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)