Texas Longhorns: New Mexico State Aggies

Countdown: New Mexico State vs. Texas

August, 30, 2013
The 245-day wait is almost over. To help you pass the time while counting down the final Here’s one final preview of No. 15 Texas’ season opener against New Mexico State on Saturday (7 p.m., Longhorn Network).

Five notes

1. Texas is 7-0 all-time against New Mexico schools and is averaging 50.4 points per game in games against New Mexico and New Mexico State. Texas has never won a game against those two schools by less than 30 points.

2. First-year New Mexico State coach Doug Martin went 1-3 against Big 12 schools during his stint as head coach at Kent State from 2004-2010. The lone victory came against Iowa State in 2007. In its past three games against Big 12 schools, NMSU went 0-3 and averaged 7.7 points per game.

3. In Mack Brown’s first game as Texas coach, the Longhorns blew out New Mexico State 66-36 in 1998. Ricky Williams kicked off Brown’s tenure and his own Heisman Trophy campaign with 215 rushing yards and a school-record six touchdowns.

4. On the injury front: Jaxon Shipley and Marcus Johnson have been practicing this week and have a good chance of playing Saturday. Texas’ staff has been coy about how it will use Tyrone Swoopes, citing the hamstring issue that has slowed him, but don’t be surprised if he enters in the fourth quarter against NMSU.

5. Texas has only three true freshmen – Swoopes, receiver Jacorey Warrick, guard/tackle Kent Perkins – listed on this week’s depth chart. Mack Brown said Wednesday that “very few” freshmen will play in 2013 and most will redshirt, unlike the past two seasons.

Four quotes

[+] EnlargeJohnathan Gray
Cal Sport Media via AP ImagesSophomore Johnathan Gray will start the season as Texas' first-string tailback. Can Gray begin with a bang?
1. “It's a unique opener, more than most, because we don't know anything about their offense. We don't know anything about their defense. We've heard a few things, but we don't have a clue about what they're going to do.” -- Mack Brown

2. “The team theme is, ‘For the man on my right and the man on my left.' What that means to us in the military is all the training you're going through, everything that you're doing when you're in combat or in a situation, it's about making sure the guy next to you is successful, keeping him safe, keeping him alive.” -- Texas deep snapper Nate Boyer

3. “I am excited. I see improvement, I see hope. I have worked as hard as I can possibly work for three years to get this team to where it will get back into the mix and I am excited about seeing if we are. I think we are, but we have to play and you have to do it every week.” -- Mack Brown

4. “I was confused. Man, that's cool. I doubt she really knows who I am. She's from Texas, she probably saw the jersey. If she did know who I was, I'm not going to not think that [is cool].” -- Texas quarterback David Ash, on a photo of Beyonce wearing his No. 14 jersey.

Three keys

1. Establish the run early. Ash is at his best as a big-play passer when the run game is creating those opportunities. A hot start from Johnathan Gray with help from Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron will make Texas’ play-action game hard to stop.

2. Avoid turnovers. Don’t make this opener – against one of the worst teams in FBS last season -- anything more than it needs to be.

3. Depth up front. How will Texas’ offensive line react and rotate when going up-tempo, and how effective will its defensive line be at pressuring NMSU while throwing as many as eight or nine different linemen into the game?

Two key players

1. Texas LB Jordan Hicks: Texas knows so little about what NMSU will throw at it offensively that it’s easy to see why Hicks’ return is vital. As the veteran leader of the linebackers, he’ll be trusted to get everyone else lined up correctly and make adjustments as needed. He’s experienced and smart enough to handle the unknown this week, and he’s been looking forward to this start for a long time.

2. New Mexico State P Cayle Chapman-Brown: I know, he’s just a punter and so what? Yes, but he’s one of the better ones in the country, and the Australian has a big leg. If NMSU wants to give Texas a real fight, field position will be important. Pin the Longhorns in their own territory repeatedly and it’s a safe bet their untested tempo plans will get thrown off. That could mean turnovers, and a chance.

One prediction

No. 15 Texas 45, New Mexico 10

Major Applewhite goes for some fireworks early – think a bomb to Mike Davis or Daje Johnson – as the Texas up-tempo makes its debut. There will be a few hiccups here and there, and the Longhorn offense will slow down as needed, but the first impression will be solid. Jackson Jeffcoat will get right back to business and lead a pass rush that overwhelms the Aggies, and Texas pulls away thanks to two interceptions. This one isn’t close.
Each week, HornsNation teams up with the ESPN Stats and Info crew to dig into the numbers that matter most and find three statistics which could make a big difference on Saturday. We begin with the season opener vs. New Mexico State (7 p.m. CT, Longhorn Network).

No. 1: 46-11

[+] EnlargeManny Diaz
Patrick Green/Icon SMIManny Diaz and the Texas defense are preparing for the unknown in New Mexico State QB Andrew McDonald.
The average score of Texas’ 15 season openers under coach Mack Brown is 46-11. He’s won 13 straight openers, and the Longhorns are 78-7-2 all-time when beginning the season at home. Most of those 13 haven’t been close, as Texas has won by 30 or more in nine openers under Brown.

Still, as a college football aficionado, Brown is quick to point out that there are always Week 1 upsets. The thought of Texas being one of them provides enough of a scare that he makes sure his players don’t overlook their first foe. He was asked Monday if his goal is to see Texas play dominant in the opener. Brown said no. He just wants a win.

No. 2: 3 passes

Texas is preparing for the unknown this week as it gets set for a New Mexico State offense run by offensive coordinator Gregg Brandon. The fact the Longhorns played Brandon last fall when he was at Wyoming is a plus, but there’s another issue: We knows almost nothing about NMSU quarterback Andrew McDonald. He attempted three passes last season, competed one for three yards and took two sacks against Ohio. That’s all.

Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said Monday the lack of film on McDonald had the Texas staff going back to look at McDonald’s film out of junior college. The former Arizona walk-on and son of USC All-American quarterback Paul McDonald threw for 4,266 yards and 50 scores in two years at Santa Ana College but backed up senior Andrew Manley in 2012.

No. 3: 81.5

New Mexico State’s defense put up bad numbers in nearly all phases last season. When a team goes 1-11, that’s usually the case. NMSU ranked among the 10 worst in FBS in yards per game, yards per play and points per game. No surprise there. But there’s another stat that should pique Longhorn fans’ interest.

Opposing quarterbacks averaged an adjusted QBR rating of 81.5 against NMSU, worst in the FBS. Just for context, the national average last season was 58.9.

When he took over, new head coach Doug Martin retained defensive coordinator David Elson. Whatever progress he’s made in his second season on the job will be tested right away by David Ash, who ranks No. 7 in the country among returning passers in adjusted QBR at 77.7 last season.

Three more to remember

.212: New Mexico State’s win percentage since 2005, worst in FBS over that span.

Six: The number of games NMSU’s defense gave up 500-plus yards of total offense in 2012. Only Baylor and Louisiana Tech permitted more 500-yard games last season.

446: Rushing yards New Mexico State gave up in its season finale against Texas State last year. NMSU ranked No. 113 in rushing defense in FBS.

First Glance: New Mexico State

August, 26, 2013
A look at New Mexico State, the Longhorns' opponent Saturday (7 p.m. CT, Longhorn Network).

Campus location: Las Cruces, N.M.

Nickname: Aggies

Conference: New Mexico State football was in the WAC last year, is an FBS Independent this year and joins the Sun Belt next year.

All-time record vs. Texas: 0-4

Last game: The Aggies won their opener vs. Sacramento State last season and then lost their next 11. The final one was a 66-28 blowout loss just down Interstate 35 at Texas State. NMSU led 21-14 after the first quarter, then gave up five consecutive touchdowns and didn’t score the second half. Head coach DeWayne Walker resigned after four seasons to take a job as a Jacksonville Jaguars assistant. Former Kent State coach Doug Martin took over.

Last meeting with Texas: Texas defeated New Mexico State 66-7 at home in 2003. Selvin Young returned two kicks for touchdowns and the No. 5 Longhorns got interception returns for touchdowns from Derrick Johnson and Michael Huff. Chance Mock made his first career start and Vince Young rushed for two fourth-quarter TDs in his redshirt freshman debut.

Key player: New Mexico State’s biggest impact player, wide receiver Austin Franklin, put up 1,245 receiving yards on 74 receptions last season. But the junior, a Dallas native, was ruled academically ineligible on Aug. 9 and must redshirt this season. With a new QB in Andrew McDonald and no Franklin, expect NMSU to lean on backs Germi Morrison and Brandon Betancourt.

Why New Mexico State might win: For Texas to lose this game Saturday, a lot of self-inflicted damage would be necessary. As the struggles in the first half vs. Oregon State last December remind us, Texas could get off to a slow start if the tempo isn’t clicking. But really, it would take an awful lot of Longhorns turnovers to make this a close game.

Why New Mexico State might lose: They’ll play as if they have nothing to lose, but on paper the Aggies just don’t have the talent to keep up with Texas. How will they move the ball on the Longhorns or make stops on defense? Last year’s NMSU squad finished among the worst in the country in scoring (18.7 per game) and points allowed (39.4). Even with a new head coach, this year’s team might not be much better.
HornsNation is breaking down Texas' 2013 football schedule this summer. This week: The Longhorns' season-opening game vs. New Mexico State on Aug. 31.

New Mexico State record in 2012: 1-11, 0-5 in the WAC

Last meeting against Texas: The Longhorns won 66-7 in the season opener at DKR in 2003.

OU-Texas a big deal for Charles Walker 

October, 12, 2012
Defensive tackle Charles Walker (Garland, Texas/South Garland) is one of the many college football recruiting prospects making the trip to the Cotton Bowl for Saturday’s Texas-Oklahoma showdown.

The 6-foot-4, 280-pound tackle claims an offer from Oklahoma and has received some interest from Texas. Like most of the uncommitted players there, he’s hoping for Saturday to offer an idea of what he wants in a winning program.

“I’m ready to see them get after it,” Walker said. “I want to see how the offenses execute and if the defenses can be on lockdown.”

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