A Season Going to the Wonder Dogs? [OPINION]
(LAS CRUCES, NM) – In the end, it was garbage time for Striking, the Wonder Dog.
NMSU’s kickoff tee retriever had run onto the field so often he didn’t want to retrieve anymore.
Fetch this, bub.
After the Aggies had scored their last touchdown against UTEP in the fourth quarter, Striking ran onto the field and sat down, forcing his human, Dr. Steve Stochaj, to come retrieve the tee for him.
The Miners also have a tee retriever. Usually a student equipment manager. Probably some hapless freshman.
Hapless or not, that kid didn’t have to put in the work Striking did Saturday night.
When Striking went on strike, it was his sixth sprint onto the field to pick up that infernal tee, not including the second half kickoff.
UTEP’s tee retriever made just two trips after the opening kickoff.
Aggies win, 41-14.
Somebody deserved some extra treats Saturday night.
Nobody on the visiting sideline, though.
If Striking was frustrated, he had nothing on UTEP coach Sean Kugler. The Miners haven’t been waxed by their arch-rivals like that since Tony Samuel’s Aggies whooped Gary Nord and UTEP, 49-14, in 2002.
Kugler is at a loss to explain how and why his team seems to have fallen off a cliff where, just last season, UTEP's tee retriever was much busier.
Maybe Striking is looking for an easier gig. The Miners’ sideline would be a good spot. He would only have had eight tee retrievals all season, not including opening kickoffs!
Striking should be happy he wasn’t fetching UTEP’s tees when Aaron Jones was on the team. He’d have had to sprint out 17 times after Jones scored last season alone.
Sure, many of the players who blocked for Jones are still with the Miners. But, working like a dog, you can feel the pain of opposing defenses trying to keep up with a real star.
Could that be the biggest difference? It's noticeable when you consider the similarities between last year's UTEP team and this year's.
Same dogs in the hunt? Mostly, yes.
Same issue with dropped passes? Yep, like the ball was a slobbery chew toy.
Inability to generate offense because everyone knows you want to run it, need to run it and can't pass it? Like the proverbial old dog.
Another indirect testimony to Jones' impact – the Miners just had their first game with over 100 yards rushing this season against NMSU. What changed?
UTEP's second-leading rusher from last season, Quardraiz Wadley, returned from injury.
No knock against Walter Dawn or Kevin Dove, but Wadley's return is virtually the only difference in the Miners' lineup from UTEP's first three games to Saturday in Las Cruces.
No knock against Wadley, but Aaron Jones plays for the Green Bay Packers.
Interesting how lacking one big dog shows how small the rest of the pack is.
That might all be a bit too nuanced for an animal that can only see in black and white. But if you’re an enterprising tee retriever shopping around for a cushier gig, you do your research.
However, if you look at the past, you also have to think about the future. Things could change quickly at UTEP, especially when fans have a bone to pick.
Probably best for Striking to stay put, all things considered.
Once they stop doing it, no telling how hard it would be to re-train equipment managers to fetch when he's tired.