Last night, the NMSU Aggies made a heck of an impression in their season opener, defeating FCS member Cal Poly by a score of 28-10, inside Aggie Memorial Stadium. With the new field turf proudly on display, the Aggies held the Mustangs scoreless in the second half, while scoring 14 points of their own in that period.
The Aggies outgained Cal Poly 339-259, effectively shutting down the Mustangs’ triple-option offense in the second half. Cal Poly managed only 23 yards of rushing in the entire second half, while the Aggies matched them at their own game by doing ground-and-pound, smash-mouth football.
Taking center stage at running back was true freshman Larry Rose III, who rushed for 147 yards and a touchdown. He also caught a TD pass from sophomore QB Tyler Rogers. Rogers had a nice game of his own, finishing 18-for-27 with two touchdown passes and one interception. Rose made a few rookie mistakes, but this kid has elite speed and is going to be a very special player for us.
Running backs Brandon Betancourt and Xavier Hall combined for 75 yards and touchdown while playing behind Rose. Sophomore Teldrick Morgan led the Aggie receivers with six catches for 47 yards and a touchdown.
The defense looks like a much better unit after posting gruesome numbers in 2013. The influence of venerable coordinator Larry Coyer has certainly helped, and he’s not afraid to play freshmen ahead of veterans. Several of those young kids made a big impression, including linebacker Derek Ibekwe (14 tackles), sophomore middle ‘backer Rodney Butler (11 tackles, one tackle for loss), and safety Kawe Johnson (six tackles, including a BIG tackle for loss on third down). Winston Rose, a senior cornerback, made a key interception in the first half that gave the defense a shot in the arm. It’s really awesome to see these guys competing, tackling well, and swarming to the football. They’ve clearly taken well to Coyer’s philosophies, and it’s a welcome development.
Coach Martin said in the post-game press conference that he was “thrilled” with the way the defense played, noting that we couldn’t have stopped an option offense last year. This gives everyone hope that we can beat UNM in two weeks, because they run the same offense.
The hated Lobos head to Las Cruces for the next home game, September 20th. But before that, the Aggies visit Atlanta to take on Sun Belt foe Georgia State in the first conference game of the season. After that, UTEP (another hated rival) hosts us in the Battle of I-10. All three games are very winnable for NMSU…the players just have to continue to be hungry and competitive.