Month: May 2013

Update on NMSU’s quarterback race

This past Wednesday, Coach Doug Martin announced that he’s granted quarterback Andrew Manley a release from his scholarship. Manley started all of last season for the Aggies, but fell behind in the QB competition this spring in a new offensive system under Martin and OC Gregg Brandon.

“I had a great time here in Cruces and I have nothing but positive things to say,” Manley said on Wednesday. “It was great working with the coaching staff, it just didn’t work out. I’m just looking to go somewhere I can play.”

Manley is also going back to his home state of Hawaii due to a desire to be with his family. He has a brother who’s been battling health issues, as well as a son and fiancee back in Oahu.

Entering his junior year of eligibility, Manley would have two more years to play wherever he ends up. But considering his current family situation, he could apply for an NCAA hardship waiver that would allow him to start immediately. If that is not granted, Manley would have to sit out a year before playing for another FBS program. He said he needs time to think about what his next move will be before finding the right fit for his playing career.

With Manley gone, Andrew McDonald and Travaughn Colwell move to center stage in the ongoing quarterback competition at NMSU. Both enjoyed solid springs, but neither has been named as the opening day starter against Texas. We’ll see how that goes heading into fall camp.

Honestly, Manley is making the right decision. He did all he could to keep his job in Brandon’s new offense, but ultimately he wasn’t a great fit. A strong-armed passer with limited mobility, he could fit in well in a lot of offenses, just not in Las Cruces. Best wishes to him, wherever he ends up.

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My thoughts on Pope Francis

It’s been almost two months since the Habemus Papam (we have a pope) phrase was uttered from St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, and Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina became Pope Francis I.

Formerly the Archbishop and Cardinal of Buenos Aires, Francis is a member of the Society of Jesus – AKA the Jesuits. There has never been a Jesuit pope in the 1,000-plus year history of the Catholic Church, largely due to the fact that Jesuits are normally discouraged from seeking higher office in the church. Instead, the Vatican sends Jesuits to some of the poorest, most destitute places in the world in order to share the light and hope that is found in Christ. The group was also instrumental in helping bring reform to the Church through Vatican II.

The Jesuits are also well known for their rich intellectual history; they were founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola in 1534. Ignatius was a discharged soldier and a university student in Paris who gathered a group of fellow students and formed the Society of Jesus. To this day, many Jesuit colleges and universities still exist worldwide. In America, the most notable ones are Georgetown, Marquette, Gonzaga, and Boston College.

So what are my thoughts on Francis? First off, I love the guy’s passion for the poor. Both in Argentina and as the Bishop of Rome, Francis has shown genuine compassion and a healthy desire to help the “least of these.” He chooses to live in the Vatican guest house rather than the official papal residency. He’s shown the heart of a servant throughout his tenure as archbishop, cardinal, and now pope. Francis even caused controversy when he washed the feet of two Muslim women while visiting a prison during Holy Week. That shouldn’t cause controversy. On the contrary, I applaud Francis’s desire to build bridges among believers and non-believers alike.

Francis has also shown sincere desire to bring the Church out of the sex abuse scandals that marked the tenure of his predecessor, Benedict XVI. Francis’s supporters are positive about what he will do to repair the image of the priesthood.

I saw an article on CNN recently (even though I don’t normally bother reading stuff from them), and it summed up the first month of Francis’s papacy well. It also compared him favorably to his predecessors:

“In contrast with John Paul and Benedict, Francis doesn’t seem capable of greeting anyone without a big, sincere smile and whenever given the choice between clerical privilege and everyday human experience, he opts for the human.” 

That’s what I love about Francis – he’s a genuine, warm-hearted, God-fearing man. He has a heart for the poor and to love them as Jesus did. He mingled with the faithful in St. Peter’s Square after he was elected, rather than standing up on a pedestal.

Jack Persico, a blogger for the British paper The Guardian, is a staunch atheist. However, he had nothing but positive things to say about Pope Francis:

“This pope is a rebel with a cause: to alleviate the suffering of the other 1%, those at the lowest rung of society. It’s a mission somehow radical and conservative at the same time…With a reformist pope, things are changing and already, the humbuggery about “family values” has given way to a real issue. Francis is focusing on poverty, which, like death and taxes, is a scourge that will always be with us. But when more people worldwide have cell phones than toilets – leaving 2.5 billion people without sanitation – it’s a sign we’ve lost our moral compass…..I want a pope who gets things done, when no one else can, for people no one else helps. I want Pope Batman. ‘Let us never forget that authentic power is service,’ Francis said in his inaugural mass, urging action for ‘the poorest, the weakest, the least important’.

How refreshing. Too often, religious devotion is measured by obedience to doctrine, when it should be about outcomes.”

 

I see great things in store for the world as long as Francis is pontiff. He is truly a unifier, a crusader for the poor, and most importantly, a man who can point others to Jesus. Bless him and his mission of faith, hope, and love!

Aggies finish off with an exciting spring game

It was a back-and-forth battle between offense and defense, as the White team (offense) defeated the Crimson team (defense) by a score of 68-65 in the annual NMSU football spring game. Kicker Maxwell Johnson booted a 47-yard field goal with five seconds remaining to give the White team the victory.

A new twist to this year’s spring game was the scoring system, which allowed fans like me to get a feel for how capable both sides of the ball are heading into the fall. The offense could score in the usual format (six for touchdown, three for field goal, one for PAT, two for a two-point conversion) but with an added wrinkle – one point for a fourth-down conversion, one point for a run of 12+ yards, and one point for a pass of 18+ yards.

The defense could score six points for a turnover, three for a three-and-out, two for a sack, a forced punt, failed two-point conversion, or a fourth-down stop, and one point for a tackle for loss.

Overall, I’d say that NMSU looks very balanced on offense heading into the fall. Coordinator Gregg Brandon’s up-tempo scheme is working well for all three of our quarterbacks (Andrew Manley, Andrew McDonald, and Travaughn Colwell), all of whom split playing time throughout the night. Junior Brandon Betancourt led all rushers with 85 yards on 15 carries; senior Germi Morrison finished with 73 yards on eight rushes. The offensive line showed some moxie as well, despite allowing some sacks late in the day.

For the quarterbacks, there’s still not a definitive answer on who will be the opening day starter against Texas. Manley led the charge with 198 passing yards, one touchdown and one pick on 14-for-24 passing. McDonald threw 11-for-17 for 160 yards and a touchdown. Colwell, meanwhile, completed 19-of-28 through the air for 161 yards; he also led all quarterbacks with 95 yards rushing, including a 48-yard scamper for a touchdown early in the second half.

With star receiver Austin Franklin currently out due to academic issues, other targets were able to shine, including juniors Adam Shapiro and Joseph Matthews, as well as sophomore Joshua Bowen, who led all receivers with 126 yards on nine catches. Junior college transfer Jordan Bergstrom caught an 11-yard touchdown pass as well as a few other key grabs. If anything, the depth at receiver bodes well entering the fall, with a number of returnees as well as four additional high school recruits. As an added note, Franklin is not academically ineligible; rather, Coach Martin wants to motivate all of his players to boost their collective GPAs.

The defense showed tenacity and big-play capability throughout the day, with the defensive line and secondary looking especially good. The D-line got a grand total of eight sacks, and the run defense looked much improved. Senior Bryan Bonilla led all defenders with 11 tackles, including two for loss. Senior Josh Smith had 10 tackles, as well as a sack. Cornerback Kedeem Thomas-Davis grabbed an interception in the first half.

Despite a tough 2013 schedule looming, I’m legitimately excited about a number of things entering the fall. I think the defensive pass rush has greatly improved, and we’ve got an experienced secondary and better depth at linebacker.

On offense, we’ve got improved depth and skill at running back, a number of talented receivers, and a decent group of big bodies in the trenches. I feel confident about Coach Brandon’s offensive direction for our team; his spread offense has been well-received by the players he and Coach Martin inherited, and it seems like everyone’s bought into the different schemes. We’ve also been fortunate to mostly avoid the injury bug entering the fall – we’ll definitely need everyone healthy in order to face teams like Minnesota, UCLA, and Texas.

In short, it was an enjoyable experience that gives me hope for Aggie football entering the 2013 season. I hope that the other fans in attendance feel the same way and that we’ll be willing to buy into the new direction that NMSU football is going. Good luck to all the players and coaches this fall!