"Adversity has the same effect on a man that severe training has on the pugilist: it reduces him to his fighting weight."
"Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors."
I gotta tell you guys that my work isn't always easy. Granted, for a fan like myself this is still one of the best hobbies a guy can take up, but I hope you people appreciate what I do for you every week. Or rather, most weeks. OK, fine: some weeks.
I say this because while the rest of you are getting all geeked up for the rapidly approaching date with Boise State, I -- being the ever-responsible blogger that I am -- have to stay focused on the task at hand. And that task is typing up a preview of New Mexico State, the opponent being played this week. Hooray for responsibility. Did I mention that I loathe all of you right now? Because I do. Ever so much.
New Mexico State Aggies
If sequential football games were parts of a sandwich, then smushed between the hearty breads of the 'No Town Showdown and the HOLY FRIGGIN' SHIT MONKEYS THIS IS GONNA BE EPIC Boise State Game is a rancid little piece of expired lunch meat called New Mexico State. They're a near-permanent resident of espn.com's Bottom 10, they haven't had a winning season since 2002 and the last time they played in a bowl game the Eisenhower administration was in its final month. Oh, and thanks to Nigel Burton's defensive genius ("You mean it's not a good idea to leave my rookie corners on an island and expect them to make plays against offenses that pass a lot?") they beat Nevada the last time they came to Reno. No, I'm not thrilled either, folks, so just keep reading, bide your time and it'll all be over soon.
Name a statistical category and the likelihood is high that the Aggies are low in it. Offense? 108th in the country at 303.5 yards per game (Nevada averages seven more yards rushing per game). Scoring? 15.8 points a game, fifth from last in the country with 29 their highest one-game total (Nevada has topped that output in all but two of its games to date). Defense? Whether against the pass (238.9 yards per game, 93rd), the run (195.1 yards per game, 100th) or the scoreboard (36.3 points per game, 110th) the Aggies just don't cut it. Sacks? 0.6 per game and six total, along with just 34 tackles for loss, all last in the nation (Number of sacks Nevada's ten previous opponents have combined to put up against the Pack? Also six). The Aggies have been behind for all 60 minutes of five games and all but 8 minutes of a sixth, while the Pack has only found themselves behind in two games. Alright, that last one wasn't referring to a specific category, but you should have the idea by now that these guys aren't very good.
From the athletic program that brought you Tyrone Nelson and Jahmar Young comes the "no sex" fliers. Bless you, New Mexico State, and your inability to stop amazing us.
So aside from the usual bottom-of-the-WAC types of stats and an utter lack of star players worth hyping up, what does NMSU actually do well? In spite of my snark and immaturity, several things, as it turns out. Though he hasn't returned one all the way yet, wide receiver Taveon Rogers is a stiff test for any kick coverage unit, averaging 26.6 yards per return. In a testament to their improved quarterback and O-line play, they've only surrendered 10 sacks on the year, not far behind Nevada and Boise State. And the Aggie punt coverage unit is only allowing 5.3 yards per return, tied with Air Force for 18th in the country. Granted, it's a little easier to get down the field in time when your punter only averages 36.6 yards on his punts, but we can't harsh everything they do.
Nevada quickly builds up a comfortable lead and (more importantly) keeps it that way through the second half. Focus is not a problem, just as it wasn't a problem in Las Cruces last year. The home crowd is large and grateful for a long enough break in the weather to enjoy an actual day game at Mackay. No major injuries occur, and the second- and third-string offense and defense see more than their share of snaps. Just for good measure, a kick-off or punt is returned for a touchdown, and we all celebrate accordingly.
Focus quickly becomes a big problem, as Nevada has great difficulty in not playing down to its competition a la San Jose State. The outcome of the game is never in doubt, but the meager crowd on hand can clearly see that the team's attention is elsewhere. On top of the crummy weather, more than one player is sidelined with a major injury. Instead of heading into the next game with their confidence solidified, questions outnumber answers both for Nevada's players and fans, and anxiety runs rampant.
No profound conclusions to draw here. Just show up, kick ass, and move on to Boise State.