Aggies set to tangle with Gators
By Brook Stockberger
Las Cruces Bulletin
The Aggies are excited.
The college football season returns for New Mexico State University with the roar of 88,000 fans Saturday, Sept. 5 in Gainesville, Fla. to take on the University of Florida Gators in what is expected to be a jam-packed Ben Hill Griffin Stadium Kickoff is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. (MDT).
Legendary broadcaster Brent Musburger will call the game for a national TV audience on the SEC Network. In Las Cruces, the radio broadcast can be heard on The Ticket AM-570.
Doug Martin, starting his third campaign as NMSU’s head coach, knows the Aggies (2-10 in 2014) have a huge challenge on their hands with an SEC opponent to start the season.
But he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“You look forward to playing the best teams in the country,” Martin said. “That’s why you come to play college football. When we recruited a lot of these kids, they knew they were going to get to play Florida.”
He said a tough opening is a “great test.”
“I think these (kind of games) really prepare your team well for the rest of the year,” Martin said. “We won’t play a more talented football team the rest of the year. So if we can go out there and go toe-to-toe and stand with them, it’s going to be a great test for us and it’s going to be a great help for us.”
He’s realistic about what the team must do to win.
“We aren’t going to go down there and beat Florida by 40 points,” Martin said. “Nobody in the SEC is going to go out and beat Florida by 40 points. The way you win those games is you hang around and you fight and you claw and you scratch and you get to the fourth quarter when you are within striking distance, and then you have a chance.”
The Gators (7-5) have a new head coach. Jim McElwain, a former offensive coordinator at Alabama, was the head coach at Colorado State the past three seasons. With McElwain at the helm, the Rams liked to take to the air, but they also had a 1,200 yard rusher.
Martin knows the Gators and their new coach will make NMSU prove it can stop the run.
Aggie opponents chewed up grass like a herd of cows on methamphetamines last year to the tune of nearly 310 yards per game.
“The defense is more confident this year,” said junior linebacker Rodney Butler, who recorded 119 tackles a year ago. “The biggest thing for us is to stop the run.”
On offense, returning quarterback Tyler Rogers looks to improve on a 2014 season that saw him throw 23 interceptions compared to 19 touchdowns.
Wide receiver Teldrick Morgan hauled in seven of those touchdown passes last year and the signal caller has “progressed.
“He’s more confident than I’ve ever seen him,” Morgan said.
Morgan cannot wait to lock horns with Florida cornerback Vernon Hargreaves who, during SEC Media Days in July, called himself the best cornerback in college.
“I’m really looking forward to see what I can do,” Morgan said. “This might be the hardest defense we play all year.”
Brook Stockberger may be reached at 680-1977 or brook@lascrucesbulletin.