New Mexico State vs. Utah State: Game Preview
The Aggies aim to send a message in the home opener against New Mexico State.
Utah State prepares to banish NMSU back into the football abyss.
WEEK 2: New Mexico State Aggies (0-2) vs. Utah State Aggies (0-1)
WHEN: Saturday, September 8 — 8 p.m. ET/6 p.m. MT
WHERE: Maverik Stadium; Logan, Utah (25,100)
STREAMING: The game can be found on Facebook/Watch Stadium and will be embedded below on game day.
RADIO: The Utah State broadcast can be found on the Aggies Sports Network, so check your local listings. It can also be found online at 1280thezone.com and through the TuneIn app.
SERIES RECORD: Utah State leads the all-time series 30-8. These to played last year with New Mexico State defeating Utah State in the 2017 Arizona Bowl, 26-20.
It’s totally not a revenge game. It’s not! It isn’t.
That late-game magic which carried New Mexico State to a bowl win last year has been swiftly replaced by the black hole of talentless ineptitude known to fans in Las Cruces as “the last 57 years.” You think I’m being overly harsh? Try watching Minnesota’s Antoine Winfield Jr. bounce off of at least a half-dozen defenders last week, on the slowest-developing 76-yard punt return touchdown in college football history, without feeling like the Aggie coverage unit was, in fact, attempting to tackle in zero gravity.
Look, it’s okay to have a soft spot for NMSU. They’re Aggie bros. They had a special season last year, and all the major players from that Arizona Bowl team are gone now, anyway. But that won’t stop Utah State from driving a planet-sized stake through their collective heart like a freaking fire demon in New Mexico State’s own personal Ragnarok.
Coach Doug Martin is rebuilding. The Aggies are fresh off of a 48-10 loss last week against Minnesota, finding the end zone just once after QB Zack Annexstad fumbled a snap in the shadow of his own goalposts. JuCo transfer Matt Romero hasn’t been able to find a groove just yet, which is generally what happens when 15 of your 58 passes are dropped by receivers who can’t catch.
Also, he’s throwing 58 passes against Minnesota in part because the game script demands it but also because ball-carriers for NMSU aren’t seeing much success — 29 total yards rushing through two games is less than optimal. Junior RB Jason Huntley has 13 carries this season for 28 yards (2.2 ypc).
Saturday night will be an interesting matchup between Romero and the erratic Utah State secondary, which looked awesome in spurts last week at Michigan State but also tripped over itself more than a few times. Romero is a decent passer and he isn’t prone to many unforced errors, but a nonexistent ground game and spotty OL do him zero favors.
And then there’s the Aggie D, a group experiencing even more trouble with the ground game than its derelict offensive counterpart. New Mexico State allowed 312 yards and 3 touchdowns on the ground against Wyoming, then gave up 295 yards and another 3 TDs on the ground to Minnesota. All told, this unit has surrendered 77 points and 971 yards of total offense through just two games.
Senior LB Terrill Hanks is a player to keep an eye on, having already tallied 20 tackles this season and — as noted by USU head coach Matt Wells earlier this week — is on several NFL scouts’ radar.
Utah State Offense
It’s easy to forget that QB Jordan Love has actually only started two games at Maverik Stadium. One was against Boise in a game Aggie fans would admittedly rather forget, though Love played well with 168 yards and a touchdown. The other was a throttling of poor Hawaii, where Love threw for 110 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT.
It’s time he and the USU faithful got better acquainted.
In this revamped Aggie offense, Love has the chemistry and the confidence (and the more aggressive upfield playcalling!) to dominate. Keeping Michigan State’s defense off-balance with an uptempo pace and well-executed RPOs indicates a big night for everyone in this offense. Dax Raymond will feast. Ron’quavion Tarver remind everyone why he led this Aggie team in TD receptions last year. Jordan Nathan and Jalen Greene won’t be denied.
…And that’s without factoring the Aggies’ new destructive force of nature Darwin Thompson. Saturday night marks an opportunity for Thompson — a former JuCo guy who might be more amped to play for a packed home crowd than anyone — to soak up a rabid student section’s collective energy and redirect it at NMSU’s front seven in the form of a hyper-concentrated death-beam.
Eltoro Allen and Gerold Bright should also see some action and rightfully so, but with two touchdowns already to his name this season it’s hard not to see Thompson as the go-to guy in goal-to-go situations.
Utah State Defense
It takes more time to read this sentence than for Tipa Galeai to ruin Matt Romero’s whole weekend.
Of course, Tipa’s two sacks aren’t the only takeaway from last week’s defensive showing. Jontrell Rocquemore will keep opposing OLs on their toes (he had a sack too, after all) and David Woodward has already displayed an impressive ability to just be everywhere, punctuated by a team-best 16 total tackles. Oh, also Gaje Ferguson is pretty good.
The real test Saturday will be a mental one — the difference between good teams and great ones is often the ability to perform under the immense weight of expectation. Last week those expectations were relatively low. Not so this Saturday — for the players, this isn’t a revenge game so much as it is a true test of consistency. If the 2018 Utah State Aggies truly believe they’re a great team they need to play like it against an inferior opponent.
Jordan Love will throw for two touchdowns (one each to Raymond and Tarver) and run in a third. Darwin Thompson will rush for 110 yards and a TD. Dominik Eberle will do his thing. Tipa will record another sack. Aggies all the way.
USU 100, NMSU 0