Las Cruces, N.M. --- There could not be a better setting for a football game as skies began to clear and sun slowly faded away providing ideal weather conditions at Aggie Memorial Stadium. The New Mexico State Aggies football team took the field for their annual spring game, but this year with a different feel.
The new era of Aggie football led by first-year head coach, Doug Martin hosted its first evening spring game in years. As the stadium lights kicked on and fans filled the stands the Aggies ran through their routine stretches, warm-ups and individual drills.
Another addition to the spring game this year was keeping score, and a point system was put in place for the offense versus the defense. The team split the field and the much anticipated spring game was on its way.
Quarterback, Travaughn Colwell took the first series for the offense. The offense was able to drive the ball mainly via run game. Germi Morrison was able to rack-up 27 rushing yards on five attempts on the first drive, but the offense stalled approaching the red-zone and turned the ball over on downs.
NM State flipped the field and Andrew Manley led the next series. A pair of nice grabs by wide receiver, Adam Shapiro put the offense in a good scoring territory. The offensive line opened up a giant hole and running back, Brandon Betancourt burst through for a 23-yard scamper to put the first offensive touchdown on the board.
Andrew McDonald took the third drive. He was able to avoid pressure multiple times and left the pocket when it collapsed to pick up short chunks of yardage with his feet. McDonald connected with wide receiver, Josh Bowen three times on the drive and a big 26-yard grab was hauled in by receiver, Joseph Matthews to get the offense to the goal line. The offense wasn’t able to punch it in and kicker, Maxwell Johnson chipped in a short field goal to finish the drive.
Defensively, it took some time to get the unit going. Linebacker, Deontae Ragas made a big hit to break up a pass to get the defense fired up. Shortly after, cornerback Kedeem Thomas-Davis broke on a Colwell thrown ball for the defenses first interception and second turnover on the day. A botched snap earlier in the game resulted in the defenses first turnover.
As the game progressed the defense settled down and offense went three-and-out one series, including a sack by linebacker, Trashaun Nixon on the drive. The score was tied up at 17-a-piece thirty minutes into the game. Maxwell Johnson attempted a 41-yard field goal, but was unable to connect on a McDonald led drive.
The defensive line was able to provide some push midway through the scrimmage and tallied a couple more sacks. Defensive end, Kalei Auelua was able to get by the offensive line and sack McDonald who was backed-up, for a safety.
There were several series consecutively the offense failed to get into the end zone. Colwell was able to revamp the offense making plays with his feet and connected on a string of catches with receiver, Xzavian Brandon. A 10-yard completion put the offense on the two-yard line and running back, Yolandus Pratt walked in for an easy touchdown to conclude the drive.
Punter, Cayle Champan-Brown and the punting unit took the field throughout the game and continued to showcase his leg. He booted balls far with a lot of hang-time and even was able to get a couple downed inside the ten.
The offense sputtered for a couple series and failed to score another touchdown going into halftime. Defensively linebackers, Bryan Bonilla and Clint Barnard led the defense in tackles at the half with nine and six. Thomas-Davis was also impressive going into the half with seven tackles. The offense led at half 36-29.
After a short half-time, Manley opened the series for the offense. The offense came out fast and scored in four plays with two big runs from Morrison, including a 35-yard run to set up a Betancourt six yard score. This was the second touchdown on the day for Betancourt.
McDonald was able to put together a nice drive and more notably the first one led prominently through the air. He connected 4-for-4 on the drive with two big hauls by receiver Adam Shapiro, and together put the first score through the air with a 19-yard catch and run by Shapiro to cap off the drive.
Defense held strong with a three-and-out, but the offense was able to rebound and Colwell was able to show off his legs again. On the second play from scrimmage he left the pocket and ran down the offensive sideline for a 48-yard touchdown putting the momentum back in the offensive huddle.
A couple series later Manley was able to lead a long nine-play drive. An even distribution of running by Betancourt and completions to four different targets showed a balance attack during the drive. The series was finished off with an eleven-yard strike to receiver, Jordan Bergstrom.
Defense finished the game off on a high-note stopping the offense on three consecutive drives with strong pressure from the defensive line resulting in multiple sacks. Linebacker, Isaac Leon intercepted a pass with one minute left in the game.
Colwell was only able to get a couple plays off and one first down to set up a game-winning field goal from Maxwell Johnson. Johnson booted a 47-yarder to win the game for the offense, 68-65.
The offense used short passes and play action to get the tight ends involved in the passing attack with Andy Dean and Perris Scoggins making grabs during the game. The run game looked very good using several backs throughout. Morrison and Betancourt both looked great running the ball.
Morrison finished the game with 73 yards on eight attempts and Betancourt with 85 yards on 15 attempts. The quarterback position will most likely be the talk going into fall camp with all three competing for the starting job and displaying their each individual skill-set, and also freshmen, King Davis III getting into the mix. Manley racked up the most yards with 198 going 14-for-24.
Colwell was impressive with 161 yards, completing 19-of-28 through the air and 95 yards with his feet. McDonald was the quarterback of the three competing to not throw an interception. He finished strong also, going 11-for-17 with 160 yards. Joshua Bowen led all receivers with nine receptions for 126 yards. There were very few drops by the receivers during the game and the unit looked good as a whole.
Defense showed the ability to bounce back after a bad series or big plays. They relied on big hits, pressure on the quarterbacks and interceptions to get them fired up. The front seven looked strong and a fast secondary anchored the defense. Bonilla led the defense with eleven tackles on the day, including two tackles for losses. Linebacker, Josh Smith was the only other defensive player to record double-digit tackles with ten and one sack. As a unit, the defense had eight sacks on the day with three total turnovers.
Overall, the spring game was very promising in all three phases of the game. NM State heads into summer ball and into season with a very competitive 2013 schedule. Every position group showcased their talents and the team as a whole looked very polish. Also, it is notable that the team this year appears a lot stronger and bigger on the playing field. With the new era brought new changes in the weight room. Martin kept the team together after the game to show the support to the 1,200 fans in attendance. The players signed autographs and took pictures and Martin thanked everyone for coming out.
The New Mexico State Aggie football team will start there season off at powerhouse, University of Texas on August 31.