New Mexico State Aggies (1-2) vs UTEP Miners (0-3)
Location: Aggie Memorial Stadium, Las Cruces, NM
Time: 6:00 PM MT
Line: New Mexico State -19.5, O/U 60.5
History: UTEP leads 57-35-2, Miners have won the last eight in a row
New Mexico State Aggies
Can I just say that I am fully aware that the line for this game opening at NMSU -16 and then climbing from there says just as much about where UTEP is as a team as it does about the Aggies, but as a supporter of the folks in Las Cruces, that line feels in some ways like a validation of everything Doug Martin has been working on since he has come to campus.
Another close loss for New Mexico State leaves them under .500, but they continue to not show anything that will deter me from my original 6-6 predicted record. They’ve now played two games where they were down by multiple scores and passed their way back into the game, as a 37-13 deficit became a 37-31 loss on the road against Arizona State, and a 20-3 deficit last week turned into a 27-24 loss at the hands of the Trojans.
The upside to this is the Aggies having played two strong offensive teams in ASU and Troy and having acquitted themselves well (less a defensive touchdown, NMSU still hasn’t given up more than 30 points defensively). The downside is their need to find their feet on defense faster in order to sustain this momentum as their schedule gradually gets easier.
The Aggies have been outscored 27-3 in the first quarter of their losses and led 13-2 at the end of one in their win. A fast start will work wonders for them and give them the confidence to put this rivalry win away. Whether you accrue the stats by creating a three-score lead or by erasing a three-score deficit is somewhat irrelevant as long as you get the win, but the streakiness is something you’d like to eventually minimize if for no reason other than to save the cardiac status of your fanbase.
Jaleel Scott is averaging almost 100 yards per game receiving to go with his highlight reel receptions, and Izaiah Lottie has now had tip-drill touchdowns in consecutive games. It bodes well for the Aggies that Larry Rose has struggled to get untracked but has still racked up 228 rushing yards and 338 total yards from scrimmage so far.
Where to start with this mess, honestly.
Asked how his offense would be different[…]Kugler said simply, “It needs to be different from the standpoint of being effective and running the ball efficiently.”
Like, what does that even mean?
Well, let me give you a numerical representation of just how poor the Miners have played offensively. On their opening drive of the season against Oklahoma, they scored a touchdown, and they rushed the ball six times for 55 yards. Since that drive, UTEP has had 33 offensive possessions, scored four touchdowns, and only had two other drives get across midfield. They also have run the ball 53 times for 61 yards.
To see numbers like that, and to change offensive coordinators with the goal of “run the ball better”. Boy howdy, that’s hard-hitting analysis there.
>How will they do this? Well, we’re not sure yet, because they fired offensive coordinator Brent Pease and replaced him with Brian Natkin. Here’s Natkin’s resume: four years playing tight end at UTEP, two years as a graduate assistant at UTEP, one year as an assistant coach at Northern Colorado, five years as an assistant coach at D2 Midwestern State (spent the last season as co-offensive coordinator), then back to UTEP where he has been tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator since 2012 and special teams coach since 2014.
To me, that doesn’t scream “destined to solve UTEP’s offensive woes”, especially when Brent Pease was his predecessor and not exactly a slouch at the same job. That smells instead like the first move of a head coach pretending like canning assistants would somehow save his job. I think if this season shows anything, it’s just how good Aaron Jones was last season at covering over the many deficiencies of this Miner offense.
We still don’t know the official status of Ryan Metz, who missed the Miners’ last game against Arizona, and therefore still don’t know who will start under center. I don’t know how much that matters considering the overall state of both talent and production on their offense outside of WIll Hernandez (or their defense outside of Alvin Jones), but it’s worth keeping an eye on whether Metz, Zach Greenlee or Mark Torrez gets the start.
Last season these two teams played to open the season, with the Miners winning by multiple touchdowns for the sixth time in their eight-game series win streak. Both teams went 3-8 the rest of the way, as UTEP’s lone FBS win in the next 11 weeks came in 5OT against UTSA, and NMSU needed some close game magic of their own to find a few more wins. What we have seen so far this season would suggest two teams that are headed in extremely different directions during this latest season.
It feels very weird. When was the last time the Aggies were a three-touchdown favorite against an FBS program? I like many other Aggie supporters am very hesitant to predict that NMSU covers this spread, but I’ve made a goal out of optimism this season. Rice is a subpar team that fumbled once in the red zone, stalled out at the 20-yard line another time, and still beat UTEP 31-14. I expect even better than that from an Aggies team that is better in every way on offense.
New Mexico State Aggies 45, UTEP Miners 14