From The Sports Network
By Gregg Xenakes, Associate College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: The New Mexico State Aggies find themselves in an awkward position this weekend as they try to slow down the third-ranked Boise State Broncos in a Western Athletic Conference battle in Las Cruces.
The Aggies have been in a free-fall since defeating fellow WAC member Utah State close to a year ago now, dropping 10 consecutive decisions in the process. Sporting the third-longest skid in the nation behind only Western Kentucky (24 losses) and Eastern Michigan (16), New Mexico State has not looked good in any one of its three games so far this season.
Following setbacks against San Diego State and UTEP, NMSU was pitted against Kansas on the road last weekend and responded with a 42-16 defeat. Because of the tough start, head coach DeWayne Walker announced on Tuesday that he was taking a new approach to handling his squad.
"Over the last year or so I was able to speak on the team as a whole but not be as involved as I would have liked to be," Walker said of giving defensive play-calling responsibilities to linebacker coach Dale Lindsey. "This is an opportunity for me to give this football team, as a whole, my full attention and not have to worry about calling the defense or defensive schemes."
As for the Broncos, one of only a couple of teams outside of the power conferences that is again ready to shake up the BCS if everything holds true to form, they are poised to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated for the second time in little over a month, having gotten off to a 3-0 start. Chris Petersen's crew has had a blowout win against an overmatched Wyoming squad (51-6) a couple weeks back, but the victory over Virginia Tech (33-30) in the opener has lost some of its luster given the poor performance of the Hokies since.
Last weekend, what figured to be the last tough non-conference test for the Broncos, the team responded with a 37-24 win against nationally-ranked Oregon State in the home opener. With the victory BSU ran its home, regular-season win streak to an astounding 57 in a row and has now claimed wins in 17 consecutive games overall regardless of venue or circumstance.
"The good thing about this game is we were able to come out with a 'W', but I think everyone in that locker room knows how hard we made it on ourselves," coach Petersen said of the effort versus OSU. "At times we were very, very frustrated with ourselves. Just some really costly penalties and I think our special teams play we need to tighten up a little bit as well."
Boise State is perfect all-time versus the Aggies, winning all 10 previous engagements. Last year, BSU again crushed NMSU by a score of 42-7 at home. In the last three games New Mexico State has been outscored by a combined 149-7.
"They are some of the best wide receivers in the country," Boise State Kellen Moore said of his corps after the Oregon State win. "I think they are the best group in the country. They come up with big play, after big play. They just make me look good, and that's the bottom line."
Moore may have been named the Western Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Week yet again, throwing for 288 yards and three scores, but he understands full well that those passes are only as good as the guys who are on the other end. Titus Young reeled in five passes for a game-high 136 yards and a score and Doug Martin kept the ball moving on the ground for the Broncos with a game-high 138 yards on 19 carries.
Managing to offset countless mental errors and penalties that could have easily cost them the game, the Broncos showed great fight when it came to slowing down the rushing attack of Oregon State. Hailed as one of the best offensive brother pairings in the nation, Jacquizz Rodgers and James Rodgers combined for just 62 yards on 21 carries and another 16 yards on four receptions.
Thanks to the huge effort at the point of attack, the Broncos are now ranked first in the WAC and second in the nation in stopping the run, permitting just 61.7 ypg. The pass defense has been similarly stifling, giving up a mere 167.0 ypg to rank second in the league and 25th in the country this week. Put it altogether and Boise State is permitting a scant 228.7 ypg to opponents and that's better than every team in the Football Bowl Subdivision outside of Iowa and Texas.
One of the most over-looked passers in the country, Moore is again showing why he finished so high in the Heisman voting a year ago, converting 65.3 percent of his attempts for close to 300 ypg and a total of eight touchdowns, against just one interception. Now in his third season on the field for BSU, Moore is fourth in school history with 72 TD passes and has just 14 picks in 931 career attempts. All of those remarkable numbers have needed guys like Young and Austin Pettis to play significant roles and they are doing it once more in 2010 with a combined 28 receptions for 533 yards and six scores.
Picked to finish eighth in the preseason conference poll, the Aggies seem to be playing down to that potential while allowing no fewer than 41 points in any of the first three games of the campaign. By the time the NMSU defense knew what hit them, D.J. Beshears had already registered three rushing touchdowns within the first 21 minutes of action in Lawrence for the home team. The squad was touched for 501 yards of total offense by the Jayhawks, a team that converted 8-of-13 on third down.
Meanwhile, the Aggies offense staggered and stumbled all over the field, clinging to the hope that maybe Seth Smith and Matt Christian would be able to keep them competitive. Smith managed to score on a one-yard run early in the second quarter and Christian hit Marcus Allen with a 25-yard TD strike at the 13:56 mark of the final period, but that was pretty much the extent of the offense for a unit that is 103rd in the country with 299.7 ypg of offense and 114th nationally with a mere 15.7 ppg.
New Mexico State is in for a very long night when it settles in against Moore and the rest of the Boise State skill players because the Aggies have applied almost no pressure at the line of scrimmage to this point. The Aggies remain the only team in the FBS yet to record a sack and are also last in the nation in tackles for loss with just 2.7 per outing. Maybe those numbers wouldn't be so glaring if the offense was causing some measure of damage, but that simply isn't the case.
Allen has proven to be one of the only reliable outlets in the passing game for the Aggies with his 13 receptions for 268 yards and a couple of scores. In comparison, Kyle Nelson is tied with Allen for the team lead in catches, but his grabs have resulted in just 91 yards and zero trips to the end zone.