For weeks, the official website for New Mexico State University athletics feverishly has been promoting the Aggies’ Oct. 2 football game against No. 3 Boise State.
“See the highest ranked team ever at Aggie Memorial (Stadium),” a banner ad on the front page of the site exclaims.
As odd as it may seem for a team that has started the season on the wrong end of back-to-back blowouts, it’s clear that at least a few people at NMSU are looking past the Aggies’ game at Kansas University at 6 tonight.
Don’t count NMSU coach DeWayne Walker in that group. Walker said he could see why some might be looking ahead to the Aggies’ conference opener against the national-title contender. But he emphasized that the Aggies, as a team, have a long way to go before they start worrying about Boise State.
“We’re not good enough to overlook anybody at this stage of where we are with this program,” said Walker, in his second year in charge of the program. “We’re gonna have our hands full trying to beat Kansas this weekend.”
Defensively, the Aggies bring to the table a better product than the numbers suggest.
Through two games, NMSU has surrendered 83 points and more than 1,000 yards of total offense in losses to UTEP and San Diego State. That includes 493 yards and five touchdowns on the ground and 565 yards and six TDs through the air.
The bulk of the Aggies’ ails on defense has come from the fact that Walker’s club has given opposing quarterbacks too much time to survey the field and has yet to cause a turnover.
“That’s been a problem in our first two games,” Walker said. “Obviously you can do turnover drills. (As for) putting more pressure on the quarterback, if you can’t do it with your four (defensive linemen), you can blitz and do all that, which I’m not sure that’s the right route to go. We just gotta continue to make our guys accountable and a lot of it has to do with not panicking.”
Though disappointed by the outcome of the first two games, Walker is not about to give up on his defense, which fields six new starters from 2009.
“We’ve played two very explosive offenses,” Walker said. “Defensively, we don’t have a bad defense. I would be the first to admit if we weren’t good enough but, right now, we’re just having a hard time getting consistent. It’s either feast or famine with us on defense.”
Offensively, the NMSU attack has done very little to aid the defense’s efforts. Led by junior quarterback Matt Christian — 38-of-74 for 423 yards and two TDs — the Aggies are averaging 16 points per game and just 312 yards of total offense. Three Aggies have logged 13 carries or more, but only one (sophomore Kenny Turner) has been able to top 50 yards in the early going. Turner has carried 15 times for 62 yards, while Christian has carried 13 times for 49 yards, and senior Seth Smith has racked up 48 yards on 15 carries.
“Our guys are a little beat up,” Walker said. “And I know coach (Mike) Dunbar’s (offensive coordinator) frustrated because there’s times when the offense probably could’ve taken a little heat off the defense. He wants to do that, and he needs to do that.”
Despite their early struggles, the Aggies enter tonight’s contest with an extra dose of hope thanks to the feat that FCS foe North Dakota State was able to pull off in shocking the Jayhawks, 6-3, in the season opener on Sept. 4.
“You’re always going to look at it and say if it’s been done once, it can happen again,” Walker said. “But I just think that’s college football. In college football, somebody is gonna get upset every weekend. This would be a big win for us to try to get us jump-started and kind of get us ready for conference play.
“Anything’s possible so we’re going to try to hold on to (what North Dakota State did), and hopefully it’ll happen for us this weekend.”
This week’s meeting will be the third all-time between the Jayhawks and the Aggies. The series is tied at 1-1. KU’s lone victory came in 1991, when the Jayhawks trounced NMSU, 54-14.