Month: August 2014

Aggies are victorious in season opener

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.

Aggie up!

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Quarterback competition (fall edition), plus more updates

So it’s more or less official: the NMSU Aggies will start sophomore Tyler Rogers under center in the August 28th opener against the Cal Poly Mustangs. Rogers continues to impress head coach Doug Martin and offensive coordinator Gregg Brandon with his running ability, his accuracy, and his decision-making. Rogers is a competitor who loves playing the game, and he’s responded well to the ongoing competition in fall camp. “The thing (Rogers) does that I love is that he extends plays and can get out of trouble. That makes your offensive linemen better and receivers better,” said Martin.

Right behind Rogers are a pair of freshmen, Andrew Allen and Nick Jeanty. It’s been really cool to see both of these kids compete. Allen, from Texas City, Texas, runs a 4.5 (slightly faster than Rogers or Jeanty) in the 40 and has really showed steady improvement since he got on campus in July. His high school stats weren’t jaw-dropping and he could stand to be a bit more accurate with his throws, but NMSU really seems to have found an ideal athlete for the position. 

Jeanty, meanwhile, was NMSU’s top-rated recruit. Hailing from Miramar, Florida, Jeanty threw no interceptions in 152 attempts as a senior in high school. That alone is impressive, but Jeanty has really played at a high level since he got to Las Cruces. He hasn’t overtaken Allen just yet for the No. 2 job, but he’s got a really bright future.

The other freshman QBs are very much unknowns in the competition. Nate Grimm (Cedar Park, Texas) was moved to defense soon after he arrived and showed some promise on that side of the ball, but this past weekend asked for his release and intends to transfer from NMSU.

Jalen Jones, who came all the way from Maryland, is a freak of an athlete (4.46 in the 40) but is still very raw as a passer. Same with Cassius Corley, an in-state product from Grants, New Mexico. Both are blessed with good bloodlines — Jones’s dad was a linebacker for NC State in the early 90s, while Corley’s dad played running back for BYU from 1986-1989. Both kids have the intangible skills and the athletic ability to contribute anywhere on the field, but it remains to be seen if they will be redshirted at QB for the future. As of press time, Coach Martin said he is still undecided as to which signal-callers will be redshirted this fall. 

The early schedule presents a lot of opportunities for the Aggies. As I said before, Cal Poly, an FCS team, comes to town for the season opener. They run a LOT in their triple-option offense, so the Aggies’ young D will be tested. Still, NMSU boasts much more size, especially on the offensive and defensive lines, so the Mustangs might be outmuscled in the trenches. 

“They’re a bend-but-don’t-break defense. They’re not going to play man defense. They play zone and try to keep everything in front of them. They’re very basic, but they have good athletes,” Coach Martin said. 

  • After Cal Poly comes to Aggie Memorial on August 28th, the team hits the road for Georgia State in the first Sun Belt game of the season. The Panthers are in their second year in the Sun Belt, and they have been awful recently, going winless last year. In fact, they haven’t won a game since October 13, 2012 (a 41-7 decision over Rhode Island when the team was still in the lower-level FCS). That’s a 1-22 record in two years, so on paper at least, the Aggies have a chance in Atlanta.
  • After coming back from the East Coast, the Aggies head to El Paso to take on the hated UTEP Miners. The Aggies haven’t beaten the Miners since 2008, but let’s not forget that UTEP finished 2-10 last season, just like we did. It makes sense, therefore, that this could be a toss-up game. The Miners are also in their second season under their head coach, former NFL assistant coach Sean Kugler.
  • In week four, the New Mexico Lobos, our biggest rivals, come to Las Cruces. After a 66-17 shellacking in Albuquerque last season, the Aggies are determined to win back the Rio Grande Rivalry. The Aggies’ run defense looks significantly better than last season, but this is a game in which they must simply slow down the Lobos’ fast-paced pistol offense. If NMSU can simply outscore UNM, there’s a chance they could win; after all, rivalry games are always unpredictable.

The combined 2013 records of all four teams — Cal Poly, Georgia State, UTEP and UNM — is a mere 11-37. Therefore, there’s hope that the Aggies could get off to a fast start in year two of the Martin era. 

Texas in July (2012)

Texas in July was started by a group of high schoolers in Ephrata, Pennsylvania in 2007 and soon became an established local metalcore act affiliated with Lancaster-based label CI Records. Their debut album I Am was released in September 2009 and attracted the attention of Equal Vision Records. In 2011, they released One Reality under the Equal Vision label and began touring with well-known metal bands like Miss May I, We Came as Romans, This or the Apocalypse, For Today, and The Word Alive.

In 2012, TIJ got back into the studio and began work on their third album. This self-titled effort explored new territory and really pushed the limits of the band, while still maintaining the signature sound that made I Am and One Reality so dynamic. After a nicely-done instrumental intro, the album explodes right out of the gate with “Cry Wolf,” a song that almost sounds like TIJ’s fellow Pennsylvania metal act, August Burns Red. “Shallow Point” and “Without a Head” fade into each other nicely; you can view them as the same song, just in two parts. The album’s best song, “Bed of Nails,” is up next, and it is an expertly crafted piece that really combines hardcore brutality with some outstanding lyrics.

After this, the album gets slightly experimental, but in a good way. TIJ has become famous for their melodic interludes, and they hit a home run with “Repressed Memories” before contrasting it with the explosive, mosh-friendly “C4,” which features guest vocals from Dave Stephens (We Came as Romans). Tracks eight and nine are more of the traditional TIJ that we’ve come to know and love, while “Black Magic” might feature one of the band’s best breakdowns ever. The album closes with a more experimental song (“Cloudy Minds”) that brings in another guest artist, drummer Matt Greiner of August Burns Red.

TIJ has been busy, there’s no doubt about that. They’ve really managed to define themselves as a specific type of metal, but they’ve also haven’t been scared to explore new directions and avenues as they grow as a band. This album finds the band members messing around with drum solos, different types of distortion, and other methods of musical evolution. They’ve clearly wanted to stay relevant in the ever-changing metalcore landscape, so they’ve adapted and managed to add new fans along the way. Good for them, and I know they’ll continue to keep going and develop bigger and better things.

Texas-In-July-ST

Texas in July:

Alex Good — vocals

Chris Davis — guitar

Christian Royer — lead guitar

Ben Witkowski — bass

Adam Gray — drums

 

Track listing:

  1. Initiate (0:56)
  2. Cry Wolf (3:19)
  3. Shallow Point (2:38)
  4. Without a Head (3:54)
  5. Bed of Nails (2:59)
  6. Repressed Memories (3:37)
  7. C4 (3:43)
  8. Crux Lust (3:24)
  9. Paranoia (3:05)
  10. Black Magic (2:58)
  11. Cloudy Minds (3:10)

 

Aggies gear up for season opener

If you know me (and if you’ve followed my blog for awhile), you know that I love football season. And it’s less than two weeks away for us here in Las Cruces, as the Aggies open up the 2014 season at home on Thursday, August 28th against FCS program Cal Poly. It’ll be the first game on the new synthetic turf at Aggie Memorial Stadium.

It’s hard to predict how good the Cal Poly Mustangs are. They were a .500 team last season and run a variation of a triple-option offense, and they play at the FCS level in the Big Sky Conference, against the likes of Weber State, Montana, Montana State, and Northern Arizona. Their head coach, Tim Walsh, is entering his sixth season.

The Mustangs were hit with bad news earlier this week, when five players were arrested for allegedly robbing a frat house at gunpoint. Several of the players were valuable members of the team, including a 1,000 yard rusher. All five have been suspended until further notice, and the athletic administration is taking the charges seriously.

As a lower division program, Cal Poly is considered the underdog here. Looking at their roster, there’s some talented athletes, but very little depth or size. They might get outmuscled by us at the very least, especially in the trenches.

 

Now, back to the Aggies. All signs point to sophomore quarterback Tyler Rogers taking the first snap of the Cal Poly game. His backups, Andrew Allen and Nick Jeanty, are both freshmen who have stepped up in fall camp, but they aren’t yet good enough to move past Rogers.

Going into fall camp, the Aggies knew what they had at receiver and on the offensive line (the two biggest strengths for this year’s squad), but they were pleased with what they found at running back as well. Let’s take a look at who NMSU has in the backfield.

Senior Brandon Betancourt is the most experienced back. He was enjoying a solid 2013 season before tearing a ligament in his foot in a victory over Abilene Christian last October. Betancourt was held out of spring practice, but came back over the summer stronger than ever. He’ll look to pick up where he left off in 2013.

In the spring, Xavier Hall was the most consistent performer. The pint-sized sophomore (5’8″, 185) came on strong at the end of last season after Betancourt went down, and he’ll try to continue the good work.

Two younger kids drew rave reviews in fall practice — true freshman Larry Rose III and redshirt freshman Marquette Washington. Washington is more of an all-around power back, while Rose is a pure speed demon. Look for both to find their way onto the field sooner rather than later.

 

Now to the defense, which looks completely new and more fundamentally sound under venerable coordinator Larry Coyer. The Aggies will be very young throughout the unit, with several freshmen and redshirt freshmen expected to play key roles or even start. Sophomore middle linebacker Rodney Butler continues to be the vocal leader, and Coach Doug Martin said he’s been impressed with linebacker Derek Ibekwe and fellow freshman Dalton Herrington, who recently moved from safety to outside ‘backer. Veterans Clint Barnard and Jay Eakins provide leadership on the line, which looks to improve on last year’s meager sack total, but lacks depth.

Travaughn Colwell (safety) and Winston Rose (cornerback) are the only seniors in the secondary, which still needs to show consistency. Several freshmen could play immediately, including Jacob Nwangwa, who shot up the depth chart in fall camp and emerged as the starter at free safety. 

Overall, I like where the defense is headed. We’re clearly much more athletic and much faster than we were in 2013. Logically speaking, we should improve against the run simply because we’re playing a much less demanding schedule in 2014. Time will tell, I guess, and the inexperience is a glaring weakness, but we’re playing a lot better than we were at this time last year.

The punting position is completely up for grabs right now. Cayle Chapman-Brown, who was one of the better NMSU punters that we’ve had in the past decade, is gone, and his replacement was dismissed from the team. Numerous walk-ons and a few players who’ve been moved from other positions are competing for the job. There are no such worries at placekicker, where senior Maxwell Johnson is one of the most consistent performers on the team.

A sad day

Everyone has their inner demons.

As we’ve all heard by now, legendary actor Robin Williams, age 63, was found dead in his suburban San Francisco home this past Monday by means of suicide. Williams had been suffering from depression that had stemmed from lifelong substance abuse issues.

Born in Chicago but raised in the suburbs of Detroit, Williams first got his big break in the late 1970s when he played a quirky alien in TV’s Mork and Mindy, sparking a longtime comedy career. As hilarious and insightful as Mr. Williams’ humor was, he took on many ambitious dramatic roles as well, including, most notably, his Oscar-winning role in Good Will Hunting (1997) alongside Matt Damon. In addition to his considerable on-screen success, Williams also had a well-regarded career as a stand-up comic. Many of Williams’s film roles borrowed from stand-up techniques, especially his love for improvisation.

I’ll always remember Williams for his goofiness and his love for performing. Many of his friends, including fellow comedians Steve Martin and Henry Winkler, have spoken about his love for his work, his genuine spirit, and his desire to make others happy. By all accounts, Williams didn’t just film movies and go home. He loved his family and was heavily involved in charity work. His neighbors in California fondly remember him being a friendly guy who loved making the local kids laugh. Frankly, Williams was always kind of a kid at heart; he always loved playing video games and riding his bike.

Williams made so many people laugh, including myself — so it’s deeply ironic that he became so depressed and kept going in and out of rehab for drug and alcohol abuse. I feel very sad for his loved ones, too, because I’m sure his wife, three kids, and two step-children had all tried to help him get out of this rut. I’m sure they feel terrible, and my heart goes out to them. Apparently, Williams struggled with both clinical depression and bipolar disorder, both of which are unpredictable conditions.

Robin Williams is gone, and it’s still hard to believe. The impact he left on film and TV is unforgettable, and he also left a legacy due to his big heart and desire to make others chuckle. I wish there was a happier end to this story, and I hope Williams’s death helps expose the realities of depression and suicide. As I said before, we all have inner demons that we’re battling. Some are big, and some are small, but all are significant. Many of us struggle with mental conditions like depression or bipolar, and many don’t. Regardless, let’s spread genuine love and positivity everywhere we go.

It’s not rocket science, you know? Pay your girlfriend or boyfriend a compliment. Call a relative that you haven’t spoken to in awhile. Be a listening ear to a friend who needs your help. Be a light and an encouragement to others, and remember that we may never know what we’re going through unless we talk and are honest with each other. Williams’s passing is a tragic reminder of the harsh realities of life and how even hugely successful people can suffer from depression and loneliness.

They say that laughter is the best medicine. In that case, Robin Williams helped a lot of people get healthy again.

The Sun City’s music icons, part 2

marsvolta1

 

In 2001, vocalist Cedric Bixler-Zavala, age 27, and guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, 26, were at the crossroads. They had tasted brief, but substantial, success in their hard-charging, aggressive rock band At the Drive-In, but they also wanted to branch out and develop their considerable talents in a different, more progressive style of rock. Heavily inspired by space rock and math rock, Cedric and Omar began experimenting with their sounds and lyrics, soon developing the framework for a new band called The Mars Volta.

The Mars Volta (TMV) basically started from scratch. After At the Drive-In (ATDI) broke up on the verge of breakthrough and shocked fans around the world, Cedric and Omar found themselves starting from the ground up, playing in tiny venues in big cities and attempting to find their groove in a new genre of rock.

The reason behind ATDI’s breakup was partly due to boredom, partly due to artistic differences. Cedric and Omar were growing weary of commercial success and the mainstream recording industry. They wanted to be truly experimental and show off their talents in different ways, while the other three band members desired to keep the status quo. This led to the immediate breakup, for which Cedric eventually took the blame.

Both Omar and Cedric were dealing with serious drug addictions. In order to spark creativity as artists and musicians, they would both hang out at each others’ apartments with friends and shoot up heroin. In between the chaotic live shows that they would perform in front of thousands of confused ATDI fans, Cedric and Omar would relax and get high with the other band members, especially the sound manipulator, Jeremy Ward. (Jeremy was an old friend from El Paso, Texas, the band’s hometown.)

Cedric and Omar weren’t exactly laid-back about what they wanted to do musically. On the contrary, they embraced an eclectic mix of genres — space rock, math rock, and post-rock — and combined it with a strong base in Latin American music. But they came out of ATDI with a suspicious and somewhat cynical attitude towards the recording industry. The Mars Volta wanted to be a band that retained artistic control and refused to be diluted by what they viewed as cheap commercialism. And that’s exactly what happened. But at the end of the day, Omar admitted that “we expected the band, from the beginning, to fail.”

After releasing a three-track EP called Tremulant, TMV began working with legendary music producer Rick Rubin, who worked on the band’s debut album De-Loused in the Comatorium. It was an ambitious concept album focused on a drug-addicted artist who slips into a coma and begins battling the dark side of his sub-conscience. Rubin, who had worked with music icons AC/DC, Metallica, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers previously, helped immensely towards the album’s final sound.

On October 25, 2003, in an ironic and eerie turn of events (considering the album’s subject matter), founding band member Jeremy Ward was found dead of a heroin overdose in his apartment. He was 27 years old. The band was on the road at the time and canceled the second half of the tour immediately. Ward’s death drastically affected Omar and Cedric, who began to quit heroin and cocaine cold-turkey.The_Mars_Volta_live_2005

After this much-needed wakeup call, Omar, Cedric, and the rest of the band began to develop impressive work ethics and soon got back into the studio the record their sophomore album Frances the Mute. Fittingly, the CD was inspired by Jeremy Ward. Ward, who briefly worked as a repo man, once found a diary in the back of an old car. Ward skimmed through the pages and discovered remarkable similarities between the author (who was on a mission to find his birth parents) and himself. He kept the diary, and it eventually served as the plot to Frances the Mute.

 

Since the exceptional success of De-Loused and Frances, TMV has continued to break down genre barriers and provide unique, yet polarizing sounds to listeners worldwide. The band broke up in 2012 to focus on other projects, but their influence on the progressive rock scene is undeniable.

Not bad for a couple of self-proclaimed “f**k ups” from the deserts of El Paso.

 

 

 

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