The Georgia Southern Eagles come into Las Cruces at 3-3, 2-1 in Sun Belt play. They’re averaging 30.3 points per game while holding their opponents to just 23.5 points per game. While Georgia Southern is trying to pass the ball more this season than in the past, they’re still primarily a running team with just over 75 percent of their play calls resulting in a run compared to 84 percent of their play calls last year being runs. The Eagles are averaging around 266 yards per game on the ground, nearly a 100 yards fewer than last season. However, Georgia Southern is averaging just over 155 yards per game through the air which is nearly 100 yards per game more than they were last year. Defensively the Eagles are allowing just 364 yards per game, 153 on the ground and 211 through the air.
A couple of numbers really stick out with Georgia Southern. First, they’re converting 50 percent of their third down situations which leads the Sun Belt. Second, they’ve converted 87.5 percent of their red zone trips into points (21 of 24) and lest you think that it’s just good fortune, they converted 87.5 percent of their red zone trips last season and just a shade over 88 percent of their trips in 2014.
Let’s take a closer look at Georgia Southern in our weekly deep dive. It’s not going to be too complicated to figure out what Georgia Southern is going to do based on our above observation of their play calling. On first down the Eagles will run the ball the majority of the time. They’ve run the ball 165 times on first down while gaining 843 yards, an average of 5.11 yards per carry. When they have decided to pass the ball on first down, they’ve only completed 18-of-37 passes (48.6 percent) for 174 yards, an average of 9.67 yards per completion.
As we mentioned, the Eagles are highly efficient on third down converting right at 50 percent. As one would expect, Georgia Southern is deadly on third and short (1 to 3 yards to gain) converting 20 of their 25 third and short situations with 19 of those conversions coming on the ground. When it’s third and short, expect the Eagles to run the ball and if you get a stop, consider it a huge win for the defense.
On third and intermediate (4 to 6 yards to gain) it’s a little dicier for the Eagles. They’ve faced that situation 24 times but converted just nine times, five times on the ground and four times through the air. They’ve run the ball 13 times while throwing it 11 times (completing five of those passes).
On third and long (7+ yards to gain) the Eagles have attempted to pick it up on the ground 21 times but have come away with just three first downs. They’ve had a bit more success through the air attempting 22 passes and converting 11 of the third and long situations. If the Aggies can get Georgia Southern into third and long situations, they should be able to get off the field more often than not.
Defensively on first down teams have tried to run the ball on the Eagles 65 percent of the time (111 attempts). Their defense is allowing 4.51 yards per carry on first down while allowing opponents to complete 35-of-61 pass attempts for an average of 16.8 yards per completion.
On third down, teams have not had as much success against the Eagles converting just 31 percent of the time (22-of-69) and it’s even worse if you’re a Sun Belt team. The Eagles have held Sun Belt foes to just a 24.3 percent conversion rate (9-of-37) in three games.
On third and short (1 to 3 yards to gain), teams have attempted 13 runs, they’ve picked up seven first downs. Surprisingly nobody has attempted to throw on Georgia Southern on third and short.
Third and intermediate (4 to 6 yards) is absolute death if you’re an opponent. Teams have tried to run the ball 12 times and have done so for -25 yards and have only picked up one first down. You’re not much better off throwing the ball either as teams have thrown on third and intermediate nine times completing five passes but picking up just four first downs. It would appear that the Eagles send extra defenders on third and intermediate based on the rushing numbers, although they’ve only recorded seven sacks on the season.
On third and long (7+ yards to gain) teams have basically avoided running against Georgia Southern. Just four rush attempts and no first down pickups. Teams have throws the ball 31 times completing 15 pass attempts while picking up just seven first downs, six of those first downs coming on third and between 7 and 9 yards to gain.
One final note. As bad as the Aggie defense has been they’ve not given up a run of more than 30 yards in conference play and just one of 20+ yards, although against Georgia Southern’s defense that will be tested. Georgia Southern on the other hand has given up six runs of 20+ yards and one each of 30+, 40+ and 50+ yards. There is the possibility that Larry Rose III could break a long run, something he has yet to do since his return to the Aggies.
The bottom line for today’s game, the Aggie offense is going to have to do some work. They’re going to have to sustain drives, try to stay out of third down situations when possible and try to get some explosion plays. For as good as Georgia Southern’s defense has been this season, they have been susceptible to giving up the big play. In Sun Belt play they’ve given up 14 pass completions of 20+ yards, seven completions of 30+ yards, two completions of 40+ yards, two completions of 50+ yards and one pass completion of 60+ yards. Compare that with the Aggies who have given up 12 completions of 20+ yards, six of 30+ yards, four of 40 plus yards, three of 50+ yards, two of 60+ yards and one of 70+ yards. The big difference is that the Aggies have given up a few more of the longer pass plays than has Georgia Southern. We know the defense will give up points, the question is, can the offense keep up?
It’s time for this week’s deep dive into the numbers in this week’s matchup between the Idaho Vandals (3-3) and the Aggies (2-3). This is a pivotal game for both clubs as the two teams try to inch their way toward bowl eligibility. For Idaho, a win would put them within two wins of that magical six-win threshold with five games remaining. An Aggie win would put them halfway there with half the schedule remaining. It goes without saying but we’ll say it anyway, this is a matchup between two historically bad football programs. How bad? This is just the second time (the first since the very first matchup in 1971) that both teams come into the head-to-head meeting coming off a win in their previous game. The next 21 times these two teams have met, at least one of the two (usually both) have lost their previous game.
A cursory look at Idaho’s statistics makes you wonder how they’re 3-3. They’re averaging just 20 points per game while allowing 37.8. They average just 3.96 yards per rushing attempt and have thrown for just 1,151 yards in six games (191.83 yards per game). They’ve turned the ball over 15 times while forcing just nine turnovers and their third down conversion rate is just over 31 percent. That begs the question, what is Idaho doing to win these games? All three of their wins have been by a field goal — 20-17 over Montana State, 33-30 at UNLV and 34-31 last week at UL Monroe on a last-second field goal. Their three losses have been blowouts but their three losses have also come against teams with a combined record of 13-3.
So what can we expect from the Vandals? When they have the ball on first down, they’re nearly as likely to throw it as they are to run it. They’ve run 172 first down plays, 95 have been runs and 77 passes. Of those 172, just 21 have been “explosion” plays (runs of 10+ yards or more and passes of 15+ yards or more), the Aggies have been slightly better with 32 explosion plays on first down out of 178 plays. Those numbers break down to Idaho having a gain of 10+ yards one out of every eight plays they run while the Aggies have a gain of 10+ yards one out of every five plays they run. Defensively both teams are not good in terms of those same explosion plays with Idaho surrendering 10+ yard games 23 percent of the time while the Aggies are giving up 10+ yards on a play 24 percent of the time.
When Idaho is faced with third down and short (1 to 3 yards for a first down) they, just like most teams, will try to run the ball. Idaho has faced 22 such instances and run the ball 16 times while throwing six times. They’ve converted 11 of the 22 third and short situations, nine first downs on the ground and two through the air.
When Idaho is faced with a third and intermediate (4 to 6 yards to gain a first down) they are much ore likely to throw the ball. They’ve faced that situation 16 times and have thrown it 12 times, completing seven passes and converting six first downs through the air and one on the ground (6 of 16 on third and intermediate — a 37.5 percent conversion rate).
When Idaho is faced with a third and long (7 or more yards to gain a first down) they surprisingly have run the ball nearly as many times as they’ve opted to throw it. They’ve had 50 third and longs and they’ve thrown it 29 times and run it 21 times. They’re just 10 of 29 passing converting five first downs while they converted four first downs on the ground (9 of 50 on third and long — an 18 percent conversion rate).
If the Aggies can get Idaho into third and intermediate to long, they’ve got a really good shot at getting off the field.
Defensively when the Aggies have the ball, teams have been just as likely to run the ball as pass the ball on first down against Idaho. Teams have rushed 106 times for 605 yards (5.71 yards per attempt) and thrown the ball 99 times completing 65 times for 820 yards. They’ve surrendered 46 first downs and as we eluded to earlier, teams are having pretty good success gaining large chunks of yardage against Idaho, particularly on first down. The Vandals have surrendered 49 explosion plays (again, 10+ yard gains) out of the 205 1st down plays they’ve defended — a 24 percent clip. Not good.
When the Aggies are faced with third down they’ve been moderately successful with a 40.4 percent conversion rate. Idaho’s opponents are converting nearly 46 percent of their third downs (by way of gain and penalty).
When Idaho’s opponents face a third and short (1 to 3 yards to gain) they’ve had success both on the ground and through the air converting eight first downs on the ground (out of 13 runs) and five times through the air on 6 of 9 passing — a conversion rate of 59 percent (13 of 22).
When Idaho gets teams into a third and intermediate (4 to 6 yards to gain) they’re having a little bit more success stopping them, they’ve allowed 10 of 23 (43.4 percent) conversions. Teams have run the ball seven times getting three first downs and thrown it 16 times completing nine passes while converting seven first downs.
Where Idaho’s defense has stood tall is on third and long (7 or more yards to gain). They’ve forced 40 third and longs with teams converting just 13 times (32.5 percent). Teams have run the ball 12 times on third and long gaining three first downs while passing it 28 times, completing 17 of those with 13 going for first downs.
One other interesting stat to point out. Opposing teams have snapped 271 plays from their own 40 yard line or better compared to just 171 plays inside their own 40 (39 yard line to their own endzone). Teams are spending a LOT of time on the plus side of the field against Idaho. Offensively Idaho has not spent a ton of time on the plus side of the field. They’ve snapped the ball 180 times from inside their own 39 yard line and just 182 from their own 40 yard line to the opponent’s redzone.
One thing Idaho does do fairly well is score given the opportunity. They’re 15-of-20 (75 percent) when they get to the redzone and they’ve converted 12-of-14 field goal attempts. The Aggies have not faired quite as well in the scoring department with scoring just 17-of-24 times they’ve been in the redzone (70.8 percent) and are just 6-of-9 in the field goal department.
Bottom line here is that on paper the Aggies have the offense to put a lot of points on the board in this game. Whether or not they do so will depend a lot on what kind of day Larry Rose III has. In two games against Idaho he has run the ball 42 times for 367 yards (8.7 yards per carry) with six touchdowns. Granted, four of those touchdowns and over 200 of those yards came in last year’s wild come-from-behind victory but the fact of the matter is he is a one man wrecking crew almost regardless of who he is playing against and it would be wise for the Aggies to go to him early and often.
Tyler Rogers did not play against the Vandals last season due to injury and in 2014 against Idaho had a game to forget. He came in late, threw five passes, two of them were picked off as the Aggies lost 29-17.
For whatever reason the Aggies have really struggled against Idaho in Moscow. The last win there came in 2002 and the Aggies have gone into Moscow with teams that on paper should have beaten Idaho only to lose.
On paper this feels like a game the Aggies should win fairly easily but as we just noted, that hasn’t been the outcome the Aggies have gotten particularly at Idaho.
For the second time in as many seasons the Aggies are coming off an embarrassing loss against Troy. They’ll be looking to bounce back against UL Lafayette and last year the Aggies went to Lafayette and came away with a victory.
It’s time once again for a deep examination of the numbers behind the two teams.
When the Aggies have the ball they should have success passing the ball agains the Ragin’ Cajuns. On first down, teams have thrown the ball 53 times completing 35, good for 66 percent but more importantly, teams have had success moving the ball in large chunks on first down against the Cajuns. Of those 35 completions, 13 of them have been for 15+ yards and seven have been for 25+ yards. Likewise on second down teams have found great success against this Cajun defense completing 32 of 47 attempts, picking up 19 first downs with 10 pass completions of 15+ yards and four more of 25+ yards. Suffice to say, the Aggies will look to exploit that because it has not been easy for teams to run the ball against ULL this season.
Teams have attempted to run the ball 83 times on first down gaining 305 yards (3.67 yards per carry). They have given up nine runs of 10+ yards and one run of 20+ yards but the other 73 times teams have run the ball, their average gain is less than three yards per carry. ULL is stout against the run on third down. Teams are averaging a paltry 0.68 yards per carry on third down and teams have converted just three times on the ground out of 25 third down rushing attempts and if you get into a third and long situation (seven or more yards to gain) forget about it. Outside of one 16 yard run, teams have attempted 10 other runs on third an 7+ yards and run for a grand total of -2 yards.
If the Aggie offense is going to stay on the field, they’re going to have to convert third downs through the air. That’s where the ULL defense is vulnerable, particularly on third an between 7 and 9 yards to gain (an area where NMSU has excelled this season converting 7-of-15 times they’ve faced that situation). ULL has allowed six first down conversions of the nine third downs where teams had to gain between seven and nine yards for first down and likewise have allowed six first downs on 11 of the attempts where teams had to gain between four and six yards. In fact, you don’t want to get into a third and less than three or more than 10 situation against ULL. They’ve allowed just six first downs in the 32 times that particular situation has arisen (just under 19 percent of the time or one out of every five times). Third and short yardage (1 to 3 yards) will be interesting because the Aggies have converted 10 of the 14 times they’ve had third and between one and three yards to gain).
Those third down situations where teams have had to gain between four and nine yards, they’ve converted 12 of 20 times through the air but NONE of the seven times on the ground. Again, the Aggie passing offense looks to have to carry the load this week so it will be a good opportunity for Tyler Rogers to bounce back from his atrocious five interception outing against Troy.
When ULL has the ball on first down, they’ve run the ball 75 times averaging 4.41 yards per carry with nine runs of 10+ yards and three more of 20+ yards. They’ve been very good through the air on first down completing 34 of 50 attempts for 391 yards, however, what should really concern the Aggie defense is nearly half of those completions have been what the coaching staff deems as “explosion” plays. Ten times ULL has completed a pass on first down for more than 15 yards and five more times they’ve completed a pass for 25 yards.
When opposing defenses have gotten ULL to third down, they’ve done a good job holding them to just 23 first down conversions out of the 67 times they’ve faced that situation. They’ve converted 21 conventionally and twice through a defensive penalty.
Today’s game will be interesting. Clearly the Aggies feel the need to throw the ball to open up the run game, similar to what they felt against Kentucky and in that game it worked, they ran 45 times for 223 yards and averaged nearly five yards per carry. However, against UNM and Troy the Aggies ran almost 70 times combined and averaged under three yards per carry. Teams have tried to run the ball quite a bit against ULL and have not found much success as they’re allowing just 2.79 yards per carry and just 2.38 yards per carry in the past three games. A healthy Larry Rose III would have been an intriguing matchup against this stout run defense of ULL. Unfortunately Rose is anything but fully healthy as he continues to come back from his sports hernia surgery and after suffering a groin injury in last week’s game against Troy, you have to wonder how effective he’ll be against ULL. If the Ragin Cajuns force the Aggies to have to pass the ball to gain yards, it could be another long day for Tyler Rogers and the Aggie offense. If the Aggies and Larry Rose III can find some success on the ground, similar to what Boise State had in the opener, the Aggies will have an great shot at winning the game.
We’re back to take another statistical deep dive as we look at this week’s matchup between the Aggies and the Troy Trojans. Despite being 1-2 on the season, the Aggies have plenty of positives heading into this week’s game against the Trojans. First and foremost the Aggies will see the return of Sun Belt Preseason Player of the Year Larry Rose III who will be making his 2016 debut. Second, the Aggies played well offensively in last week’s game at Kentucky. The Aggies held their own offensively, especially in the first half scoring 35 of their 42 points before the break. Meanwhile the Trojans are 2-1 on the season with an impressive win over Southern Miss on the road last weekend, a Southern Miss team which rallied to beat Kentucky in Lexington in week one. The Trojans also hung tough with Clemson eventually losing 30-24. With those results in mind, what can we tell about Troy? Are they as good as their 2-1 record would indicate or are they overrated and getting a little too much credit for a “close” loss at Clemson?
Troy ranks 39th overall on offense averaging 467 yards per game. They’re 24th overall rushing averaging 236.7 yards per game and 68th overall in passing averaging 230.3 yards per game which ranks just ahead of New Mexico State who is 69th in passing averaging 229.3 yards per game. The Aggies rank 85th in rushing at 154.7 yards per game.
Defensively Troy ranks 59th overall giving up 363 yards per game. They’re 48th overall in rushing defense allowing 124.3 yards per game and 80th overall in pass defense giving up 238.7 yards per game. The Aggies are 63rd in pass defense giving up 218.3 yards per game but 127th in rush defense allowing 297 yards per game. Overall the Aggies are the 120th ranked defense allowing 515.3 yards per game.
So as we did last week, let’s take a little deeper look at what those numbers represent.
When Troy has the ball on first down, they’re slightly more likely to run than pass. They’ve run the ball 63 times for 433 yards while passing the ball 44 times (completing 30) for 322 yards. They’re averaging an excellent 7.05 yards per first down play which sets them up for a 2nd and short situations which really taxes the opposing defense. Where it gets interesting is on third down. Overall Troy is a horrendous third down team converting just 27 percent of their third downs. However, if you dig deeper into that number you’ll find that they’re actually a very respectable third down team when they’re faced with a short to intermediate third down (six yards or less to gain). They’ve converted 9 of 20 first downs in which they’ve had to gain six or fewer yards. Where they’re terrible is when the defense gets them into a third and long situation where they have to gain seven or more yards. In that scenario they’ve converted just TWO of their 24 third down situations. The key for the Aggie defense will be to force Troy in to third and long situation which will obviously be much easier if they can hold Troy under their first down gain average of just over seven yards.
How does that stack up against the Aggie defense? Well, New Mexico State is giving up 6.39 yards per play on first down. Teams have predominantly run against the Aggies on first down with good success — 82 rushes for 471 yards, an average of 5.74 yards per rush. Passing, the Aggies have allowed just 12-of-23 completions for 200 yards, however, eight of the 12 completions have gone for first downs. When the Aggies get teams to third down they haven’t been that successful getting off the field. Teams have converted 20 of 45 third down attempts. Teams are have converted 13 of 22 third downs where they’ve had to gain six or fewer yards but just seven of the 25 third downs where they had to gain seven or more yards, though with one caveat, teams have converted five of the eight third downs where they had to gain between seven and nine yards.
Defensively Troy is allowing opponents to gain an average of 5.18 yards on first down. Teams are 29-of-47 for 286 yards through the air on first down and have rushed 51 times for 222 yards. As you can see their three combined opponents have been pretty even in their run/pass play calling on first down and that should continue as the Aggies have had 98 first downs on offense and have thrown the ball 49 times and run the ball 49 times but more on that in a bit.
Troy has done a good job getting off the field on third downs. Opponents are converting just 28 percent of their third downs (not accounting for first downs gained via penalty). They’ve been good in third in short to intermediate (six yards or fewer) allowing just 11 of 29 third down conversions. They’ve been even better in third and long (seven or more yards) allowing just four of 24 third down conversions.
So what does that mean for the Aggies? Offensively on first down they’ve doing pretty well averaging 5.72 yards per play on first down. As we mentioned before it’s been dead even playcalling between passing and running on first down. The Aggies have thrown 49 ties, completing 26 for 370 yards with half of those completions going for first downs. They’ve run 49 times for 191 yards, just 3.89 yards per run. When the Aggies have been forced into a third down situation, they’ve done reasonably well converting 17 of 37 third downs. They’ve converted seven of 16 third downs where they had to gain six or fewer yards. They’ve also done relatively well on third and long (seven or more yards to gain) converting 10 of 21 times. They’ve been even better with between seven and nine yards to gain converting on seven of the 12 times they’ve faced that situation.
So what is the final takeaway from this deep dive? The Troy offense is potent on first down and they’ve converted well on third and intermediate to short. If the Aggie defense can force Troy in to third and long situations it will obviously help tremendously. Offensively if the Aggies can get into third and short situations it goes without saying that they should be successful. Troy has been at their best when forcing teams in to third and 7+ yard situations.
Obviously having Larry Rose III back will be a boost for the Aggie offense, though how effective he is remains to be seen and it would be unwise to expect Rose to be back to his pre-injury form right away. From what we’ve been able to gather, these injuries can take up to six months to fully heal and the last thing to come back is the side-to-side, lateral explosive movements which are something a running back like Larry Rose III depends on a lot in his game.
It should be a fairly evenly matched game, Troy at least on paper seems to have the upper hand defensively. We certainly don’t believe the Aggies will allow another massacre like they did last season. Despite Troy’s close loss to Clemson and their win over Southern Miss on the road, a deep dive into the numbers would indicate that the Aggies aren’t as overmatched as the 17 point underdog line would suggest. Continue Reading This Post >>
As the Aggies head toward their game against Kentucky, what can we glean from the first two games that might point to what we can expect on Saturday in Lexington?
At 1-1 the Aggies head into this matchup with some confidence coming off their 32-31 victory over in-state rival New Mexico while things at Kentucky aren’t so rosy right now. The Wildcats are 0-2 and since leading Southern Miss 35-10 with about 56 seconds left in the second quarter, they’ve been outscored 79-7 over the last six quarters giving up 79 straight points from the end of the second quarter against Southern Miss until just under five minutes left in the fourth quarter against Florida when the Kentucky offense finally got back on the board with a touchdown.
A cursory look at the statistics show that the Wildcats are allowing 542 yards per game while the Aggies are giving up 427 yards per game. Offensively the Wildcats are averaging just 279 yards per game (95 rushing and 184 passing) while the Aggies are averaging slightly more at 326 yards per game (120.5 rushing and 205.5 passing). Let’s take a deeper look into those numbers and how they’re getting there.
When Kentucky has the ball, what can the Aggie defense expect? For one, if form holds, the Wildcats will run the ball on first down. Of their 45 first down play calls this season, 31 of them have been runs and they’re averaging a solid 5.0 yards per carry on those first down runs. When they have passed on first down, they’ve been pretty efficient, certainly more efficient than on any other down completing 64.3 percent of their passes for 171 yards.
Defensively teams have tried to run the ball against the Aggies on first down with relative success, 50 attempts for 4.94 yards per carry so based on Kentucky’s numbers that likely won’t change much. The Aggies have done a relatively good job on first down defending the pass as teams have completed just 6-of-15 attempts for 92 yards, though four of the six completions have gone for first downs.
Kentucky has been abysmal on third down converting just 5-of-21 third downs. Unfortunately for the Aggies, they’ve allowed teams to convert on 14-of-27 third down attempts and perhaps more alarmingly, they’re allowing an average of 9.55 rushing yards on third down and even worse yet, teams are averaging over 20 yards per carry when faced with a third down of 10 or more. Opposing teams have also converted on 4-of-7 third downs through the air when faced with a 3rd down of 10 or more yards. That being said, last week against UNM one of the Aggies’ keys to winning the game was their defense getting off the field. The Lobos were just 3-of-10 on third down.
So what can we expect out of the Kentucky offense in the game? Based on the first two games we would expect Kentucky to come out and try to run the ball against the Aggies in the first quarter, despite that going against what they have done in their first two games. The Aggies have given up 155 first quarter rushing yards with an average of 7.38 yards per carry. The Aggies have progressively gotten better defending the run as the game has gone on with averages of 4.07, 4.95 and 5.75 yards per carry in the subsequent quarters respectively. If you’re Kentucky, you probably want to get things going on the ground early before Frank Spaziani’s defense gets things figured out.
Will Kentucky try to test the Aggie secondary as UNM tried to do in last week’s game (effectively going against what they’re primarily built to do and that is run the option attack)? The Aggie defense has been the most vulnerable to the pass game in the second and third quarters giving up 132 yards and 97 yards respectively with all three of UTEP and UNM’s passing touchdowns coming in those two quarters. For Kentucky, their passing game has flourished in the first quarter with them throwing for 221 yards on 10-of-15 passing with three touchdowns and just one interception. In the second, third and fourth quarters however, there has been a dramatic decline with the Cats going just 9-of-24 for 147 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions.
What about the Aggie offense? Can NMSU take advantage of what has been so far a pretty leaky Wildcat defense? Through the first two games of the season it has become painfully obvious that the offense misses Larry Rose III and the impact he has on opposing defenses. The Aggies are averaging just 120.5 yards per game on the ground after averaging 180.5 last season. The Aggies clearly miss his 137.5 yards per game. They also miss his red zone running which is where he scored 10 of his 14 touchdowns last season.
For lack of a better description the Aggie offense has been underwhelming in the first halves of their two games this season — just 277 total yards and only one touchdown. Kentucky’s two opponents have found marginal success through the air in the first half against the Wildcats. Their two opponents threw for 345 yards and three touchdowns against UK in the two first halves but they also threw four interceptions, something that Tyler Rogers has thus far been able to avoid. Their two opponents have found relatively equal success against Kentucky on the ground in both halves rushing for 238 yards and two touchdowns on 56 attempts in the first halves and 268 yards and three touchdowns on 62 attempts in the second halves. This could be good news for the Aggie ground game as they’ve been pretty consistent in both halves running the ball with 127 yards on 28 carries (but no touchdowns) in the first halves of their two games and 114 yards on 37 carries but three scores in the second halves of their two games.
The passing game from a statistical perspective has come alive in the second half for NMSU having thrown for 261 yards and a touchdown on 23-of-40 passing from Rogers and have found the most success throwing the ball from their own 20 to the opponents 40 yard line accounting for 248 of the Aggies’ 411 total passing yards. Again, the Aggies miss Larry Rose III’s running in the red zone as Rogers has completed just 5-of-13 of his passes inside the red zone but both of his touchdown throws have come from that area of the field.
Also, the Wildcats have been not that great on third down defense allowing their two opponents to convert 23-of-37 third downs (62 percent) including 7-of-9 third downs where the opponent had to gain between seven and nine yards for the first down and called a pass play. Good news for the Aggies? They’re 4-for-4 in that exact situation.
So what do we expect the Aggies to do on offense? Well, Coach Martin has repeatedly said he wants to throw the ball to open up the run game (which we suspect would be reversed were Larry Rose III healthy and playing). The problem is that so far that hasn’t worked out too well for the Aggies. The Aggies have just 150 passing yards in four first half quarters and just 127 rushing yards in those same quarters. The Aggies have not been successful running the ball on first down averaging just 2.63 yards per carry but they’ve also been average throwing the ball on first down completing 17-of-33 attempts and just seven first downs. That means that 43 of the Aggies’ 60 first down plays have resulted in them facing a second down of over seven yards and 16 of those have been 2nd and 10 which has led the Aggies to face 17 third downs where they needed to gain seven or more yards for the first down. They have successfully converted just five of those third down situations. Regardless of Kentucky’s porous third and long defense, the Aggies simply can’t put themselves in third and long situations against Kentucky.
So what should the Aggies do? This is a tough one for NMSU. They clearly want and/or have to throw the ball because their run game just isn’t what it would be with Rose. However, Southern Miss and Florida both took the opposite approach running the ball 118 times combined for 506 yards. In fact, the two teams must have had similar strategies because the rushing attempts by the two through all four quarters is surprisingly consistent — 28 attempts in the first quarter, 28 in the second quarter, 32 in the third and 30 in the fourth with similar rushing totals by each quarter, 107, 131, 126 and 142 respectively. Regardless of how it gets done, whether through a pass first approach or a run first approach, if the Aggies are going to have any shot at an upset they’re going to have to be able to run the ball and they’re going to have to do it much more effectively than they did in the first two games. Continue Reading This Post >>
As game day against Kentucky draws closer here are a bunch of stories to get you caught up on the matchup.
Jason Groves of the Las Cruces Sun-News takes an early look at the game against Kentucky.
Brian Rickerd of the State Journal writes that Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops hasn't quit but wonders if the players have.
Ben Roberts of the Herald-Leader takes a look at the Aggies' players.
Joe Mussato of SEC Country takes a look at five key things to watch for on Saturday.
Ken Sickenger of the Albuquerque Journal writes that the Aggies will have their depth tested against Kentucky on Saturday.
Brian Stultz of Campus Insiders previews the game on Saturday.
The New Mexico State football team makes their 2016 home debut tonight against in-state rival UNM in the Rio Grande Rivalry. The Aggies have lost four straight in the series and are looking to bounce back from last week's 38-22 season opening loss at UTEP. The Lobos opened the season with a 48-21 win over FCS foe South Dakota. The Lobos rolled up 615 total yards of offense including 428 rushing yards. The Aggie offense struggled in the first game scoring just 16 points. Obviously the absence of Larry Rose III hurt the offense's productivity and it appears that he will not play again this week as he continues to recover from his sports hernia surgery.
The Aggie defense didn't fare much better giving up 518 yards of offense including 249 yards to UTEP's stud running back Aaron Jones. The defense looked much more fundamentally sound than it has at any point during the past three season in terms of being in the right places, however, it was their poor tackling that largely led to their undoing.
So where does that leave us for tonight's game? Without Rose this game is tough to predict. If the Rose were suited up and 100 percent healthy, we would have no problem predicting an Aggie victory. So much of what the Aggies were able to do on offense last year was dependent on the fact that Rose's rushing ability was going to loosen up things in the secondary because teams would bring in extra defenders to try to stop the Aggie ground game. In this game last year Rose rushed for 260 yards and three touchdowns and likely would have had similar results this year -- UNM gave up 183 rushing yards to South Dakota last week, albeit on 43 attempts (NMSU rushed for 308 yards on 39 attempts against the Lobos last year).
Head coach Doug Martin has stated that the Aggies will have plenty of one-on-one opportunities against the Lobos' secondary and seems to indicate that the Aggies will try to pass, a lot. How many pass attempts will that be? Without Rose in the backfield it could mean 35 or even 40-plus throws. In his career as the Aggie quarterback, NMSU is just 1-7 when Rogers attempts more than 40 passes and he has thrown 13 interceptions in those games (he did not throw in interception in last week's game in which he attempted 41 passes). Throwing the ball down the field could also lead to a lot of long third down situations if the Aggies don't complete passes on first and/or second down. Over his career at NMSU Rogers is just 49-of-92 on third down throws where the Aggies had 7 or more yards to gain for a first down and the Aggies have picked up just 25 first downs and 12 times he has thrown an interception. Suffice to say the Aggies need to keep their third down attempts manageable which means the Aggies will need to be able to run the ball effectively on first or second down or be able to complete some short passes on first and second down.
Defensively it's pretty simple. The Aggies HAVE to tackle better than they did last week. The Aggies were in position on many of the Miners' big plays but missed tackles cost them. If they replicate their tackling effort this week it will be a long night for the Aggie defense.
One other key will be to eliminate the untimely penalties. Last week the Aggies were flagged seven times for 40 yards. An interesting stat from last season, the Aggies actually committed more penalties at home than they did on the road despite only playing five home games. The Aggies committed 8.8 penalties for 81.8 yards per game. Obviously this is the Aggies' first home game of the season but it will be critical for the Aggies to not replicate the stat.
If the Aggies hit those three keys they'll have a great chance to win tonight's game and snap the losing streak to the Lobos. If they miss on any of the keys, in particular the first or second, it seems unlikely that NMSU can pull out a victory.
Tonight's game is scheduled for a 6:00 p.m. MDT kickoff and can be seen on AggieVision and Watch ESPN.
In case you haven't checked out Jason Groves' post-game commentary from Saturday's season opening loss to UTEP you should. We agree with two of his three points -- Rogers being rusty and the Aggies showing mental toughness, in fact we made the same two points in our blog post yesterday.
What we can't quite get behind is Jason's feeling that the defense has improved, especially after giving up 518 yards including a career-best 249 on the ground to Aaron Jones. Jason brings up the fact that the Aggies' defense is more aggressive a fact which is indisputable. He highlights that by the fact that the Aggies had 13 tackles for loss in the game after finishing last season with a grand total of 56 which was seventh fewest in the country last season.
This is where the argument falls apart. We took at look at each of the 13 tackles for loss and then we looked at the play immediately following it and the results were stunning and, if you're a fan of defense, not pretty.
The Aggies had four tackles for loss on one drive, UTEP's long drive that spanned the end of the first quarter and start of the second in which the Aggie defense, to their credit, made an impressive stand and forced a field goal after UTEP spent what felt like half an hour in the Aggies' red-zone.
The first tackle for loss (an Aaron Jones run) netted a loss of one yard for UTEP. However, on the following play the Aggies gave up 15 yards on a personal foul penalty. The next tackle for loss (also an Aaron Jones rush) netted a loss of four yards but on the ensuing play the Aggies gave up an 18 yard gain to Aaron Jones on third and 13 no less. The third tackle for loss on the series came on first and goal from the 2-yard line netted a loss of one on an Aaron Jones run. The ensuing play the Aggies appeared to force an incomplete pass but wait, the Aggies were called for offsides, a gain of two yards (half the distance to the goal in this instance instead of the normal five yards). The fourth and final tackle for loss netted negative four yards, again on an Aaron Jones run. This time the Aggie defense stood up and forced an incomplete pass on third and goal from the 5-yard line forcing a Miner field goal attempt which they converted.
The next two tackles for loss came on UTEP's next possession. The first tackle for loss was a big one netting negative nine yards on a run by Quadraiz Wadley, UTEP's true freshman running back on his first collegiate carry. On the very next play the Aggies picked up another tackle for loss, this time a net of negative three yards on a run by Juniel Terry. So far so good right? Well, on the next play (third time's the charm if you're UTEP), Quadraiz Wadley ripped off a run of 29 yards and two plays later the Miners were in the endzone for a touchdown.
The next two tackles for loss came on UTEP's ridiculously long 17-play drive that basically killed the rest of the first half. The first tackle for loss netted negative four yards on a screen pass to Juniel Terry. On the very next play (third and 14) UTEP picked up 15 yards and first down. The second tackle for loss in the series came down on the Aggies' goal line, a net of negative one on a run by Aaron Jones on first and goal from the 2-yard line (an obvious rushing down), however as you can probably guess, the very next play the Miners connected on a pass for three yards resulting in a touchdown.
The Aggie defense did not record a tackle for loss in the third quarter so on to the fourth quarter we go. This time the Aggies got the best of the Miners as this tackle for loss netted negative five yards on a Quadraiz Wadley run but more importantly the Aggies stripped the ball, scooped it up and ran 50 yards for a touchdown to pull to within 16 points at 38-22.
The next UTEP drive the Aggies picked up a tackle for loss netting negative 11 yards on a sack on 1st and 20 (coming off a UTEP holding penalty). The Aggie defense forced an incomplete pass from Kavika Johnson and two plays later UTEP was punting.
The final three tackles for loss came on the game's final drive. The first tackle for loss netted negative three yards on a run by Aaron Jones. The next play Jones ripped of a 12 yard run to set up 3rd and one on which they gave Jones the ball again and he ran for another 15 yards. The second tackle for loss in the series netted negative seven yards on a Quadraiz Wadley run. Wadley then ran for 13 yards on the next play setting up 3rd and 4. The final tackle for loss which may or may not be credited was the kneel down netting negative three yards.
So final tally here, the Aggies had officially 13 tackles for loss for 56 yards which is certainly a positive however, if you look past the surface you'll see that they gave up 107 yards on plays that immediately followed the tackle for loss and eight of the 13 tackles for loss came on three drives that netted UTEP 17 points.
Is the Aggie defense more aggressive? Clearly the numbers say they are but as you can see, being more aggressive on defense does not necessarily correlate to having a better defense. In this particular game the additional aggressiveness amounted to putting lipstick on a pig. The defense may have been aesthetically more pleasing but the results were the same.
One hopes that the Aggies continue to be aggressive on defense but also follow up those aggressive plays with more solid defense on the ensuing plays.
The Aggie football team opened 2016 with a loss at I-10 rival UTEP, the eighth straight loss in the series. A sluggish start offensively doomed the Aggies as UTEP built a 24-3 halftime lead. The Aggies cut UTEP's lead down to two touchdowns at 24-10 late in the third quarter, however, UTEP scored a touchdown on the ensuing drive to push the lead back to three touchdowns. The Aggies answered with a touchdown as the third quarter clock expired to trim the lead to 38-16 (and a missed extra point from Parker Davidson) but UTEP would score the back-breaking touchdown to start the fourth quarter, a 75-yard run from Aaron Jones, to put UTEP up 38-16. The Aggies added a defensive touchdown on fumble recovery scoop-and-score but in reality, it was too little too late.
The Good: The Aggies continued to fight after getting down 24-3 at halftime. They made it interesting in the third quarter cutting the lead to two touchdowns but couldn't get the stops they needed to trim the deficit any further.
The Aggie defense showed a few flashes of improvement including a goal line stand in the first quarter that held UTEP to a field goal. They also forced a fumble and returned it for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Tyler Rogers started to get into a rhythm in the third and fourth quarter after looking understandably rusty in the first half. Rogers was playing his first game at live action speed since the UNM game last year.
The Bad: The Aggie offense looked somewhat lost without Larry Rose III. NMSU had to settle for a field goal on a first quarter drive that, had Rose been playing, they almost certainly would have scored a touchdown on.
The Aggies lost the special teams battle. The punting was improved but twice the Aggies got pinned on their own one yard line, though to the Aggies' credit they did drive 99 yards for a touchdown the second time they got pinned on their own goal line. Parker Davidson also missed another extra point and while it didn't really affect the outcome of the game (unless you took the over), his extra point misses last year cost the Aggies at least one game. One would have hoped that he'd have moved past this issue but it appears at least for the time being that his demons still haunt him.
The Aggies were also plagued by penalties at inopportune times.
The Ugly: Aaron Jones rushed for a career-high 249 yards and two scores, both long runs, both where the Aggie defense missed tackles. The 249 yards were also the third highest individual rushing total in their program's history. Luckily for the Aggies they are unlikely to see a back as good as Jones the rest of the way but the missed tackles throughout the game is a bit concerning but is a correctable problem. The Aggies will need to clean some things up before the Rio Grande Rivalry game against UNM. The Lobos had 618 yards of total offense (albeit against an FCS foe) and as a team rushed for 428 yards.
Recaps from last night's season opening loss at UTEP:
Jason Groves' recap for the Las Cruces Sun-News
Ken Sickenger's recap for the Albuquerque Journal
Bret Bloomquist's recap for the El Paso Times
Aaron Broaddus' recap for the UTEP Prospector student paper (with photos)
The Aggie baseball team sits just one game behind Seattle for first place in the WAC. The Aggies have an excellent shot at winning the regular season title and are nearly guaranteed a top two seed and a first round bye. The only way the Aggies do not get a first round by and a top two seed is if they are swept by Northern Colorado this weekend and Utah Valley sweeps their series with Chicago State. The less likely of those two scenarios is the Aggies getting swept by Northern Colorado as UVU could very well sweep Chicago State. Northern Colorado has plenty to play for as they will qualify for the WAC Tournament with a single win in the series with the Aggies.
The following are the potential tiebreakers as determined by the WAC office.
Potential Ties Who Holds Tiebreak
Seattle U – NM State -- NM State (H2H)
NM State – Utah Valley -- Utah Valley (H2H)
NM State – Sacramento State -- NM State (H2H)
Utah Valley – Sacramento State -- Utah Valley (H2H)
1. UVU (4-2, H2H)
2. NMSU (4-2)
3. SAC (1-5)
These are also the tournament-qualifying scenarios for Northern Colorado, CSU Bakersfield and UTRGV
· Northern Colorado is in tournament with at least one win.
· CSU Bakersfield must finish with one more win than UTRGV OR (sweep of North Dakota AND NM State sweep of Northern Colorado)
· UTRGV is in playoff with sweep of Grand Canyon OR equal amount of wins as CSUB OR (2 wins against GCU AND NM State sweep of Northern Colorado)