The 2021 Mountain West tour has not been particularly enjoyable thus far for the New Mexico State University football team.
Nonetheless, the tour continues Saturday night.
NMSU (1-5) travels to Reno to take on Nevada (3-1), the Aggies’ fifth MWC foe in seven games this season. They’re winless in the first four tries and the Wolf Pack may be the most balanced squad NMSU has faced to date.
“Nevada is an extraordinary defensive team,” Aggies coach Doug Martin said during this week’s media conference, “and their quarterback (Carson Strong) is an NFL player. He throws it as well as anybody in the country. We’re definitely going to get tested this week, on both sides of the ball.”
The tour thus far has included road trips to San Diego State, New Mexico and San Jose State sandwiched around a home game against Hawaii. The Aggies will play at Hawaii and host Utah State before the Mountain West portion of its schedule concludes.
NMSU has been an underdog in each of its MWC games. Still, the Aggies, who were 29-point underdogs versus the Wolf Pack as of Friday, have held their own against Mountain West competition, particularly in last week’s 37-31 defeat at San Jose State.
“We’re playing some of the best teams in the Mountain West,” Martin said, “and we’re still in every game. I felt like we made strides against San Jose State, which is an excellent defensive team. We probably played our best offensive game in a couple of years and (quarterback) Jonah Johnson played extraordinarily well.”
Johnson, a junior transfer, had his best outing as an Aggie against the Spartans, finishing 30-of-44 passing for 300 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. He’ll likely need a similar performance if NMSU is to stay with Nevada, which defeated Boise State 41-31 last week.
Strong, who is projected as a first-round NFL draft pick, averages 304 passing yards per game and has thrown eight TD passes with just two interceptions this season. The Wolf Pack is averaging 32.25 points per game.
“He’s probably the best passer we’ve seen,” Martin said.
That does not bode well for an NMSU defense that has surrendered 12 passing touchdowns this season, many of them coming on explosive plays.
“Our defense has done some good things but we’ve not been consistent enough in any phase, really, to be as competitive as we want to be,” Martin said. “Our defense will definitely get tested this week, so our offense has to answer.”
Nevada’s defense has given up its share of yards (355 per game) but has forced seven turnovers in four games. Wolf Pack opponents are averaging 24 points per game.
GAME INFO: Saturday, 8:30 p.m., CBSSN