Aggies to open conference play at home

New Mexico State will put its seven-game home winning streak on the line Saturday against the Vandals. The seven-game streak is the longest in the history of the "current" Aggie Memorial Stadium and is the longest home winning streak since the Aggies won 14 consecutive games from the home opener of the 1964 season though the third home game of the 1967 season.

The Aggies (1-3) look to bounce back from a 24-17 loss to in-state rival the University of New Mexico. The Vandals (0-5) are also looking to rebound after losing 41-28 to the University of Montana.

The Vandals and Aggies have a history of playing close games. The last three meetings have been decided by a total of 10 points. The last time the Vandals won in the series with NMSU was in 2000. They pulled out a 44-41 double-overtime victory.

"It seems like we always have played each other close," NMSU coach Tony Samuel said. "It always seems to go down to the wire."

The Aggies are ranked second in the Sun Belt Conference in total offense and first in total defense. The Vandals are second in the SBC in passing offense and second in passing defense. The Aggies brought out their aerial attack last week against the Lobos. Wide receiver Ronshay Jenkins caught eight passes for 200 yards and two touchdowns.

His performance marked the fourth best receiving day in Aggie history. The Vandals have been shaking up their offense as well. Quarterback Brian Lindgren will be starting over Michael Harrington for the first time this season. Lindgren threw for 200 yards and two TDs in relief of Harrington in the Vandals' loss to Montana. Lindgren was an All-SBC pick last season.

"In the past, (Lindgren) has done a great job throwing the ball," Samuel said. "One of the polls had him preseason conference player of the year. I think he is a great football player." Running back Zach Gerstner will also be expected to play for the Vandals. He missed much of the Montana game due to a knee injury, but has been cleared to play Saturday.

Safety Matt Griebel has led the Aggies in tackles every game this season. He is second in the SBC in tackles per game with 9.8. The Vandal defense has a stifling pass defense led by cornerback Darryl Murphy. Murphy has logged 26 tackles, an interception and four pass breakups.

The Vandals' defensive schemes may give the Aggie offense an opportunity to execute well. "They play hard and like to blitz a lot," quarterback Paul Dombrowski said. "If we can protect and pick them up, it's an opportunity for some big plays."

Though the Aggies are 1-3 on the season, Idaho is not going to let that affect its preparation. "Regardless of their struggles, I think they will be at their best Saturday," Idaho coach Tom Cable said. "For us to consider anything less, would be foolish." Kickoff for the game is set for Saturday at 6 p.m. at Aggie Memorial Stadium


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