By Albert Luna
Two of the most exciting games in college football have happened in Las Cruces the past two weekends, yet NMSU is still drawing the short end of the stick. The New Mexico State Football team is off to another slow start to the season as they have yet to garner a win, sitting now at 0-3 after close losses against Georgia State and UTEP in consecutive weeks, respectively.
However, looking deeper into it, NMSU might have more problems on its plate. The Aggies are currently riding a 13-game losing streak, which dates back to last year, the longest winless streak in the nation. Football Head Coach Doug Martin has repeatedly said this team can be special.
As the team goes into its bye week, they have some serious questions to ponder:
- Is success this year or next year the goal?
Like any rebuilding project, it takes time. Last year NMSU had a squad that was mostly freshman-based and as a result, they didn’t fail to disappoint.
Martin pointed to the youth as a focal point last year for some of the lackluster playing of the team. This year it can’t be that much of a crutch to lean on given the experience. With key players like Larry Rose III, Tyler Rogers, and the majority of the secondary in the defense with at least a year of experience, the question has to be asked whether NMSU is seeing this as yet another rebuilding year.
This is Martin’s third year at the helm of the program. Essentially, this means his team, the players he inherited, are either graduated or at the end of their careers, and Martin’s recruiting will now be tested this season to see if the new era of players who have been ushered in are the type of foundational players needed to build a winning team.
That is why this season is so important from an identity standpoint, because if NMSU is clearly not going to be making improvements, like you see in any type of sports, you should play the younger, less experienced players to have for next season. It can be a harsh reality for older players on the team, but one would think this would make the most sense going forward if the season keeps slipping from them.
- Will they learn to finish?
NMSU should be looking at a 2-1 record right now, as well as a 1-0 conference start to the season. Without regarding the season opener against Florida, which was never really a close contest, the Aggies have had their fair share of let-downs late in games.
In the Georgia State game, although a lot has been blamed on kicker Parker Davidson, NMSU had more than enough opportunities to pull out a win. The same can be said with the UTEP meltdown that occurred in the last four minutes of the contest that was simply ugly to watch. Martin has echoed similar remarks when speaking to the media about the state of his team, especially after the UTEP game.
These problems, in theory, are good problems to have because it means that as a program, NMSU is close. This doesn’t necessarily constitute winning right away, but by simply being competitive and putting themselves in a chance to win ball games, that is one key stepping stone when it comes to success. This will certainly be one of the subjects that the team will have to address at this crossroads in the young season.
- Making a play
Larry Rose III and Jacob Nwangwa said it best in their post-game press conference after the UTEP heart-breaker: “Someone needs to make a play.”
This has been the deciding factor in all of the losses for the Aggies thus far. The one reason that this point is so valid is because of the fact the offensive and defensive sides of the ball have improved dramatically as a collective unit compared to past years.
Rogers, Rose III, and newcomer Tyrain Taylor have carved up the opposing defenses for great statistics that should be adding up to wins. The same argument can be made for the defense, sans a few stretches in each game. With the collective units in both sides of the ball now starting to take the shape of a winning football team, it’s now going to boil down to the individuals themselves and just how many x factors the Aggies can put out on the field at any given play.
The team is going to need the intangibles from its players from here on out if they are to have any chance of staying competitive, especially against some respectable and tough upcoming Sun Belt opponents. If the Aggies can put their program’s slogan to use, especially late in games, they just might have some life in this season left in them.
Looking ahead, the Aggies will have their bye week this weekend before getting back to work against their biggest rival, UNM, in a game that will be played in Albuquerque. The following week will poise the Aggies with one of the biggest games in the program’s history, as they will hit the road once again to play Ole Miss, a team that keeps rising and rising in national rankings and is currently third in the nation.
It is imperative NMSU get a win off the Lobos and put an end to their losing streak, which will in turn serve as a confidence booster. The Aggies will not return home until October 24, when they take on Troy. It will certainly be interesting to see how NMSU can respond. The ball is now in their field.