After back to back losses to Texas and Minnesota, the Aggies prepare to take on UTEP this Saturday in Las Cruces. They are playing one of the better schedules in the country as an independent, as Head Coach Doug Martin is trying to bring some excitement to the program. There are a lot of unknowns with this 2013 version of Aggie football, so the guys from BleedCrimson.net will fill us in on whats going on in Las Cruces.
MinerRush: Coach Doug Martin is in his first year as NMSU head man after Dewayne Walker's departure. So far, what are your impressions on his transition from leaving the program in 2011 and then coming back this season as the head coach?
BLEEDCRIMSON.NET: "So far the transition has been good. Bringing in offensive coordinator Greg Brandon has been a big improvement over last year's offensive coordinator Jerry McManus. Martin's previous experience at New Mexico State has really seemed to benefit him in readily identifying areas of need for the program (which are far too numerous to list here) but one area he has been quick to point out a major improvement in is the strength and conditioning/nutrition program for the team. He believes that it's given the Aggies immediate returns and has been a key for the team hanging close with both Texas and Minnesota for the first quarter of the game."
MR: What is the reaction of Aggie fans playing as an independent this season and going into the Sun Belt Conference next year?
SW: "To be very honest, we're not sure. The school has really trumpeted the fact that the seven home games comprise the "best home schedule ever" which is accurate. However, it hasn't exactly resulted in a wave of excitement by Aggie fans. As of last week there were only about 5,000 season tickets sold and three days prior to the home opener only 1,000 single-game tickets had been sold. The final announced attendance for the Minnesota game was just a bit north of 16,000 but considering all the marketing done for the year, it was a bit of a disappointment."
MR: QB Andrew McDonald has completed almost 70 percent of his passes and hit 5 different WR's 3 or more times last week, Do you expect to see him throw more vs the Miners as the Aggies have struggled to get the run game going?
SW: "I think there's going to be a big emphasis on getting the run game going this week. Given the fact that UTEP gave up nearly 400 yards of rushing to the Lobos we expect the Aggies to test the Miners' run defense a lot early. Coach Martin has told us that the offense needs to see more production out of the run game. If the Aggies can find success running the football it will only help McDonald in the passing game."
MR: King Davis III has gotten in the mix as well at QB, How has he looked to you and is he the QB of the future?
SW: "Davis has looked decent in the limited amount of playing time he's gotten. Like any other freshmen he's had some ups and downs but one thing is certain, he brings a certain element to the game with his ability to run the football. The coaching staff has touted him as the Aggies' future and if he can improve his passing (which he should be able to do, again he's just a freshman) then he certainly has the inside track to be the Aggies' starter for the foreseeable future."
MR: After giving 300+ yards rushing in their first two games, what adjustments to expect to see the Aggies make vs the Miners new power run scheme?
SW: "The Aggies will look to get defensive lineman Matt Ramondo more involved in the defense. Ramondo is a Las Cruces product who transferred to New Mexico State from Michigan State and sat out last year. He has been brought along slowly but the Aggies will need his big body to try to stop the Miner rush attack. The danger the Aggies could be facing is if they load up too much to stop the run, they could get burned by the Miner passing attack. The one difficulty the Aggies will have in preparing for UTEP's offense is the Miners showed so little in the passing game last week that we don't know exactly how effective Showers is at passing the football."
MR: With two respectable losses to BCS programs the numbers don't look pretty for Aggies, What positives have you seen that the box scores can't show?
SW: "The Aggies are a much more fit and physical football team and that is thanks in large part to the aforementioned strength and conditioning program. The Aggies have also been much more disciplined from a penalty standpoint. They've only committed four penalties through two games (one of which was a delay of game on the very first play of the season at Texas)."
MR: What are impressions of the comments Sean Kugler made about Miner fans showing up in force and sometimes outnumbering Aggie fan in Aggie Memorial and do you think Aggie fan will show up in full force Saturday?
SW: "That's a good question. We certainly hope the Aggie fans respond accordingly and pack Aggie Memorial Stadium. UTEP always seems to travel well to Las Cruces (as noted by Kugler's comments) but it's up to Aggie fans to keep AMS from becoming "Sun Bowl North." The problem is that Las Cruces is known for its last-minute nature and being a walk-up crowd. If that happens this week Aggie fans could very well find themselves outnumbered in their own home "stadium."
MR: Any Aggie players we should be watching out for?
SW: "On offense the Aggies' running back Germi Morrison is a player to watch. He's been fairly non-existent in the Aggie offensive attack but expect to see a big dose of him on Saturday. Getting the run game going is a big key to the Aggies' potential success on Saturday. On defense Matt Ramondo on the defensive line and linebacker Clint Barnard, another New Mexico native. You could definitely hear both of their names called a lot of Saturday."
MR: Final thoughts and prediction?
SW: "We think this is going to be an exciting, close, high-scoring affair. The run game is going to be the key. The Aggies need to shore up their run defense an they need to get their running game going and they also need to stop giving up big plays. We think the Aggies will do just enough in all three areas to eek out a win.
Aggies 35, UTEP 34."