For the second time in three years the Gophers will face the New Mexico State Aggies in the second game of the college football season. The last time the Gophers and Aggies met the Aggies came out victorious following a terrifying moment as Jerry Kill suffered a seizure late in the game, which was just his second as the head coach at the University of Minnesota. Much like the last time the two teams met the Gophers should be favored as the Aggies are coming off a 1-11 season in which their only win came against Sacramento State, an FCS team. Not only does New Mexico State have to try and bounce back from a terrible season, but they must also adapt to a new coach as Doug Martin takes over a struggling program.
The Aggie Offense:
The Aggie's must replace nearly 2,800 yards and 18 td's in QB Andrew Manley. Projected starter Travaughn Colwell had just 13 attempts last year and must also adjust to a new offensive coordinator though he did complete 65% of his passes for 419 yards his freshman year under now head coach Doug Martin. New Mexico State is much more experienced at the other skill positions as they return both their leading rusher and their leading receiver. Germi Morrison rushed for 767 yards at 4.7 and Austin Franklin had 74 receptions for 1245 yards and 9 td's. Up front the Aggies have struggled the past two seasons and averaged only 3 yards per carry last year. They should be better this year as they only lose one starter but with a new coordinator there will likely be a learning curve.
The Aggie Defense:
The Aggie's will be running a 3-4 defense anchored by a name Gopher fans are likely to be familiar with, Willie Mobley. While the defense is anchored by a former blue chip prospect this year, they must replace two DE's and a NT from a team that allowed 5.7 yards per rush. At the second level New Mexico State must replace a starter at MLB but does return five of their top six from last year's 1-11 team. Last year the Aggie secondary was quite bad finishing 95th in overall passing defense. The Aggie's must replace a starter and 1st team all conference performer but do add in some talented transfers. They should be better but by no means great.
3 Keys to the Game
1. Establish the run. Notice a trend? This will likely be a key for the Gopher's all season as Head Coach Jerry Kill and Offensive Coordinator Matt Limegrover like to run the ball about 60% of the time. If the Gophers can get the ground game going early this one likely won't be close.
2. Limit the Aggie passing game. The Aggie's averaged just 3.0 yards per carry last year. If the Aggie's want to compete, then they will likely have to do it through the air as their top threat on offense is WR Austin Franklin.
3. Finish drives. This is what cost the Gophers the game the last time the two teams faced each other. The Gophers had the ball at the 1 and the 25 in the fourth quarter, but weren't able to punch it in for a touchdown either time and force overtime.
45-17 Gophers win. New Mexico State is a tough place to win and new head coach Doug Martin has his work cut out for him as the Aggie's have had just 4 winning seasons in the past 45 years. The Gophers match up very well against the Aggie's and this one shouldn't be close.
Fun Fact: The last time the Aggie's played in the post season, the Gophers won the National Championship (1960).