Teddy Feinberg: I don’t think anyone saw a win coming. The Aggies looked like a totally different team from the season opener and beat a Big Ten opponent on the road. With that being said, it was reasonable to expect the Aggies to play better in that game and they did. NMSU played a complete game — all four quarters of football — and executed well. The offense jumped out to an early lead and the defense was opportunistic and tough. It was the best game the team’s played in the two-plus years DeWayne Walker has been their head coach. Minnesota is also down and NMSU matched up well with them — the Aggies moved the ball on the Gophers who are suspect in pass defense — poor pass rush and average secondary — and Minnesota’s offense was predictable and unimpressive. Regardless, it was a huge win for the Aggie program.
TF: People are excited about college football in Las Cruces. When considering the recent win, that the Aggies are trying to build off that momentum and the fact the team’s playing UTEP this week, this is the biggest game in my four-plus years covering the team.
MR: I've been shocked by sophomore quarterback Andrew Manley's performances in the first two games. How far has he improved between his freshman and sophomore years? Has he assumed a leadership role for the Aggies?
TF: Andrew’s better — the entire Aggie offense is. You saw his potential his freshman year — a big quarterback with a strong arm — and he’s carried it over into 2011. He has assumed more of a leadership role and has obviously gotten off to a hot start. If the offensive line properly protects Andrew he can get the ball downfield to his weapons at wide receiver. The Aggie passing offense is much improved in a new player-friendly system implemented by first-year coordinator Doug Martin.
It seems like Davon House was the face of the NMSU defense for the last several years. Now that he's gone, who's NMSU's defensive leader?
TF: It’s hard for me to pinpoint just one player but I can write that the strength of the Aggie defense thus far has been the team’s secondary. The Aggies have about four or five players back there — Jonte Green, Donyae Coleman, Ben Bradley, Courtney Viney and Jeremy Harris — who are good athletes that have cover pretty well. The group is well coached and has been fairly consistent through the first two games.
UTEP's biggest weakness, two games in, is an inability to run the ball. How are the Aggies against the run?
TF: The Aggies are susceptible in run defense and despite the Miners troubles running the ball I suspect they will still try and establish the ground game on Saturday.
Are there any NMSU players that might be under the radar that UTEP fans should be aware of? Who do you think could surprise us with a big game in the Battle of I-10?
FB: The Aggies have two very good receivers in Taveon Rogers and Todd Lee. Rogers gets much of the attention — big-play threat with big-time speed — but Lee is a very good player in his own right. As said, the team has weapons in the passing game — H-back Kenny Turner, wide receivers Kemonte Bateman and Austin Franklin and tight ends Jackson Kaka, Trevor Walls and David Quiroga. Any of these targets can make plays. The team brought in a new middle linebacker in Alexander LaVoy this offseason and the junior college transfer moves well in the middle of the field. He’s been OK against the run and has made some plays in the passing game.