StatTiger: NMSU at Auburn Preview

Tackling against a quick-fire passing attack will be key for the Auburn defense.

New Mexico State (2-1 Overall, 0-0 WAC)

Offensive Numbers: 475.2 yards per game (75.8 rushing, 399.3 passing), 31.2 points per game
Defensive Numbers: 389.4 yards per game (155.9 rushing, 233.5 passing), 30.7 points per game

Record Against Auburn: 0-1
1993: Auburn 55, New Mexico State 14

2006 Record: 4-8

11th Total Offense (523.3 ypg)
34th Scoring Offense (32.7 ppg)
67th Total Defense (369.7 ypg)
74th Scoring Defense (27.3 ppg)

New Mexico State enters its third year under head coach Hal Mumme. The Aggies went 0-12 during Mumme's first season and improved to 4-8 last year. They come to Jordan-Hare with a 2-1 record, averaging more than 523 yards per game on offense. Coach Mumme is no stranger to the Southeastern Conference, where he established numerous school records on offense as the head football coach of the Kentucky Wildcats.

Last time out...

The Auburn Tigers are off to a very poor start with back-to-back losses against South Florida and Mississippi State. The recent defeat to Mississippi State dropped Auburn to 1-2 on the season with the risk of posting a losing season with the meat of the schedule still two weeks away.

The Aggies are coming off a 29-24 victory over Texas-El Paso, improving their record to 2-1 on the season. Quarterback Chase Holbrook passed for 434 yards and three touchdowns against the Miners. Receiver Chris Williams caught nine passes for 221 yards, including two touchdowns.

About New Mexico State...

New Mexico State has adopted Mumme's "basketball on grass" offense, which has been directed by Holbrook. The junior quarterback passed for 4,619 yards and 34 touchdowns last season, making the Davey O'Brien watch list for 2007.

Holbrook is an imposing figure at 6-5, 235 pounds and is currently completing 74 percent of passes on the season. Williams leads the Aggie offense with 23 receptions for 388 yards. Five different players have already reached double-digit figures in receiving, including three with over 20 receptions three games into the season.

Senior linebacker Dante Floyd leads the team in tackles (32) and quarterback sacks. The Aggie defense is currently allowing 118.7 yards rushing per game and 251.0 yards passing. New Mexico State has struggled on special teams, averaging seven yards on punt returns and 18.2 yards on kick-returns. The Aggies have converted on only 3/6 field goal attempts this season.

New Mexico State is 0-10 all-time against SEC opponents, losing by an average score of 48-12. Arkansas was the Aggies' last SEC opponent, losing by a score of 63-13. The Aggies have finished the season with a winning record only three times over the last 20 years. Their last winning record was during the 2002 season when they finished 7-5

Keys to the game...

New Mexico State will be in a constant state of attack on offense and tackling will be the theme of the day for the Auburn defense. Mumme's offense is not a vertical passing game, but a high percentage passing game mixed with an occasional draw play. The Aggies will attempt to spread out the Auburn defense to create mismatches in the Auburn secondary.

The Auburn defense will counter with a heavy nickel and dime packages on defense, which could expose the Auburn run defense. Auburn will be hard pressed to apply pressure on the Aggie quarterback with the majority of passes coming from the shotgun and a 3-step drop. Mumme thrives on screen passes to the receivers and the Auburn defense will have to shed blockers to make the quick tackle.

The pressure will be on Jerraud Powers and the Auburn secondary this week.

Most of the passing by New Mexico State will come within 5-7 yards of the line of scrimmage, forcing the Auburn secondary to make the tackle or risk giving up a big play. Thus far on the season, the Auburn defense has defended 213 plays without allowing a play of 30 yards or more. If this trend carries over this Saturday the Tigers should be okay.

The Aggie defense has allowed 370 yards and 27 points per game, which should be a welcome relief to a struggling Auburn offense. It will be interesting to see whether Brandon Cox or Kodi Burns starts at quarterback for the Tigers. Both quarterbacks will see playing time this Saturday.

Auburn is simply attempting to find its identity on offense and improvement in the passing game is a necessity.

Final Thoughts...

Though New Mexico State is listed as Auburn's opponent this week, the real opponent is Auburn itself. For the past two weeks the Tigers have been careless with the football, turning the ball over five times against both South Florida and Mississippi State.

The schedule was expected to be a major challenge this season but no one could have expected Auburn to be 1-2 after the first three games of the season. With such a rocky start to the season, everything about the football program has been questioned over the last week.

Coach Hugh Nall spoke of the offensive line having a "foxhole" mentality from here on out. The entire team would be wise to follow the lead of Auburn's offensive line coach.

Many of the mistakes through three games can be corrected with better execution as long as the team continues to play hard. The Auburn coaching staff has yet to question the effort by the players, which is always encouraging. Few teams are ever as good or bad as they may appear on a given day and the Tigers have certainly been horrible on offense. The addition of Burns against Mississippi State appeared to give the Auburn offense a much-needed lift ,but a spark won't be enough for Auburn to win the majority of its remaining games. Other players will have to step up in order for Auburn to be competitive in conference play.

Auburn 34, New Mexico State 20

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