clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The New Mexico State Aggies And That Same Song

NOTE: Confused? Don't miss the definitions and footnotes at the bottom. And as always, if you don't like numbers, just skip to the words.

When I began to look into the issue of African American coaches (or lack thereof) at the collegiate level for this Varsity Numbers column (one of my favorites), I noticed something interesting:

Whereas Gus Malzahn can turn down Vandy, in part (probably) because it's a coaching graveyard, in the name of progress it doesn't appear that black coaches are as likely to turn these spots down. Of the 13 names above, five were at Northwestern, Stanford, and Wake Forest -- "smart kid" schools with little history. Big-name schools are more likely to hire coaches who have already established themselves, and they are less likely to take chances with their hire.

The mid-major level has seen much of the same. Of the 18 coaches hired at a non-BCS school, two were at Eastern Michigan (Ron Cooper and Ron English), two at New Mexico State (Tony Samuel and DeWayne Walker), and other low-caliber schools like Temple (Ron Dickerson), San Jose State (Fitzgerald Hill), Louisiana-Lafayette (Jerry Baldwin), Ohio (Cleve Bryant), and Buffalo (Turner Gill). Those schools are resume killers (to say the least, they are not working with the same amount of resources as others). It is both telling and predictable that only one of the mid-major black coaches (Cooper) got a shot at a better job (Louisville, which in the mid-1990s wasn't as much better as we would now think) down the line.

Not until John Blake was hired at Oklahoma did a black coach get an opportunity at a historical power with solid infrastructure. And Blake was nowhere near ready.


In general, with Charlie Strong being the most clear exception, black coaches hired to BCS jobs tend to have less experience ... than the average BCS coach at the time of hire. In the name of progress, this is to be expected. But in the end, the rush does few favors to the coaches involved. The six least experienced coaches on the list had very little success overall, even the ones who inherited recent winners.

Since College Football Hall of Famer Warren Woodson left Las Cruces following the 1967 season, here are the coaches brave enough to accept an increasingly more difficult job:

  • Jim Wood (five years, 21-30-1, .413 win%)
  • Jim Bradley (five years, 23-31-1, .427)
  • Gil Krueger (five years, 17-37-1, .318)
  • Fred Zechman (three years, 8-25, .242)
  • Mike Knoll (four years, 4-40!, .091)
  • Jim Hess (seven years, 22-55, .286)
  • Tony Samuel (eight years, 34-57, .374)
  • Hal Mumme (four years, 11-38, .224)

Total winning seasons: three. Total seasons with eight or more wins: zero.

Over the past three decades, NMSU has been perhaps the most consistent coaching graveyard at the FBS level. Tony Samuel actually produced two of the three winning seasons (6-5 in 1999, 7-5 in 2002) but could not sustain improvement enough to sustain his employment, and now he coaches at SE Missouri State. Idol of blogger royalty Hal Mumme couldn't generate any momentum here, and in 2009 NMSU turned to seemingly the only man willing to take the job: DeWayne Walker. The result has been both predictable and discouraging: two years, five wins and 13 losses by 20 points or more. Walker has put together a rather strong, experienced staff and gone 2-0 versus New Mexico, but the talent just hasn't been there to date, and the combination of facilities and history have not exactly caused boatloads of star recruits to give the Aggies a chance. Recruiting is improving, but only a smidge. In college football, the best predictor of success is past success ... and NMSU has had none.

2010 Schedule & Results*

Record: 2-10 | Adj. Record: 1-11 | Final F/+ Rk**: 120
Date Opponent Score W-L Adj. Score Adj. W-L
11-Sep San Diego State 21-41 L 28.5 - 27.0 W
18-Sep at UTEP 10-42 L 20.0 - 36.3 L
25-Sep at Kansas 16-42 L 16.4 - 44.1 L
2-Oct Boise State 0-59 L 17.3 - 35.4 L
9-Oct New Mexico 16-14 W 6.0 - 32.4 L
16-Oct at Fresno State 10-33 L 12.3 - 31.8 L
23-Oct at Idaho 14-37 L 12.1 - 27.1 L
30-Oct San Jose State 29-27 W 16.8 - 37.9 L
6-Nov at Utah State 22-27 L 16.2 - 30.6 L
13-Nov Louisiana Tech 20-41 L 15.8 - 35.8 L
20-Nov at Nevada 6-52 L 11.2 - 29.9 L
27-Nov Hawaii 24-59 L 14.5 - 38.8 L
Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
Points Per Game 15.7 117 39.5 115
Adj. Points Per Game 15.6 118 33.9 116

Though they defeated the Lobos, NMSU still won the honor of finishing dead last in the F/+ rankings. The Aggies played relatively well in Week One, then regressed swiftly. They won two home games against teams that finished 107th (San Jose State) and 119th (UNM) in F/+, but after the first week, their Adj. Scoring Margin -- their projected score if they had played a perfectly average team and gotten an average number of breaks -- was never once better than minus-14 points. They were young and hopeless, a condition only made worse by shuffling at the quarterback position. Starting quarterback Matt Christian (1,372 yards, 5.8 per pass, 48% completion rate, 8 TD, 2 INT; 255 pre-sack rushing yards) was injured twice and played just eight games, and his two young backups -- redshirt freshman Tanner Rust (33 yards, 1.8 per pass!, 44% completion rate, 0 TD, 1 INT) and true freshman Andrew Manley (604 yards, 5.0 per pass, 52% completion rate, 1 TD, 6 INT) -- only made things worse.

NMSU Offense With Matt Christian: 17.5 Adj. PPG
NMSU Offense With Andrew Manley: 13.8 Adj. PPG
NMSU Offense With Tanner Rust: 6.0 Adj. PPG

Now, to be sure, even with Christian this was a bad offense -- 17.5 Adj. PPG for the full season would have been good enough to rank just 116th in the country -- but it was infinitely better than the alternative. The main problem in 2011 is that while the passing game was slightly better than the run game (especially with Christian), last year's top two targets are gone, and it is entirely unclear who exactly Christian, Manley, Rust or whoever will be able to lean on for nice gains through the air.


Category S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
OVERALL 120 120 118
RUSHING 119 120 117 Adj. Line Yards:
PASSING 115 115 111 114
Standard Downs 119 119 116 Adj. Sack Rate:
Passing Downs 116 112 118 35
Redzone 115 112 115
Q1 Rk 114 1st Down Rk 116
Q2 Rk 110 2nd Down Rk 119
Q3 Rk 120 3rd Down Rk 118
Q4 Rk 106

There's nowhere to go but up for a New Mexico State offense that finished dead last in Off. S&P+ and second-to-last in OFEI. When offensive coordinator Mike Dunbar (former Central Michigan head coach) abruptly retired in March, Walker turned to another former MAC coach, ex-Kent State head man Doug Martin. Martin's Kent offenses had a relatively similar footprint to that of NMSU:

Kent passed about five percent more than NMSU and played much slower -- which is probably good for underdogs; if you cannot move the chains, then a faster pace just gives the ball back to opponents quicker -- but there is nothing drastically different here.

Martin inherits an incredibly experienced offensive line; relatively speaking, the line was probably the strongest unit on the field last year (especially in terms of pass protection), and it should be so again. Barring injury, center Mike Grady will leave school a four-year starter, and the tackles have quite a bit of potential. Davonte Wallace started 11 games as a true freshman last year, and Aundre McGaskey was, in a previous life, a four-star Texas signee and Rivals 250 recruit. At 257 pounds, Wallace is not going to blow even a big defensive end off the ball, but he's agile enough to protect the passer, which is clearly a prerequisite in the Martin offense.

Speaking of passing ... who catches passes this year? If he's ready (or perhaps even if he's not), Taveon Rogers (278 yards, 15.4 per catch, 46% catch rate, 2 TD) could end up being the No. 1 guy. A fantastic kick return man, Rogers was a bit too inconsistent last year, but ... there might not be any other options. Todd Lee (280 yards, 11.7 per catch, 53% catch rate, 3 TD) might be a decent possession man, and incoming freshman Austin Franklin was one of Walker's highest-rated signees, but Rogers stepping up might be the best thing that could happen to this offense.

Other tidbits:

  • Typically when there is a gigantic difference between a line's Adj. Line Yards and Adj. Sack Rate ratings, I assume the quarterback's ability (or lack thereof) to evade a pass rush or get rid of the ball quickly had something to do with it. In NMSU's case, I'm going to apply quite a bit of that sack rate to the line. It is unlikely that all three quarterbacks were equally evasive, and besides, there didn't seem to be much short passing in NMSU's gameplans -- it was all-or-usually-nothing. Well, that and the fact Christian seemed quite willing to throw the ball away quickly.
  • Two of the top three running backs are back, though new blood wouldn't be the worst thing in the world. Kenny Turner and Robert Clay combined for 687 yards, 4.1 per carry, and a quite poor minus-15.5 Adj. POE. Turner is an interesting receiving weapon (203 receiving yards), but this still isn't a high-ceiling unit.


Category S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
OVERALL 117 106 119
RUSHING 119 104 120 Adj. Line Yards:
PASSING 111 98 113 108
Standard Downs 116 108 119 Adj. Sack Rate:
Passing Downs 69 33 83 120
Redzone 96 88 103
Q1 Rk 115 1st Down Rk 99
Q2 Rk 114 2nd Down Rk 119
Q3 Rk 69 3rd Down Rk 101
Q4 Rk 98

It is an oddity to end all oddities: the New Mexico State was downright competent on passing downs, attacking and blitzing and registering one of the better Passing Downs Success Rates of any mid-major team. One slight problem: they couldn't actually force passing downs. On standard downs, the Aggies had the fifth-worst defense in the country and allowed the second-highest big play rate. The line got pushed around against the run and couldn't generate any pass rush whatsoever without blitzing. Defensive coordinator Dale Lindsey is solid and extremely experienced, but strategy doesn't matter if you cannot compete physically.

Will the physical disadvantage change at all in 2011? That probably depends on newcomers. Junior college tackle Walton Taumoepeau was the highest-rated player in the 2011 recruiting class, and at 6-foot-3, 300 pounds, is quite an agile playmaker for his size. Throw in JUCO end Sean Brown and JUCO linebacker (and former Boise State Bronco) Alex Lavoy, and you can see that there is quite the attempted transfusion underway.

If some of these newcomers work out, then the front seven becomes much deeper than last year. Tackle Augafa Vaaulu (16.0 tackles, 1.5 TFL/sacks) showed potential as a true freshman, and ends Donte Savage (27.5 tackles, 6.5 TFL/sacks, 2 FF, 2 PBU) and Pierre Fils (24.5 tackles, 3.5 TFL/sacks) are decent if undersized. They just need more bodies. Of course ... if you are counting on a ton of newcomers to help you succeed, your odds of success aren't all that great.

Other tidbits:

  • Linebackers B.J. Aldopho (53.0 tackles, 7.5 TFL/sacks, 2 PBU) and wonderfully-named Boyblue Aoelua (52.5 tackles, 4.5 TFL/sacks, 1 INT, 1 FF, 1 FR, 1 PBU) are probably the most proven returning playmakers on the defensive side of the ball. The linebacking unit was painfully (and predictably) thin, with only the three starters registering any level of playing time, but as long as they stay healthy, Aldopho, Aoelua and Mystery Starter No. 3 will make for at least a decent unit.
  • Newcomers could make an impact on the secondary as well. JUCOs Anthony Edwards and Lester White join free-safety-turned-corner Donyae Coleman (69.5 tackles, 1.5 TFL/sacks, 4 PBU), sophomore safety George Callendar (22.5 tackles, 1 PBU) and a decent cornerback in Jonte Green (60.0 tackles, 1.0 TFL/sacks, 8 PBU). I rarely talk about newcomers in these pieces, so the fact that I am doing just that probably tells you what you need to know about NMSU's overall depth.

New Mexico State's 2010 Season Set to Music

Let's go with some Zeppelin: "The Song Remains The Same."

Fun Stat Nerd Tidbit

Well, I wouldn't necessarily say this is a fun tidbit...

Fifteen Worst Off. F/+ Ratings, 2006-10
1. 2009 New Mexico State (-25.3%)

2. 2008 Central Florida (-21.7%)
3. 2010 Buffalo (-19.9%)
4. 2008 San Jose State (-19.7%)
5. 2009 Washington State (-19.2%)
6. 2009 Army (-18.9%)
7. 2008 Army (-18.6%)
8. 2008 Washington State (-17.4%)
9. 2010 New Mexico (-16.9%)
10. 2007 Army (-16.8%)
11. 2010 New Mexico State (-16.7%)
12. 2006 Temple (-15.9%)
13. 2007 Temple (-15.5%)
14. 2008 Western Kentucky (-15.4%)
15. 2010 Memphis (-15.0%)

So at the very least, NMSU improved quite a bit in 2010 ... but there's still a long way to go.

Summary and Projection Factors

Below is a small handful of projection and change factors most pertinent to the Football Outsiders' preseason projections you will find in this summer's Football Outsiders Almanac 2011.

Four-Year F/+ Rk 120
Five-Year Recruiting Rk 109
TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin**** -6 / -10.0
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 14 (7, 7)
Yds/Pt Margin***** +7.4

Rooting for the underdog is deep in my DNA, and New Mexico State is perhaps the biggest underdog in FBS. Recruiting has improved slightly in Walker's first two years, and as mentioned above, the offense improved last year and should again this fall. But even though the coaching staff is experienced, but it really is unclear at this point whether anybody can succeed in Las Cruces.

This fall, Boise State mercifully leaves the schedule, and the Aggies potentially have four winnable home games: Ohio (last year's F/+ ranking: 91st), Idaho (99th), Utah State (101st) and UTEP (109th). Throw in road trips to each of their two victims last year -- San Jose State and New Mexico -- and we'll say that NMSU's season really involves six games. Don't worry about the other seven. Just improve your overall ratings and win four of these six games, and the season will have been a definitive step forward.




* For more on the 'Adj. Score' and 'Adj. Record' measures below, feel free to read this Football Outsiders column. Adj. Score is a look at how a team would have performed in a given week if playing a perfectly average team, with a somewhat average number of breaks and turnovers. The idea for the measure is simple: what if everybody in the country played exactly the same opponent every single week? Who would have done the best? It is an attempt to look at offensive and defensive consistency without getting sidetracked by easy or difficult schedules. And yes, with adjusted score you can allow a negative number of points, which is strangely satisfying.

** F/+ rankings are the official rankings for the college portion of Football Outsiders. They combine my own S&P+ rankings (based on play-by-play data) with Brian Fremeau's drives-based FEI rankings.

*** What is S&P+? Think of it as an OPS (the "On-Base Plus Slugging" baseball measure) for football. The 'S' stands for success rates, a common Football Outsiders efficiency measure that basically serves as on-base percentage. The 'P' stands for PPP+, an explosiveness measure that stands for EqPts Per Play. The "+" means it has been adjusted for the level of opponent, obviously a key to any good measure in college football. S&P+ is measured for all non-garbage time plays in a given college football game. Plays are counted within the following criteria: when the score is within 28 points in the first quarter, within 24 points in the second quarter, within 21 points in the third quarter, and within 16 points (i.e. two possession) in the fourth quarter.  For more about this measure, visit the main S&P+ page at Football Outsiders.

**** Adj. TO Margin is what a team's turnover margin would have been if they had recovered exactly 50 percent of all the fumbles that occurred in their games. If there is a huge difference between TO Margin and Adj. TO Margin (in other words, if fumbles and unlucky bounces were the main source of a good/bad TO margin), that suggests that a team's luck was particularly good or bad and might even out the next season.

*****Phil Steele has long tracked Yards Per Point as a means of looking at teams that were a little too efficient or inefficient the previous season. A positive Yds/Pt Margin means a team's offense was less efficient than opponents' offenses, and to the extent that luck was involved, their luck might even out the next year.