A rare stormy week in Las Cruces washed some of the fun out of New Mexico State’s home football opener.
The Aggies are hoping for fairer skies Saturday in Albuquerque.
Coach Doug Martin was beyond frustrated after NMSU’s 31-10 loss to San Diego State last weekend and his mood had improved only marginally at Tuesday’s weekly media conference. Bad weather, Martin said, was part of the problem.
New Mexico State’s practice was cut short last Tuesday because of lightning strikes near campus. The Aggies’ field was subsequently flooded, preventing the team from conducting a typical Wednesday workout.
“That set us back,” Martin said. “We don’t have an indoor practice facility so our on-field time was cut short and our performance suffered. We didn’t practice well or prepare well last week. We’ve got to learn to be more consistent in the way we prepare for a football game.”
Senior defensive end Cedric Wilcots II agreed.
“We didn’t check all the boxes last week and had a sloppy performance,” Wilcots said. “We’re all responsible, bottom to top.”
Martin’s ire was not entirely weather- or practice-related. The Aggies have been plagued by turnovers and shaky offensive line play on their way to an 0-3 start.
The turnover issue is glaring. NMSU has 10 giveaways and just one takeaway through three games and is tied with Hawaii for the national lead in turnovers.
“The difference is Hawaii scores 32 points a game,” Martin said. “We score nine. Turnovers are killers. If we only had one turnover last week instead of four we win the game. Instead we complete a pass and lose a fumble on the very first play.”
Martin is confident that his team can address its ball-security issues, but fixing a leaky offensive line is more problematic. Season-ending injuries to three offensive tackles, including senior starter Sage Doxtater, have left NMSU with few options.
The Aggies surrendered six sacks and were flagged numerous times for holding against San Diego State. Martin said it comes down to available linemen playing better.
“We don’t have options on the offensive line,” he said. “The guys we have healthy are playing.”
Nor is Martin inclined to adjust his play-calling to take pressure off pass blockers.
“We have to stay aggressive with our play-calling,” he said, “and believe those guys up front can get it done.”
It’s something of a daunting prospect going into this week’s rivalry game at New Mexico. The Lobos were blown out 66-14 by then-No. 7 Notre Dame on Saturday, but Martin was impressed by what he saw from UNM’s defensive front, especially early in the game.
“New Mexico stuffed Notre Dame for most of the first half,” Martin said. “Notre Dame couldn’t knock their defensive front off the ball and they couldn’t convert third downs. That’s an impressive group.”
Still, senior wideout Tony Nicholson remains confident that NMSU’s offense can produce.
“We’ve got to go back to practicing hard, execute and be more consistent,” Nicholson said. “We need to score points and we’ve been stopping ourselves, but I’m real confident in our squad. If we take care of our jobs, we’ll be okay.”
INJURY UPDATE: The Aggies lost junior wideout Drew Dan for the season with a broken wrist suffered against SDSU, Martin said. Freshman linebacker Ja’Marvin Hartfield is doubtful for this week’s game with an ankle injury.
Senior defensive lineman Roy Lopez is not expected to play because of swelling in his lower leg. Lopez was injured in NMSU’s opener at Washington State and has not played since.