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NMSU Improvement? Whats the Difference?

Besides not playing two Power 5 teams to open up like last season season, how much stock can you buy into the Aggies 2-0 start this season?

Stephen Dunn

NMSU has started their 2014 season off with a different bang, starting 2-0 in their first two contests, but how much improved are the Aggies?

In the first two games last season Texas straight up smacked around the Aggies, as did Minnesota, fast forward to 2014 and the first two Aggie W's are against Cal-Poly, and Georgia State.

Without knocking the Aggies strength of schedule too bad, the difference from playing an independent schedule compared to a Sun Belt conference schedule is night and day, okay retract, the Aggies strength of schedule in 2014 is pretty weak and not as tasking as the start to 2013 was.

While its hard or maybe unfair to compare stats from the first two games last year to this years start, I'm going to do it anyway with stats and possible production NMSU has improved on through two games.

Running Game

Stat 2013 2014
Attempts 79 88
Yards 207 391
Avg. 2.6 4.4

The biggest difference here is the efficiency NMSU is running the ball with to start the 2014 season. Its hard to get a good and respectable per carry average opening the season against a Power 5 team if your NMSU or any Group five team at that just like it was last year for NMSU.  Though not only is NMSU running it a bit more, they have a young talented runner spearheading their attack.

True freshman Larry Rose broke out in the home opener against Cal-Poly with 30 carries and 149 yards rushing, he was compared by UTEP coach Sean Kugler to UTEP's stud in the backfield Aaron Jones, and he will certainly be a player to watch this Saturday.

But its not only Rose who is contributing to the improved run game, NMSU has a decent stable of backs including senior veteran Brandon Betancourt, and fellow Las Cruces native Xavier Hall who is expected to have a big year.

NMSU only lost one starter along the offensive front which has also aided in the improvement in the run game, along with the running ability of quarterback Tyler Rogers makes NMSU a difficult team to stop in the run game in 2014.

I've always had the sense that NMSU was a run and shoot team, but Saturday the Aggies will try to bring in a more balanced attack with the run anchoring their offense.


Opponents Stat 2013 2014
Rushing Yards 701 421
Passing Yards 483 300
Total Yards 1184 721
Yards Per Play 9.1 5.4

The Aggie run defense was tested greatly last year as both Texas and Minnesota ran exclusively, and successfully against the Aggies.

NMSU faced a run heavy team in Cal-Poly in week one, giving up 259 yards on 49 called runs, though only allowed one drive of 45 yards or more on all of Cal-Poly's total drives.

The biggest improvement is the speed within the line-backing core who has stepped up production for NMSU.

True freshman Derek Ibekwe has had a solid start to his career with a team high 10 unassisted tackles, and was every where against Cal Poly recording 14 total tackles.  This week's Sun Belt Player of the Week and fellow linebacker Rodney Butler plays along side Ibekwe he had an interception last week to go along with a career high 12 tackles in the final minute win at Georgia State. Butler also leads the Aggies with 23 overall tackles so far.

Just like Kugler noted in his weekly presser NMSU is making more plays in the second level with their linebackers who have to compensate for the lack up size upfront along the Aggie defensive line.

Call it a change in the level of competition, but the Aggies have impressively improved statistically on defense, though their run defense will surely have its greatest test of the year against the powerful Miners.

Receiver Production And Depth

NMSU is getting somewhat new, and consistent production early on from a receiver who red-shirted last year, and a another who saw significant time last year despite having five of their top six leading receivers return from a year ago.

Through their first two games Teldrick Morgran and Jerrel Brown lead the Aggies in receiving, both hauling in over 10 catches each with a 10.0 per catch average.

Morgan red-shirted a year ago and is now a rotation guy in 2014, while Brown had 33 catches for 484 yards last season.  Another player who to watch is another red-shirt Gregory Hogan who rotates behind senior Adam Shapiro.

Hogan has 65 yards on five catches thus far, good for a team best 13.0 average per catch.  Shapiro has had a rough start to the season only recording a single catch, though Shaprio was second on the team in receiving yards last year and should see his production increase.

NMSU will also use their running backs in the passing game, both Rose and Betancourt have two catches each which should also increase with their play making abilities, making the Aggies a true spread it around attack in the passing game just like last season.

Overall NMSU has shown some positive strides in their first two games, but NMSU still has only 70 scholarship players and depth on the defensive side is my huge question.

Doug Martin is trying to build the program through mainly recruiting high school kids which why a lot of young guys are seeing the field this season; majority of NMSU's talented players are freshman and sophomores.

With a new conference, new found confidence, and good coach with a solid rebuilding plan at the helm, will the Aggies finally turn a competitive corner this season?