Who Dey? — New Mexico State

Colorado hosts New Mexico State at Folsom Field Saturday (8 p.m., FSN). Inside, a look at the Aggies, keys for Colorado and players to watch.

at Folsom Field • Sept. 10 • 8 p.m. (MT) • FSN
Head Coach: Hal Mumme (1st year)
2005 Record: 0-1 (WAC)
First meeting between the two teams

Predictably, Hal Mumme's Air Raid offense put up some decent numbers but failed to produce much scoring in its debut in Las Cruces last weekend. Arch rival UTEP beat New Mexico State 34-17 in a game that wasn't as close as the score indicated.

NMSU completed 38-of-62 passes for 347 yards in that game, adding 46 yards on the ground (sack yardage not included). In Mumme's spread, no-huddle offense, quarterback Royal Gill often works out of the shotgun and gets rid of the ball in a hurry. He also spreads the wealth, and 11 players caught passes in the loss to UTEP.

The Aggies employ a one-back or no-back look, spreading four and five receivers. Five-foot-8, 190-pound junior running back Muammar Ali had just seven carries for 22 yards in Week 1.

It will take a while — maybe an entire season — for the Aggies' personnel to become effective in Mumme's offensive system, a radical departure from what NMSU ran prior to this season. Still, because it's so different than what most team's run, the system has the potential to create problems for any team NMSU faces, including the Buffs.

Player to watch: Colorado players and coaches are impressed with 6-foot-5, 220-pound quarterback Royal Gill's mobility after watching tape of the first-year starter.

Get to the quarterback
UTEP managed eight sacks against NMSU last week. If the Aggies quarterback is allowed to find a rhythm, New Mexico State's offense could find success. CU may need to use several defensive linemen to combat fatigue from playing against a no-huddle offense.

Matchup to Watch: CU's outside pass rushers vs. NMSU tackles Kyle Smith (6-3, 265 pounds) and Alex Gottlieb (6-4, 280). Look for CU to use a different scheme than its typical 4-3 in this game. They'll mix things up up front, trying to find the best way to pressure the NMSU QB. CU may move some of its ends — Alex Ligon, Alonzo Barrett, Walter Boye-Doe — to the inside in an effort to get its best pass rushers on the field at the same time. Colorado will also rotate lots of defensive backs in and out of the game.

Defensive coordinator Woody Widenhofer has brought a pro-style 3-4 to Las Cruces. The defense's strength is its linebackers. Three of the four are seniors, and LOLB Brandon McKinney is a load at 262 pounds.

Player to watch: Mike linebacker Jimmy Cottrell is a tackle machine. At 6-foot-1, 238 pounds, Cottrell has started 34 of 35 career games at NMSU. He was named WAC Defensive Player of the Week for his 18-tackle performance vs. UTEP. Saturday will be a homecoming for the Castle Rock native, who was the Continental League Player of the Year in 2000 at Douglas County High School.

Denver native Jimmy Cotrell had 18 tackles in NMSU's loss to UTEP. (Getty)

Get Physical
The Colorado offensive line needs to take charge of this game. A key will also be how well the CU wide receivers can hold their blocks in the run game. On paper, the Buffs should be able to put up some points on the Aggies defense.

Matchup to Watch: CU blockers vs. Jimmy Cottrell. Cottrell is extremely active at linebacker. The Buffs need to be effective at getting to the second level of the NMSU defense and taking Cottrell out of the play, giving CU's running backs space to run. If they can, Hugh Charles could have a big day.

Placekicker Conor Foley is a true freshman, while punter Brad Evans is a senior in his first season of full-time duty. Steve Harper had a 41-yard kickoff return vs. UTEP. CU has a big advantage in special teams.

NMSU Statistical Leaders
Passing: Royal Gill, 36-57-332, 2 INT, 2 TD
Rushing: Muammar Ali, 7-22/3.1 0 TD
Receiving: Paul Dombrowski, 15-127/8.5, 1 TD
Kickoff returns: Derek Dubois, 4-70/17.5, 0 TD
Punt returns: Steve Harper, 1-6/6.0 0 TD
Punting: Brad Evans, 6-258/43.0
Tackles: Jimmy Cottrell, 18
Tackles for loss: John Howell, 1-9
Sacks: John Howell, 1
Interceptions: none

Did You Know?
NMSU first-year defensive coordinator Woody Widenhofer was defensive coordinator for the famed Pittsburgh Steelers' "Steel Curtain" defense during the late-1970s. He served as head coach at Missouri, his alma mater, from 1985-88. …Former Steelers placekicker Roy Gerela is an NMSU alum, and is in his first year as an NMSU assistant coach (quality control director).

Prediction: Colorado 41, NMSU 17

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