Minnesota (1-0) at New Mexico State (0-1)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 7, 8:00 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Aggie Memorial Stadium (30,343) -- Las Cruces, New Mexico. Television: None. Home Record: Minnesota 1-0, NMSU 0-0. Away Record: Minnesota 0-0, NMSU 0-1. Neutral Record: Minnesota 0-0, NMSU 0-0. Conference Record: Minnesota 0-0, NMSU 0-0. Series Record: New Mexico State leads, 1-0.
GAME NOTES: Two teams that had vastly different experiences in their season openers last week will get together on Saturday, as the New Mexico State Aggies host the Minnesota Golden Gophers in non-conference action.
New Mexico State, which went from winning its 2012 season opener against Sacramento State (49-19) to dropping 11 straight decisions to close out last year, was blown away in the kickoff to 2013 by nationally-ranked Texas in a lopsided 56-7 final in Austin last Saturday. The slide for the Aggies is second only to Southern Miss which, in addition to going winless all of last season (12 games), it also fell to Texas State in this year's opener.
As for the Golden Gophers, they too were involved in a one-sided affair last Thursday night, but in their case they were the ones getting the upper hand in a 51-23 decision over UNLV at home. The victory for Minnesota not only snapped a three-game slide dating back to last season, the scoring burst by the team was their highest since posting a 63-26 romp over Indiana in November of 2006.
New Mexico State won the only previous meeting between these two programs two years ago in a 28-21 final in Minneapolis.
Philip Nelson threw for one touchdown and ran for two more as the Golden Gophers crushed the UNLV Rebels by four touchdowns in non-conference action at TCF Bank Stadium last week. Nelson converted 10-of-22 passes for 99 yards and was intercepted once, but also ran for a team-best 83 yards and two scores for the Gophers as they defeated UNLV for the second time in as many seasons.
The Minnesota defense and special teams also got in on the scoring effort as Briean Boddy-Calhoun returned an interception 89 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter and Martez Shabazz brought back a blocked field goal 51 yards for a score a period earlier.
In 2012, the Gophers needed three overtimes in order to take down UNLV by just a field goal (30-27), but this time around many more pieces fell into place for head coach Jerry Kill and his crew, even though the Rebels did generate a healthy 419 yards of total offense.
Nelson is off to a solid start for the Gophers after appearing in the final seven games of last season, accounting for just over 1,000 yards of total offense in those outings. Nelson threw a total of five TDs in his first two appearances against Wisconsin and Purdue, but then had just three more the rest of the way and finished with just as many interceptions (eight) as aerial TDs.
The pass defense for the Gophers was a bit shaken up last week, considering the team ranked fourth in the Big Ten Conference and 12th in the nation a year ago with just 186.6 ypg allowed, so expect the team to get back to basics this coming weekend.
Pitted against a Texas squad that has something to prove, the Aggies were easily dismissed by the Longhorns in the opener, the first game under new head coach Doug Martin. The coach saw his charges actually take the lead following a scoreless first quarter, thanks to an 11-yard TD pass from Andrew McDonald to Joshua Bowen, but that was the extent of the good news for the Aggies in the setback.
McDonald finished the meeting 32-of-46 for 242 yards, was picked off once and suffered a sack. McDonald also fumbled twice as the team found a way to get blown out even while controlling the action for more than 36 minutes.
Outside of the first quarter, the defense for the Aggies did little to slow down Texas as the hosts generated a whopping 715 yards of total offense, averaging 9.9 yards per play during the rout. Last season NMSU gave up 432.2 ypg (88th nationally), which means the unit has a lot of work to do heading into this weekend.
Somewhat surprisingly, the Aggies were able to record three takeaways in the battle with Texas (two INTs and one fumble), a positive sign considering the unit ranked 117th in the country with a turnover margin of minus-1.50 per game a year ago.
The Gophers probably aren't as dominant a team as they showed against UNLV last week, but there's a good chance that NMSU could be as bad as it showed versus Texas, which means this meeting has the potential to be another runaway event for Minnesota.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Minnesota 35, New Mexico State 20
09/04 10:37:34 ET