Know a foe — WACpocalypse week
Vandal Nation — Four straight losses, including winnable games against New Mexico and UTSA, probably put a sour taste in Aggies fans’ mouths. It probably had some correlation with Aggie Memorial Stadium being pretty empty on Saturday.
It’s kind of a mirror image of what’s happening in Idaho. What’s the general perception of the program?
Bleed Crimson — Right now the general perception of the program is that this is just a really bad team.
Whether that’s a fair perception or not, it is what it is, and until the football team starts winning games, the perception will probably remain that way.
The truth of the matter is that the Aggies lost 17 starters off of last year’s team. You’d be hard pressed to find any mid-major team or even any BCS team in the country that could lose 17 starters and come out and play well, particularly the bottom 40 teams in the FBS.
VN — Is DeWayne Walker on the hot-seat to you?
BC — In a word? No. Not at all. In my mind right now the reason the Aggie football team is where it’s at right now is a lack of commitment from the university — and I’m talking strictly financial support.
The coordinator positions are underpaid, which is a big reason the Aggies have been unable to find a good defensive or offensive coordinator.
The Aggies had a very good offensive coordinator last year in Doug Martin, but BCS money lured him away (and we certainly don’t blame him for jumping at the opportunity).
The Aggies also only have one strength and conditioning coach for the entire football team, which as you know, strength and conditioning is a vital part of a football program’s success.
If you look at three of the teams in the WAC who sit atop the standings right now, Louisiana Tech, Utah State, San Jose State, all three of those teams were just gawd-awful just a few years ago. In fact, the Aggies drubbed Utah State AND Louisiana Tech to end the 2006 season, winning 42-20 and 50-23 respectively.
What have those three schools gone out and done? They’ve supported their programs financially and in a big way. They’ve made or planned facility improvements, made financial commitments in terms of coaching salaries and it’s all paying off for them.
Those three teams are a combined 12-2 and just five points from being 14-0. If you want to have a successful football program, you can’t just say you’re committed to having a successful program — you have to go out and prove it by investing money in the program.
VN — Talk about Andrew Manley. Would it be off base to say he has a powerful arm, but struggles a bit with the cerebral facets of the game?
BC — I don’t know that it’s entirely fair to say that he struggles with the cerebral facets of the game, but it would be fair to say that Andrew Manley works his progressions in the opposite direction that most quarterbacks do, and that is he starts by looking deep and then works his way backward whereas most quarterbacks start by looking short to intermediate and then look deep.
We’d also be remiss if we didn’t mention that Manley is basically still a freshman in terms of playing time. He’s only started eight or nine games in his career, five of those coming this year.
Is he playing up to his potential? Probably not, but he’s not getting much help schematically (i.e. the play calling has been suspect this year save for a couple of good looking drives), he definitely is not getting any help from the run game, which is key for a drop back passer like Andrew and he’s also not getting any help from his offensive line, which at times this year has struggled to play five on four (five offensive linemen versus four rushing defensive linemen).
VN — Talk about New Mexico State’s struggles giving up the big plays. Idaho can relate.
BC — It starts with the defensive secondary. The Aggies lost all four starters from that group and no group has suffered more with a lack of experience.
The Aggie secondary can and has been exploited numerous times for wide open catches, big yardage gains and wide, wide, wide open touchdowns.
On top of that, there have been at least three or four more balls that have been thrown to wide-open receivers that would have been touchdowns, but the receivers have flat out dropped the pass. It hasn’t helped at all that the Aggies have been unable to apply much pressure on the quarterback. Their front seven, which was supposed to be the strength of the defense this year, just hasn’t performed up to par.
VN — These two teams are going to be very familiar with each other in the immediate future. Is there any sense of rivalry brewing with that fan base?
BC — Misery loves company right? I think if there hasn’t been a rivalry in the past, there certainly will be one in the near future, particularly with these two teams playing a home-and-home series next year.
In my mind, Idaho has always been a rival. I remember distinctly attending an Aggie home football game and seeing NMSU jump out to a 28-7 lead only to lose 35-31.
I also remember a home game in 2005, Hal Mumme’s first year, when the Aggies were battling for a win with Idaho. The game went to overtime, the Aggies appeared to have stopped the Vandals on a 2-point conversion only to have a flag thrown on the play (still a suspect call). The Vandals made good on the second chance and got the hell out of dodge. The Aggies and their fans were devastated and the team ended up winless on the season.
But I also remember rooting for Idaho when they made their first bowl appearance in ages a couple of years back, a bowl game that was by far the best and most entertaining of the bowl season. So yes, there’s a rivalry there but it’s not a blood feud, nor do I think it will ever be.
Sean Kramer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org