and finding some explosive plays on the ground. There is hope for that with NMSU. The Aggies are giving up 186.3 yards per game for a 4.7 average. They also bend at 303.0 yards through the air. The Aggies top two tacklers are junior linebackers Nixon Trashaun with 27 and Bryan Bonila with 26.

The NMSU defense needs to improve - same as UNM's. That has to be a sore spot for NMSU's Walker, who was a defensive coach for UCLA, the Washington Redskins, the New York Giants, Southern Cal, the New England Patriots and Cal-Berkeley.

The Aggies are only 37 percent on third-down conversions (16 of 43), but are 89 percent in the red zone (8 of 9). When you have numbers like that in the red zone, it usually tells you something about the quarterback.

He knows how to get points. He also knows how to get into the red zone.