The Miners are coming off of a big win against their rivals from up the road in Las Cruces. The men of the mines were able to do whatever they wanted to do on the offensive side of the ball. With an almost perfect balance of running and passing, the Miners ran for 249 yards and passed for 246 yards in their 42 to 10 pounding of the Aggies of New Mexico State. Offense has not been an issue since the arrival of Coach Mike Price. It has been the defensive side of the ball that has been the problem the last four seasons. This season, new Defensive Coordinator Andre Patterson has installed a 4-3 defense after two years of the Miners going with a 3-3-5 defense. How well the 4-3 defense is working has really yet to be determined.
Against the FCS Division Arkansas Pine Bluff team, the defense was able to hold the Golden Lions to just 278 yards of total offense. But, when the Miners travelled to what almost everyone felt would be a test against the pass happy offense of the Case Keenum led Houston Cougars, the Miners found instead a team committed to running the ball right down the Miners throat. With the Cougars able to run at will, the passing game became even easier for the Cougars, as the Miners were completely thrown off balance defensively. The shell-shocked Miners allowed 308 yards of rushing and 348 yards of passing in a lopsided 54-24 loss. The Miners returned to the friendly confines of the Sun Bowl to take on their always pesky rivals, but the Aggies are one of the worst teams in the FBS division. Against the Aggies, the Miners defense looked very tough, again. Holding the Aggies to 96 yards of rushing and 200 yards through the air, they had their second game of the season of holding their opponent to under three hundred yards of total offense. So, against two lesser opponents the defense has looked tremendous, but against a highly ranked Houston team, they had been taken to the wood shed. The question of just how good this defense is has yet to be answered.
This week, the Memphis Tigers from Conference USA's Eastern Division make the journey to the western most tip of the conference to test these Miners. The eastern schools tend to go with more of a power football style of play, as opposed to the wide open offenses predominantly played in the western side of the conference. But, this season, the Tigers are going through a transition under a completely new coaching staff. After 3 games, the Tigers have yet to show just what kind of team they are. The Tigers lost their first game to Mississippi State 49-7. That was probably to be expected. At least it wasn't a total shock. Their next game was against the perennially tough East Carolina Pirates of C-USA. The score ended up being 49-27, but the Tigers showed that they had some claws. The Tigers weren't able to mount much of a rushing attack, but they seemed to have found a quarterback. Cannon Smith was benched and Ryan Williams came in to complete 18 of 25 passes for 293 yards. The next game, against Middle Tennessee State out of the Sun Belt Conference gave the Tigers their first win of the season with a score of 24 to 17. The Tigers used a balance attack to get 158 yards from their ground game, and 129 yards through the air to outlast the Blue Raiders. The Blue Raiders actually had 28 yards more offense than the Tigers. Memphis' defense was able to hold MTS to just 67 yards of rushing, but allowed 248 yards through the air.
Against the Miners passing attack, you can expect to see Trevor Vittatoe add another 250-300 yards of passing to his record chasing stats, and with Donald Buckram most likely returning to carry the ball you can expect about the same kind of yardage on the ground. The Miners high octane offense will rack up the yards, and put lots of points on the board. That brings us back to the question of what about the Miners' defense. In total offense, the Tigers are ranked 96th with 312.33 yards per game. The NMSU Aggies are ranked 97th with 312 yards per game. They have played different teams, but you can get an idea of how much of a test the Memphis team should be for the Miners defense. This should be another game where the Miners are able to do whatever they want on offense, and perhaps hold a third team to less than 300 yards of total offense.
Predicted Score for this one;