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New Mexico State: Back In the Belt

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(This is the sixth in a series previewing the Sun Belt Conference and UL’s non conference opponents.  Today:  New Mexico State.  The Cajuns travel to Las Cruces on November 8th at Aggie Memorial Stadium.)

There aren’t too many fight songs that talking about hitting a keg after the game.  But at New Mexico State, evidently they’re ready.

“And when we win this game, we’ll buy a keg of booze and we’ll drink to the Aggies til we wobble in our shoes.”

Unfortunately for Aggie Fans, that post game keg is usually used to drown their sorrows.

The winning drought has been long at New Mexico State.  Since going undefeated and winning the Sun Bowl in 1960, NMSU has had just five winning seasons.  And, since the last one in 2002, New Mexico State is 31-101.  They’ve lost nine or more games seven times in that span.

Second year head coach Doug Martin, who spent seven years as the head man at Kent State (2004-10) has a major rebuilding job to do with a team that gave up 485 total points and 550 yards per game.  Martin has changed the recruiting philosophy to more high school players and changed the offense to one where the quarterback must be mobile.

Redshirt Freshman Tyler Rogers takes over at the quarterback spot for the Aggies, while sophomore Xavier Hall will be the primary running back.  NMSU has some talent at WR and the Aggles are high on redshirt freshman Gregory Hogan.  The veterans on offense are on the line, where three starters return.  But the Aggies have to replace both starting tackles.  New Mexico State averaged just over twenty points per game last season.  But now Martin has the type of quarterback he likes, as the athletic Rogers should be able to make things happen with his feet as well as his arm.  Louisiana saw the NMSU offense was capable a year ago.  This year they might be better.

Defensively, the Aggies are, to be quite honest, a mess.  Now, the good news is they won’t have quite as daunting a schedule as they did a year ago when they faced Texas, Minnesota, Boston College and UCLA.  But they still have a long way to go to be respectable.  New Mexico State is switching back to a 4-3 defense after using a 3-4 a year ago.  There will be a lot of youth defensively as Martin has recruited more speed than the Aggies have had in the past.  A year ago this team couldn’t stop anyone from running the football and that will probably be a concern this year as well.  There will be plenty of youth in the back seven.  This unit will probably be a work in progress throughout the season. That’s a nice way of saying they’re not going to be very good…but have a chance to be better than a year ago.  It would be hard to be worse.

New Mexico State returns its placekicker as Maxwell Johnson is back after hitting 10-12 field goals a year ago.  But there’s a lot of competition for the punting job.

The schedule, as mentioned, isn’t nearly as bad as it’s was a year ago when the Aggies played as an independent.  They have their annual games against UTEP and New Mexico, travel to LSU and host Cal Poly in their opener.  In league play, NMSU doesn’t play Appalachian State or South Alabama.  They host Georgia Southern in league play then get Texas State, Louisiana and ULM all in a row in November.

OUTLOOK:  Martin is changing everything at New Mexico State, including some attitudes.  He’s recruiting high school players, mostly from New Mexico and Texas and avoiding a plethora of JUCO players.  New Mexico State goes to Atlanta to take on Georgia State, who was winless a season ago.That, combined with the opener against an FCS school, gives Martin’s team a chance to get off to a good start.  But there doesn’t appear to be much more on that schedule that’s winnable.  You have to wonder about the psyche of this team by the time they get those three November home contests.  It’s very possible the game against Georgia State in week two is to see who stays out of the conference cellar.  Three wins this year for NMSU would be about the best the Aggies can hope for.

Looks like those kegs will be to drown sorrows again this season.

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