It's rivalry gameday! The Aggie football team takes on UTEP tonight in the Sun Bowl as they look to move above .500 for the first time under head coach DeWayne Walker. More on the rivalry game in a minute.
The Aggie soccer team played to a 0-0 tie with Montana yesterday afternoon picking up a solid result against a very good Grizzlies squad. Mikaela Bitner was the star of the game as Montana peppered the goal with 29 shots, 12 of them on goal, Bitner coming up aces every time.
The game did not come without a bit of controversy as Montana appeared to score a game-winning goal in the second overtime period but had it waved off by the referees. This account from postgame writeup from the Montana athletic website describes the situation:
"Montana did find the back of the net in the second overtime, but the potential game-winner was waved off by referee Jim Carter. The Grizzlies took a long shot that was caught by Bitner just as a group of attackers descended upon her.
Depending on a person's perspective, Bitner either fumbled the ball to the ground on the catch, which allowed Akins to swoop in and score the loose ball, or else Bitner dropped it only after she was in possession and run into. Carter ruled the latter, and that was Montana's final opportunity."
Whether it was the correct call or not does not matter. The Aggies came away with a tie against a very good team and it's just another piece to build on as the Aggies continue to try to build some momentum heading into WAC play.
The Aggie volleyball team is back in action tonight after surviving a scare from Seattle on Thursday night. The Aggies take on the Idaho Vandals tonight. Idaho comes into the match off a commanding three set sweep over Denver on Thursday night. The win snapped a seven match losing streak for Idaho, however, each of those seven losses had come at the hands of teams with winning records including three straight over the weekend in Hawai'i where they faced #9 Hawai'i, defending national champion UCLA (ranked #3 at the time) and San Diego State (who was receiving votes in the Top 25 poll).
The Vandals are led by their own version of Meredith Hays, senior outside hitter Allison Baker (Walker). Baker is averaging 4.61 kills per set this season (Hays is averaging 4.60 kills per set). Alyssa Schultz is second on the team averaging 2.20 kills per set.
Idaho is a good blocking team averaging 2.16 blocks per set, however, the Aggies this season are the better blocking team averaging 2.47 blocks per set.
The Vandals have pushed the Aggies over course of the past three seasons and the Aggies have left Moscow with 3-1 losses in two of the past three seasons. This will be another stiff test for New Mexico State but coming off the 3-2 win over Seattle (a team who we expected them to sweep) we fully expect the Aggies to come out focused and really try to take it to Idaho.
Match time is scheduled for 8:00 p.m. (MDT) with Live Stats available via the Idaho athletic website.
Back to Aggie football and the Battle of I-10. On paper everything points to a UTEP victory. The Miners, despite coming in 0-2, appear to have a very solid defense, their offense, a bit schizophrenic in back-to-back games has had trouble finding the endzone, however, being back at home against a non-BCS team, one would think that UTEP's offense is licking it's chops to face a defense that just surrendered 51 points.
That being said, we have this feeling that we cannot explain that says that the Aggies are going to win this game. It goes against all logic but we just have this feeling that the Aggies have been playing a little rope-a-dope this week. One of the biggest things that sticks out in our minds is that generally everyone has been patting the Miners on the back for playing close (but losing) to a pair of BCS conference teams. That's great but it can also be a bit dangerous. Recall that last year everyone was patting Minnesota on the back for going to Los Angeles and playing the Trojans close. The very next week the Aggies went into Minneapolis and shocked the Gophers 28-21. Are we saying that's what is going to happen here today? Maybe yes, maybe no but it certainly wouldn't surprise us one bit.
The keys for the Aggies as always will be to establish a run game early, keep the offense balanced and keep UTEP's defense guessing. Tiger Powell may be the key to winning this game for the Aggies. We really believe that if he rushes for 80-plus yards in this game that the Aggies will win.
Second, everyone knows that Andrew Manley loves to throw the deep ball. In this game, we would expect UTEP to do everything possible to take that away from him. That means Manley will need to do a good job of checking down and using the short and intermediate routes that are available. We would expect guys like Kemonte Bateman, Trevor Walls and Jerrel Brown to make major contributions.
Defensively this is going to be as big a challenge for the defense as last week was. How do you prepare for a team that has shown two different proficiencies in two different weeks? Which Miner offense will show up? The one that ran all over the Oklahoma defense but couldn't pass the ball? Or the one that racked up nearly 300 yards passing against Ole Miss but couldn't run the ball?
The Aggies obviously need to limit their own mistakes. Keep the self-inflicted wounds to a minimum. That means not only limiting turnovers but also limiting drive-killing penalties (or penalties that keep a UTEP drive going).
Our prediction? An Aggie win, 27-23 with the Aggies scoring a late game-winning touchdown and the Aggie defense sealing the win for the Aggies late.
Tonight's game is scheduled for a 6:00 p.m. (MDT) kickoff. The game can be heard on the Aggie Sports Network as well as streaming online via Aggie Access (subscription required).
Jason Groves of the Las Cruces Sun-News features wide receiver Austin Franklin.
Teddy Feinberg of the Las Cruces Sun-News predicts the game.
Bret Bloomquist of the El Paso Times previews today's game.
Bret Bloomquist talks about the Miner kicking duties.
The Montana athletic website recaps the tie.
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