Around the SEC (Bonus!): New Mexico State
Published 9:15 am Friday, August 16, 2019
Editor’s note: Ole Miss’s fourth non-conference game, New Mexico State takes us to part 12 of a 16-part series, examining every team in the SEC, plus three bonuses, correlating with the three FBS Ole Miss non-conference games. We’ll preview one school nearly every day, alphabetically, until all 16 are completed. Yesterday we previewed Missouri. Today, the New Mexico State Aggies. For each of the schools in the series, see the bottom of the article.
2018 Season Overview:
3-9 (1-1 against fellow independents)
The Big Three:
Josh Adkins, QB
Javahn Fergurson, MLB
Roy Lopez, DT
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After four straight two- or three-win seasons, the 2017 New Mexico State football program reached its pinnacle– a 7-6 season capped by their first bowl game victory in over 50 years. In 2018, they came crashing back to reality. 2019 is all about regaining that momentary high.
The Aggies got kicked out of the Sun Belt Conference after that 2017 season, something that was predetermined no matter the outcome of the surprising season. Now, one of six independent schools in the FBS, the Aggies can play literally anyone that will take them – enter their game in Oxford late in the season.
One year ago, New Mexico State finished the season ranked No. 123 of 130 FBS schools by S&P+. Head coach Doug Martin, entering year seven in Las Cruces, sports just a 20-53 record with the Aggies.
If one is searching for reasons the team could improve in 2019, it starts with redshirt sophomore quarterback Josh Adkins. A three-star recruit out of high school, Adkins started his redshirt freshman year, and is clearly the guy for the Aggies. His first year in the offense, he completed just 57 percent of his passes, throwing 13 touchdowns compared to nine interceptions.
But there’s actually more good news for the NMST offense: they also return their top two rushers and three of their four leading receivers from a year ago. The team may not be good, but with all that experience returning from a year ago it’s hard for the offense to not see some positive regression.
Defensively, the Aggies return arguably their two best players. Middle linebacker Javahn Fergurson totaled 131 tackles a year ago, including 7.5 for loss and 5.5 sacks. He’s the clear leader in the interior of the defense for Doug Martin. Also returning is defensive tackle Roy Lopez. The 313-pound senior was the lane clogger for the Aggies a year ago, recording 12.5 tackles for loss from the nose tackle spot.
Realistically, looking at the Ole Miss schedule, it’s hard to find an easier win than this. The Aggies might be better than last year, but even if they are, it may not show in the win column. A fun development with New Mexico State is their brewing, cross-country rivalry with Liberty University. Last year, NMST lost 21-28 at Liberty. Bizarrely, they play twice this upcoming season.
Prediction: 2-11, Wins over Liberty and the University of the Incarnate Word
Nathanael Gabler covers Ole Miss and high school sports for the Oxford Eagle. You can reach him at email@example.com with news tips, suggestions or comments. Follow @ngabler4 on Twitter.