Well that was an underwhelming final result for the season.
Early on, the offense struggled mightily with JUCO transfer Matt Romero under center, a guy who was clearly athletically gifted but didn’t know the offense well enough to truly open the playbook and kept getting snakebit by drops from his receivers.
Eventually, a transition to freshman Josh Adkins under center allowed for a more dynamic and successful offense, but it was necessary to combat a defense that didn’t get better (or healthier) as the season went on.
This Aggie squad only produced a record of 3-3 in games where they scored 25+ points, but that same offense shows promise under Adkins in ways that should be sustainable with continued talent next season and a defense that should automatically be better simply by improved injury luck.
Time will tell, though.
The New Mexico State Aggies came into the season replacing their three best players, in the hopes that volume of talent and “good enough” replacements in those three key positions would be enough to somewhat replicate the previous season’s success.
Quarterback was an interesting situation. Your returning senior was Nick Jeanty, a great game manager who never impressed enough to take the starting job and run with it, but was good enough to manage an offense as long as the defense made opportunities for him.
Your non-experienced options were two guys starting from scratch in JUCO transfer Romero and freshman Adkins. Neither really knew the offense, but the hope in naming Romero as the starter was that his athleticism and potential to make plays could offset his lack of system know-how.
Unfortunately, starting the season against three teams that finished the year in the top 45 in Defensive S%P+ meant an uphill road against teams that were good enough to nullify Romero’s advantage and keep the Aggie offense from ever getting rolling.
Adkins picked up the offense quick enough to take over after four games, and ran an offense that was productive but not explosive even when they needed to be. The offense was playing catch up too much to ever really establish the run, regardless of whether Jason Huntley or Christian Gibson was in the backfield.
You knew that a defense that was losing Dalton Harrington – its leader in emotional plays and tackles, and who finished tied for third on the team in sacks in a year with a record-setting sack total – was going to have a little work to do.
However, the Aggies’ top five in tackles were Harrington, Terrill Hanks, Ron LaForce, Shamad Lomax, and Lui Fa’amasino while their top five in sacks were Cedric Wilcots, Hanks, Harrington, Malik Demby, and Leon McQuaker and everybody but Harrington was back.
Then Wilcots missed the first two games for an academic suspension.
Then they lost Demby for the season with a shoulder injury.
Fa’amasino also missed nearly the entire season due to inury, and Hanks, McQuaker, and LaForce also missed time with injuries.
Take an aggressive defense and play exactly zero games with all of those players on the field at the same time. Then add in what defensive coordinator Frank Spaziani described as some lackluster practice habits, and you easily get a recipe for disaster.
This has never been an elite unit in recent years. However, there are still too many special teams scores allowed, too many easy field goal misses. Jason Huntley will always be a threat here, but everything else could use a tune up.