Aggie prepares to face Arkansas

The New Mexico State Aggies, winners of two of their last three games, have a couple of extra days to prepare for their last non-conference game of the year. Coming off a 26-21, Thursday night victory at home over Utah State, the Aggies will next take on the Arkansas Razorbacks on Saturday, November 15.

The New Mexico State defense will have a big challenge in front of them Saturday in Arkansas quarterback Matt Jones.

The 6-foot-5 junior is both a threat as a runner and passer. He's rushed for 448 yards this season and passed for another 1,442 yards, while completing 57.9 percent of his passes for the 6-3 Razorbacks.

"We'll be facing a guy who has a lot of experience and who can do so much," NMSU defensive coordinator Ross Els said. "And Arkansas has a physical offensive line that is very good and they run downhill well. We're going to have to be steady and make key plays." Els, who is in his first year as defensive coordinator, said his defense has been spotty this year.

"We've had times where we have been real physical at times and times where we haven't," he said. "We've done some good things and improved in some areas and that's what we have to show our kids, that if they do the things they need to do, we'll be fine."

Els was particularly happy with the play of cornerbacks Johnathan Holland and Spencer Moore. Holland, a junior, has 11 tackles and two passes broken up in the past two games, while the freshman Moore had two passes broken up in NMSU's 26-21 against Utah State last week.

"Johnathan is a guy that just keep working and kept staying focused," Els said. "He could have given up and said I'm not going to play this year, but he didn't. He's made tremendous improvement and he's been making some plays for us.

"Spencer is a kid that has made the most of his chance. He struggled early, but he's been improving." The entire NMSU secondary is back next year, with the exception of a couple of backups which excites Els.

"I think we have a group back there that works hard and could be pretty good," he said. "We have gained valuable experience this year. We've made some progress in key areas. We just have to keep getting better."

The Aggies have also gotten late-season form junior receiver Garrett Johnson, who has filled in for Tim Tolbert and Chris Lumpkin. The junior college transfer has caught six passes in the past two games.

"I have my chance and I have to take advantage of that chance," said the Livermore, Calif., native. "It was tough not seeing the field early on. But I just kept focused. I was on the scout team and then they moved me into the rotation. I just stayed with it. Playing on special teams helped me a lot. I got a chance to help the team and I was able to stay sharp in some ways."

Felix Chavez can be reached at fchavez@lcsun-news.com


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