Aggies host UMass, try not to be "worst team in FBS" - Albuquerque Journal

Aggies host UMass, try not to be “worst team in FBS”

LAS CRUCES — Fellow independent football programs New Mexico State and Massachusetts end the year Saturday against each other in a matchup between two of the worst teams of the 2021 season.

But as Aggies grad transfer offensive lineman Eli Johnson says, there is still a lot to play for on Saturday despite the matching 1-10 records.

“You have two 1-10 programs with the loser debatably being the worst team in FBS — so in a lot of ways, who wins the football game will be the team that comes out and wants to play football more,” said Johnson, who is one of seven Aggies seniors playing their final game Saturday.

“You look at the state of both programs, there is a lot of turbulence right now in both programs. A lot of it will come down to which team wants to play ball on Saturday, and I think that is going to be us.”

The Aggies have lost seven straight games and their last 11 games against Football Bowl Subdivision opponents. UMass has lost five straight games.

Both teams likely will have a new head coach in place next season. Doug Martin’s contract ends in June, and it appears his nine-year tenure is coming to an end in Las Cruces. New Mexico State has reportedly targeted current Texas Christian interim coach Jerry Kill to take over.

UMass named Don Brown its next coach last week.

The Aggies are a 6½-point favorites after back-to-back losses to SEC programs.

Some keys:

Which offense will exploit clear defensive weakness? This isn’t the first time I’ve mentioned the Aggies need to run the football despite Martin’s pass-happy offense.

But the Aggies should really run the football on Saturday if Martin wants to send his seniors out with a victory. UMass is No. 126 (of 130 FBS teams) in rush defense, allowing 239 rushing yards per game on 5.8 yards per carry. UMass is significantly better against the pass, ranking No. 70 in pass defense, allowing 234 yards per game.

The Aggies are second to last in FBS in pass defense and consistently have given up explosive plays through the air, allowing 306 passing yards per game. The Aggies have greatly improved this season against the run, ranking No. 106 in rush defense, allowing 188 yards per game on 5.3 yards per carry. The Aggies could finish the season allowing fewer than 200 rush yards per game for the first time since 2017.

Both defenses have very clear weaknesses. Which offense will emphasize attacking those weaknesses?

Win the turnover battle: Saturday’s game features two of the six worst defenses in FBS, so both teams probably feel like they will be able to move the ball if they don’t turn the ball over.

The Aggies are No. 127 in total defense, allowing 494 yards per game. UMass is No. 124, allowing 473 yards per game.

New Mexico State has a plus-four turnover margin on the season and UMass is minus-9 for the season. Barring a massive collapse on Saturday, the Aggies can finish with a positive turnover margin for the first time since they finished plus-1 in 2016.

Pass protection: Assuming the Aggies will continue to look to throw the football first, they need to give quarterback Jonah Johnson time to throw the football.

The Aggies have allowed 38 sacks this season or nearly four per game.

UMass has just nine sacks on the season, giving the Aggies’ offensive line a clear advantage in both the run and pass game.

Saturday

UMass at New Mexico State, 1 p.m., streaming at FloFootball.com, 99.5 FM (Las Cruces)


Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

Nativo Sponsored Content

taboola desktop

MORE ARTICLES LIKE THIS

1
UNM Football: Derrick Baker intent on increasing Lobos’ strength
College
When University of New Mexico football ... When University of New Mexico football head coach Danny Gonzales spoke to Derrick Baker about becoming the Lobos' director of athletic performance there wasn't ...
2
Women's Basketball: Reus enjoying her sixth-person role for UNM
College
Paula Reus doesn't mind being the ... Paula Reus doesn't mind being the sixth wheel on the University of New Mexico women's basketball express. After all, it's not a bad gig. ...
3
Emptying the Notebook: Lobo Allen-Tovar steps up at Wyoming
ABQnews Seeker
Some extra notes, stats, quotes and ... Some extra notes, stats, quotes and whatever else I could to empty out of the old notebook after UNM's close loss at Wyoming
4
Lobos take Wyoming to the wire, lose by 2
ABQnews Seeker
UNM got 25 points from Jay ... UNM got 25 points from Jay Allen-Tovar and 22 from Jamal Mashburn Jr., but it wasn't enough to upset the Wyoming Cowboys in a ...
5
Lobo women rally past Fresno State, stay perfect in ...
College
Antonia Anderson was not satisfied with ... Antonia Anderson was not satisfied with the way her University of New Mexico women's basketball team played in Saturday's first half. She did something ...
6
Lobos face surprise of the Mountain West Saturday at ...
College
The ball sails freely in that ... The ball sails freely in that cold, thin air of Laramie, Wyoming.And as the University ...
7
Twins subplot aside, Lobos' Duffs prioritize getting the victory
College
Twin showdown, double trouble, twice the ... Twin showdown, double trouble, twice the fun ...The Duff and Cavinder sisters have und ...
8
Garvey tells Lobos their upward journey can begin here, ...
Baseball
When Steve Garvey first came to ... When Steve Garvey first came to Albuquerque in 1969 as a fresh-faced 20-year-old in just his second ...
9
Lobos begin indoor T&F stretch with MLK Jr. invitational ...
College
The University of New Mexico men's ... The University of New Mexico men's and women's track and field programs begin their four-weekend stretch of home meets Saturday with the Dr. Martin ...