Texas Longhorns: Andrew McDonald

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.


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