September 17, 2008

NMSU and UTEP in need of huge win

"The battle of I-10" as its known to be around these parts takes place this Saturday night at UTEP's Sun Bowl. To others outside of I-10, it may be known as the "The Pillow Fight". Regardless, its a football game that each program is desperate to win. With UTEP (0-2) and NMSU (0-1), getting a game in the win column is crucial this early in the season.

"This is not a league game, it doesn't count in the conference standings, but it means everything to this community, to me, to this team," coach Mike Price of UTEP said.

40 miles north, NMSU's coach Hal Mumme commented, "I think it'll be a very even game. In the four years I've been here, this has got to be the closest its ever been. We both run the same defense (3-3-5) and we've both lost to high caliber teams last game out.

"There always seems to be a sense of urgency to get a win against the Miners," Mumme went on to say. "Its a rivalry game."

With both teams coming off losses to perennial college football powerhouse teams in Texas and Nebraska, its difficult to truly gauge how well each team played in those games. UTEP put on a spirited effort against Texas, but lost 42-13. NMSU, which looked a bit rusty for their first game of the season against Nebraska, lost 38-7.

One key area that will prove interesting come Saturday night will be the play of the defense for both teams. Both teams lineup in the 3-3-5 defense and both teams are sporting new defensive coordinators.

Against Nebraska, NMSU's D.C. Joe Lee Dunn lined up his defense at times with 2 linemen down and 3 linebackers with the rest of the defenders scattered throughout the secondary. For the most part, the Aggie defense defended the pass well against Nebraska yielding only 223 yards on 18 for 24 passing. However, the Nebraska running game amassed 330 yards on 44 attempts for an average of 7.5 yards per carry. As to how the Aggies will lineup against the Miners and play on Saturday night will set the tone for the rest of the season for the Aggies.

Another key aspect to the game will be the play of the quarterbacks for both teams. NMSU's Chase Holbrook didn't look too sharp in his opening game against Nebraska throwing for only 142 yards; "disappointing" by Chase Holbrook standards. Nebraska was able to limit Holbrook to 30 passes which is about half of what he normally throws in a game. Expect Holbrook to come out firing against UTEP and set the tone for the game and get the "Air Raid" attack going early. In all fairness, NMSU was going up against a tall order by playing Nebraska as their first game out.

UTEP's Trevor Vittatoe after 2 games is 45 of 83 with 3 interceptions and averaging 233 yards per game in 2008. "UTEP's quarterback is solid. He is accurate and he'll make a log of good plays.", said Aggie defensive back Derrick Richardson.

Injuries will not play a big part in Saturday's game as UTEP for the most part is healthy. Their biggest concerns are Brandis Dew (sprained ankle) and Anthony Morrow (head injury). Running back Vernon Frazier practiced lightly this week but is expected to play. As for NMSU, tight end Ryan Franzoy is out for the season with a torn ACL suffered in the Nebraska game. Expect Kyle Nelson to step into that spot.

Game time for Saturday's match-up is 7:05pm in the Sun Bowl.

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