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Nevada football offseason opponent preview: New Mexico State

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 09 New Mexico State at Ole Miss Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Barring any unforeseen circumstances (can we not have another pandemic, please?), there are eight Saturdays until the Nevada football season kicks off.

This is our second annual offseason opponent preview. Each Thursday leading up to the season, I will be previewing each Pack opponent on their 2021 schedule — starting at the beginning.

This week, we preview Nevada’s fifth game of the season — and last non-conference opponent — against New Mexico State. Here’s the Wolf Pack’s full 2021 schedule to date:

Nevada Football 2021 Schedule

Date: Opponent: TV: Time (all time PT)
Date: Opponent: TV: Time (all time PT)
Sept. 4 at California FS1 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 11 vs. Idaho State TBA TBA
Sept. 18 at Kansas State ESPN+ 11:05 a.m.
Sept. 25 BYE ---------
Oct. 2 at Boise State Fox Networks (specifics not yet announced) TBA
Oct. 9 vs. New Mexico State CBS Sports Network 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 16 vs. Hawai'i CBS Sports Network 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 23 at Fresno State Fox Networks TBA
Oct. 29 vs. UNLV CBS Sports Network 7 p.m.
Nov. 6 vs. San Jose State Fox Networks TBA
Nov. 13 at San Diego State CBS Sports Network 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 19 vs. Air Force FS1 6/7/7:30 p.m.
Nov. 27 at Colorado State CBS Sports Network 6 p.m.

Without further ado, let’s jump into it!

Previous weeks:

Week 1: California

Week 2: Idaho State

Week 3: Kansas State

Week 4: Bye

Week 5: Boise State

Week 6: New Mexico State Aggies

2021 spring record: 1-1

When: Saturday, Oct. 9

Where: Mackay Stadium in Reno, Nev.

Matchup History: Nevada leads 13-2

2020 season-in-review:

New Mexico State opted out of the 2020 college football season, but played in two spring games. It dropped its first game to Tarleton State 43-17, while beating Dixie State 36-29 after outscoring them 16-8 in the final quarter. Both games were played in a neutral site at the Sun Bowl in Dallas, Texas.

Aggies on offense:

Former Fresno City College transfer Jonah Johnson emerged as the team’s top quarterback in spring. He completed 60 percent of his attempts for 358 yards in the two contests, tossing one touchdown with three interceptions.

In two years at Fresno City College, Johnson posted a 57.8 completion percentage for 3,453 yards, 28 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

If Johnson can’t take care of the ball during the fall, expect redshirt freshman Weston Eget to receive snaps behind center. In limited action against Dixie State, Eget completed six of his eight attempts for 61 yards, including a 12-yard touchdown pass to Andre Bodison in the second quarter.

Redshirt freshman Juwaun Price was the team’s top tailback, garnering 33 carries for 196 yards and a rushing touchdown. Former Michigan transfer O’Maury Samuels, who has two years of eligibility remaining, is expected to see time behind Price.

Samuels’ playing time was limited with the Wolverines behind Karan Higdon and Chris Evans. The 5-foot-11 tailback totaled 21 career carries for 79 yards and a touchdown in two years.

No Aggie receiver tallied double digit receptions. Terrell Warner led the way with eight receptions for 105 yards after recording just six for 26 yards in 2019. Cole Harrity finished second with six receptions for 67 yards.

Their only two receivers who pocketed touchdowns in the spring were Bodison and Robert Downs III, their only returning starting receiver from 2019. Both recorded one apiece. Downs III had 22 receptions for 265 yards and two scores in its last full season.

The Aggies’ offensive line is one of the top units on their thin, inexperienced roster. The group is catapulted by left tackle Sage Doxlater, one of the few returning starters on this roster. He is joined by Ole Miss transfer Eli Johnson, who started all 12 games for the Rebels in 2019, with guards Gabriel Preciado and Stephawn Townsend.

Aggies on defense:

Against two FCS offenses, well, the New Mexico State defense was porous.

Though its small sample is difficult to judge off of — especially with heavy roster turnover — it surrendered 36.0 points, 492 yards and 21.5 first downs per contest. Against inferior competition (on paper), the mistakes will need to be ironed out it wants to have a successful fall season.

The Aggie defense returns zero starters from their two-win 2019 campaign. Its leading tackler in the spring was middle linebacker Trevor Brojard, who totaled 16 tackles, two tackles-for-loss with a team-high sack. He will be flanked on each side by redshirt freshmen Joshua Ferguson and Nick Giacolone.

Giacolone was T-4 in tackles with 10, while Ferguson finished with nine tackles, including 2.5 tackles-for-loss, one sack and a forced fumble.

Its front-four is led by defensive end Donovan King, who tallied two tackles behind the line of scrimmage while tying the team high in sacks with one.

Smith is New Mexico State’s most experienced player up front, totaling 32 tackles, six tackles-for-loss and 2.5 sacks across the last three seasons (16 games). Lama Lavea (8 tackles, 0.5 sacks in ‘21), Mike Edwards (1 tackle) and Justin Segura are also expected to make contributions on the defensive line.

New Mexico State’s secondary, which surrendered 312.5 passing yards without an interception in its two spring contests, will have to improve. It will be led by Xavier Hinkle and Daemahni Williams at the two cornerback spots; Devlin Krilin and Caleb Mills makeup the two safeties.

My thoughts:

This will be the Wolf Pack’s second opponent that didn’t play in 2020 but played four or fewer games in the spring. New Mexico State has been consistently poor, churning out three wins or fewer in 14 of the last 15 seasons — discounting its truncated 2021 spring season. Though the Aggies will have six games under their belt by the time Nevada rolls around, it will be in the midst of a three-game road trip between Mountain West competition — with Nevada sandwiched between San Jose State and Hawai’i (who they play twice this upcoming year?!?) The Wolf Pack’s boisterous offense and level-headed defense could cause problems for New Mexico State; but as previously mentioned in the preview against Idaho State, the Jay Norvell-era has featured multiple multiple non-conference nail-biting blowouts victories against otherwise weaker competition. This is a soft spot on the Wolf Pack schedule, and it should capitalize accordingly.