Who Knows What To Expect From NMSU Football Before Battle of I-10?
As many people are getting ready for tomorrow night's Battle of I-10, the two teams preparing to play each other for the first time in two years could not be any more different. UTEP returns all 11 starters on offense and another 8 on defense for a total of 19 players. On the flip side, only two NMSU starters played against the Miners in 2019. Since the Aggies did not have a fall football season, the best they could do was get in a pair of spring games at the Sun Bowl (New Mexico was still closed) against FCS opponents.
Their roster is a mystery, since the NMSU is filled with newcomers who have no knowledge of UTEP or the Battle of I-10 rivalry. To make things even more weird, Aggies head coach Doug Martin has closed off practice to everyone, including the media. When his team takes the field tomorrow night, it will truly be the first look that anyone in El Paso or Las Cruces has had at the 2021 NMSU football team.
Here is what we do know: their offense features former Missouri receiver Dom Gincinto and Ole Miss center Eli Johnson. They also have Los Lunas native O'Maury Samuels, who began his career at Michigan along with redshirt freshman Juwuan Price from Peoria, Arizona. At quarterback, former Fresno City College transfer Jonah Johnson appears to have the inside track on starting against the Miners tomorrow night. We also know that the left side of the NMSU offensive line is massive: LT Sage Doxtater (6-7, 350), LG Gabe Preciado (6-4, 315), C Johnson (6-3,300), RG Isaiah Musalat (6-4, 305), and RT Doro Omeri (6-4,285). That should be a good early test for the Miners defensive line. Coach Martin likes to throw the ball, so Johnson will have plenty of opportunities to test out the UTEP defensive backfield is his line can keep Praise Amewhule away from him.
The defensive side of the ball is where the Aggies could struggle tomorrow night. They feature just one senior, three freshmen, and a pair of sophomores in their projected starting lineup. They also gave up 29 points to FCS Dixie State and 43 points to Tarleton State in a pair of spring games that were played in the Sun Bowl. If Defensive Coordinator Frank Spaziani needs time to work out the kinks in the fall, the Miners offense could have a field day tomorrow night.
Conventional wisdom suggests that a school who played eight football games last fall should be able to handle an opponent whose fall sports season was canceled and instead could only play a pair of games against lesser opponents at a football stadium 35 miles from their home. However, this is a rivalry game and you have to throw out logic when it comes to UTEP and NMSU. Despite being favored by 10 points on the road, the last time the Miners knocked off the Aggies in a football game, Barack Obama was still President of the United States. Hopefully we will have a much better understanding about both football teams by the end of this weekend.