New Mexico State quarterback Jonah Johnson (right), shown in action at the UTEP season opener, will be able to take on the # 3 defense in Alabama on Saturday. (Roberto E. Rosales / Journal)
LAS CRUCES – New Mexico state soccer coach Doug Martin believes the Aggies (1-8) can improve if they play 3rd Alabama (8-1) on Saturday, despite their 51½ point underlay.
From a bigger picture, there is hope the Aggies will not suffer any injuries as the sports department collects a check for $ 1.9 million in the first of two guaranteed games against SEC opponents. They’re playing in Kentucky for $ 1.2 million next week.
FIND A WAY TO MAKE BIG GAMES: Aggies center Eli Johnson said it is rare for an attack to methodically propel the ball across the field against Alabama, currently number 11 in total defense in the country, while taking 20 points per Game will be allowed.
Johnson would know. He started for Mississippi against Alabama in 2019.
The Aggies were never shy about shoving the ball across the field, but they didn’t have a very good success rate with 22 passes over 20 yards in the season. Aggie’s quarterback Jonah Johnson certainly has his arm to throw the ball across the field. The Aggies don’t have receivers to walk past many defenders, but if Johnson sees proper coverage, he should fire his shots.
Finding time, however, could be difficult.
Offensively, the Aggies allowed seven sacks into the state of Utah last weekend and will face an Alabama team laden with NFL prospects on either side of the ball, including second linebacker Will Anderson Jr., who is 10½ sacks in the country Second is. Saturday will be a good chance for Left Tackle Sage Doxtater to improve his chances of playing in the NFL.
LIMIT BIG PASS GAMES: The Aggies can keep working on something that has plagued them all season.
The NMSU defense appears to have played on two collateral more often over the season. They didn’t allow an explosive game against Utah State in the first half last week, but USU finally took the lead early in the third quarter with a 54-yard touchdown pass.
The Aggies have allowed 46 passes from 20 yards this season, which is the second most common in FBS. If they can keep that number relatively low against an explosive offensive like Alabama, that would show progress.
PLAY FOR FREE, EXPERIMENTS: These guaranteed games can give both aggies coaches and gamers the opportunity to experiment with games or staff.
Martin usually saved a gadget game or two for those games, so I’d expect at least one wide receiver pass across the field. The Aggies met against New Mexico in the red zone.
From a personnel point of view, there will be opportunities on Saturday and next week to provide some players with a film against top talent. Depending on the score, Saturday or next week would be a good time to get quarterback Weston Eget some reps for the first time since opening night. I also think that every second player in the squad should play on Saturday. Freshman Safety Dylan Early has been getting a lot of playtime lately and we haven’t seen much of the Torren Union corner in the past few weeks with the advent of Syrus Dumas.
The Aggies have a good chance of ending the season with a home win against Massachusetts in the last week of the season. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to play a few extra guys to keep them busy and it would help keep seasoned players sane with two brutal street games.