Gameday. The 2011 Aggie football season opener is finally upon us. The Aggies host Ohio today at 6 p.m. (MT) in what should be an entertaining game between a pair of mid-major schools. The Aggies, quite frankly, are hoping to get to where Ohio is at. The Bobcats are now contenders in their league, the MAC, year in and year out and they have been to a bowl game three of the past four seasons and are generally competitive week in and week out. That's where the Aggies and Coach Walker are trying to get the program to. Competing week in and week out, then competing for the league title and with that comes bowl eligibility.
The 2011 season brings in as many questions as there are answers. The questions begin on defense. Can the Aggie defense rebound from a regression in 2010. Can the Aggie secondary find a replacement for shutdown corner Davon House? Can the Aggie front four generate a pass rush and in turn create more than nine sacks this season? Can the Aggie front seven stop the run game, something that will be very key in today's matchup against a coach in Frank Solich that will pound the rock?
On offense, is Andrew Manley ready for "prime time"? Is the offense, now under the direction of former Kent State head coach (more on that in a minute) Doug Martin ready to explode? Can the Aggies score more than 15 points per game this season?
As we noted in our season preview, the Aggie offense appears to have all the pieces in place. A stud quarterback, a bevy of options to throw to, a workhorse running back and an experienced offensive line.
Circling back to Doug Martin, this could be the Aggies' ace in the hole today. Martin is intimately familiar with the Ohio Bobcats having coached against them in the MAC. As Teddy Feinberg notes on his blog, Kent State went 4-3 against Ohio while Martin was the head coach. On the flip side of that, Frank Solich is intimately familiar with Doug Martin's offense, his tendencies and what he likes to do as a play caller.
So who has the advantage here? We think it's the Aggies. While the Bobcats may know what Martin likes to do offensively, they do not have the luxury of having seen any of the Aggie players on tape running Martin's plays.
What do we expect? We expect a relatively high-scoring game. Both defenses have question marks. The Aggie secondary appears to be solid but again, the front seven will need to help them out by stopping the run and forcing the Bobcats into obvious passing situations and two they must get pressure on the quarterback (who for the record is starting his first game, though he did see a little time in 2009 so he is not completely green).
The goal for the Aggies this year is to score at least 10 more points per game and take at least 10 points off the board defensively. They also are trying to get games to the fourth quarter where they are either ahead, tied or trailing by a small enough margin to come from behind to win.
The Aggies need to get off to a fast start in this game both offensively and defensively. They need to score points early to build some confidence in the system and defensively they need to get the Bobcats off the field and not let them pound them into submission with the run game.
We won't predict a final score because we're absolutely horrendous at that sort of thing. However, we do expect a close game and we do expect the offenses to be able to score. We think the Aggies will come out on top in a close one and start the 2011 season off on the right foot. The last time the Aggies started off a season with a victory over an FBS (Division I) opponent was 1995 when they ripped UTEP 45-17 at home.
Kickoff is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. (MT) and the game can be seen on AggieVision, ESPN Game Plan, streaming online via ESPN3.com and Aggie Access (subscription required). You can also listen to the game on the Aggie Sports Network and online via Aggie Access (subscription required).
The Aggie volleyball team swept a pair of matches on Friday against Grambling State and Arkansas-Little Rock. The Aggies had little trouble with the Tigers from GSU but the Trojans were a scrappy bunch. The Aggies narrowly escaped a disaster in the second set against UALR. After leading by eight points in the early going (12-4), Arkansas Little rock had a pair of set points at 24-22 and 24-23, however, the Aggies staved off both set points to send the set into extra points. The Aggies again faced set point when they trailed 27-26 but they would score three straight to take the set 29-27. The Aggies then won the third set 25-16 to sweep the match.
The Aggies take on LSU, winners of both of their matches as well on Friday, at 2:00 p.m. (MT) in the Pan Am. The Aggies and Tigers have a short but very exciting series history. The Aggies lost to LSU in 2007 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament down in Austin. The Aggies pushed LSU to five sets and lost a heartbreaker. The Aggies led two sets to one in the match but lost the final two sets 30-27 and 15-13 and would have to wait one more year to notch their first ever NCAA Tournament victory.
Then last season down in Baton Rouge, the Aggies dropped the first two sets 25-19 and 25-23 but then stormed out of the intermission taking sets three and four 25-22 and 25-15. Unfortunately the Aggies would suffer another fifth set heartbreak as LSU won the fifth set in extra points, 17-15.
If you're an Aggie you kind of figure that the volleyball gods owe the Aggies a victory in this series. LSU has been solid thus far in the season but the Aggies are more than capable of defeating the Tigers. The Aggies' experience against Nebraska in the opening match last weekend should give them plenty of confidence that they can compete with top-level talent.
The main question for the Aggies is can they keep LSU's defense guessing as to where the attacks are coming from? The Aggies had plenty of diversity in their attack on Friday as they had six players with at least five kills in the first match and five players with at least six kills in the second match.
Defensively, the Aggies need to continue to play solidly. Neither Grambling or Little Rock had great success against the Aggies. LSU hit .176 against Arkansas-Little rock and then had their way with Grambling State's defense hitting .524 including a 10-for-11 with no attack errors performance from freshman middle blocker Marissa Maas.
Today's match is set for a 2:00 p.m. first serve with streaming audio and video available via Aggie Access (subscription required).
The Aggie soccer team won their third consecutive game by defeating Jacksonville State 2-1. All three goals came in the second quarter with freshman Katie Smith scoring her second goal of the season and last year's leading goal scorer Yolanda McMillion getting her first goal of the season which would turn out to be the game winner.
The Aggies are back in action on Sunday as they take on Tennessee Tech who played to a scoreless draw with Louisiana Tech on Friday.
On to today's links...
Kyle Doperalski features Meredith Hays in this week's edition of the Las Cruces Bulletin.
The Arkansas-Little Rock athletic website recaps Friday's matches.
The NM State athletic website recaps the Aggies' win over UALR.
The LSU athletic website recaps Friday's action.
The Ohio athletic website previews today's season opener.
Jim Hilley of the Las Cruces Bulletin previews today's season opener.
Jim Hilley also discusses the Aggies' helmet decal in honor of John Keith.
Teddy Feinberg of the Las Cruces Sun-News features freshman running back Brandon Betancourt.
Teddy Feinberg also features wide receiver Todd Lee.
Joe Santoro of the Nevada Examiner takes a look at the WAC football power rankings.
If you've found an article that you think other Aggie fans would like to read, send it to us! Select "The Daily Aggie" from the 'Category' drop-down