Saturday Looks Like A Shootout

Bobby Curran
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Friday - October 20, 2006
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Are you ready for ... a shootout? Make plans to catch the Hawaii-New Mexico State game on Saturday. The offensive statistics of both teams are mind-boggling. Hawaii leads the nation in total offense at 525 yards per game. NMSU is third at 502 yards. The Aggies are leading the country in pass offense, the Warriors are second. The teams are tied in first downs with a WAC-leading 156.

Not surprisingly, individual players on these squads also register on the national scales. NMSU quarterback Chase Holbrook is No. 1 in total offense at 409 yards per game. UH QB Colt Brennan is No. 2 at 395 yards. Brennan ranks No. 3 in pass efficiency, Holbrook is 24th. UH slotback Davone Bess is best in the country at 8.17 grabs per game, NMSU’s Chris Williams is fourth at 7.60. Other Hawaii players are among the conference leaders. In receptions per game, Ross Dickerson is eighth, Jason Rivers ninth and Nate Ilaoa is No. 10. Not to be outdone, NMSU has A.J. Harris at No. 4, and Derek Dubois is tied for sixth.

UH head coach June Jones has said, only half jokingly, that his idea of a perfect game would have every play be a pass. Saturday may be a case of be careful what you wish for. The night sky in Las Cruces will be lit up with footballs; the game should easily exceed four hours. The teams will have a similar look, running four receivers and a single back, but they are not carbon copies.

“The Aggies are more of a horizontal stretch offense,” says Jones. “We stretch teams vertically. They look more like a Texas Tech-type offense.”

NMSU struggled in its first season under head coach Hal Mumme, going 0-12 in 2005. Now he has the right signal caller to run his high-powered offense in Holbrook, who followed Mumme from Southeastern Louisiana. Mumme has been a coach used to taking over troubled programs, having created winners at Iowa Wesleyan and Valdosta State and making Kentucky more competitive in the Southeastern Conference.

NMSU is a program that has not experienced much recent success. It has enjoyed only two winning seasons since 1968. But Mumme had just built the SE Louisiana program from scratch. The Lions had dropped football in 1985 and hired Mumme in 2002. In his second season, Mumme led SE Louisiana to seven wins, so the NMSU project was not intimidating. At each stop, it has been the infusion of the passing game that has made Mumme’s teams dangerous. After being blown away at most games last year, the Aggies have won two games and been competitive in four losses, most recently dropping a 40-28 decision to Boise State.

This will be the third meeting between the teams, and the first in Las Cruces. NMSU visited Hawaii initially in 1978, and lost 35-20. They came to Aloha Stadium last year as a first-year WAC member and dropped a 49-28 decision.

A few side notes: 1) The Aggies have made Hawaii a focus for recruiting. They currently feature 10 players from the state on their 2006 roster.

2) They are also one of the only programs to offer radio broadcasts in three languages. In addition to English, NMSU games can be heard in Spanish and Navajo.

3) This is the second consecutive week that Hawaii serves as a homecoming opponent.

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