Despite an 0-6 start and entirely too many turnovers, the New Mexico State Aggies are sticking with starting quarterback Josh Adkins.
That’s not an option for Saturday’s opponent in Mount Pleasant, Michigan, Central Michigan.
David Moore, who started the last four games for the Chippewas (3-3), was suspended by the NCAA this week after testing positive for a banned substance. Central Michigan is appealing the suspension but Moore is ineligible to play while the appeals process plays out.
That means CMU goes back to senior QB Quinten Dormady, who suffered a knee injury in Week 2 but has since returned to practice. How much the change will impact the Chippewas remains to be seen, as NMSU expects to get a heavy dose of CMU’s ground attack.
“I feel like they really want to run the ball,” Aggies linebacker Javahn Fergurson said. “They have two good running backs and an O-line that I feel is the best part of their team. But I love that challenge. If they try to just come downhill at us and we can stop it, we can have a good day.”
New Mexico State (0-6) has shown improvement on defense in its last two games, effectively shutting down Fresno State and Liberty for most of those contests. It hasn’t been enough to overcome a turnover-plagued NMSU offense, however, leading to questions about a potential change at quarterback.
Aggies coach Doug Martin says it’s not going to happen.
“Josh is our quarterback,” Martin said. “He’s confident, he’s prepared and no one works harder. Josh is doing a lot of good things, too, but mistakes are holding him back. Some of his have happened when we’re going in to score, so those things get magnified.”
New Mexico State’s passing numbers seem to back Martin’s assessment. On the plus side, Adkins is completing 62% of his passes and ranks sixth nationally at 24.8 completions per game. On the down side, the sophomore has thrown all of NMSU’s FBS-worst 11 interceptions, with several of them coming in game-changing situations.
In the Aggies’ last two games, Fresno State victimized Adkins with an 88-yard pick-six, and Liberty picked off a short pass in the end zone and returned it 72 yards to set up a field goal. Adkins also lost a fumble inside Liberty’s 10 in the Flames’ 20-13 victory.
Not all of Adkins’ turnovers have been his fault. Deflected passes and stumbling receivers have boosted his interception total, but he’s also made some decisions that left Martin shaking his head.
Martin said he watched video of last week’s Liberty game with Adkins on Sunday and critiqued the quarterback’s performance. The coach said Adkins remains confident in his ability to turn things around.
“Josh is really intelligent and he’s still a young player,” Martin said. “He’s just got to fight through this. We’ve also got to play better around him. Our receivers have to step up and make plays, and people have to remember Josh is playing behind a beat-up offensive line. Those guys are fighting as hard as they can, but it’s not an ideal situation.”
Things don’t figure to get much easier against a Central Michigan defense that’s averaging three sacks and five tackles for loss per game. New Mexico State’s offense is averaging just 18.2 points per game and has exceeded 17 points just once.
Still, Martin pointed out that New Mexico State’s brutal first-half schedule is at least as big a factor as uneven quarterback play.
“Head coaches and quarterbacks always get too much credit when you win and too much blame when you lose,” Martin said. “That’s just the position, and Josh understands that. He’s working really hard to turn things around and he will.”
NMSU at Cent. Michigan, 1 p.m.
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