Huskies ready for Big West shootout


Charlie Sadler’s gridiron squad returns to conference play this Saturday in a somewhat familiar situation.

The Huskies will be traveling to New Mexico State to face the second place Aggies. This is another critical game for NIU that has similarities to the Nevada game. The major similarity being both teams are very much in the race for conference champs just as Nevada was.

The Aggies are in second place with a 1-0 conference record (2-2 overall), and will have homefield advantage along with the fact that this is their Homecoming game. Sadler looks for this to be another tough and exciting game.

“They have the mindset that they are still in this,” Sadler said during his coaching show with Bill Baker.

Other similarities to the Nevada game are NIU being the visitor, another 80 degree day of football and the Huskies will be facing another quality quarterback in Cody Ledbetter who shared Big-West Offensive Player of the Week honors with LeShon Johnson two weeks ago.

Ledbetter (53 for 96, 756 yards and 4 TDs) is ranked 36th in NCAA total offense with a 203.8 yards-per-game average. He is, however, only in his second season for NMSU. Last year as a freshman he started only two games completing 19-of-39 for 224 yards and one TD. He showed more threat as a running QB with 67 rushes for 337 yards and three TDs. This season he has 26 attempts for 59 yards and two TDs.

The Aggie defense is led by senior linebacker Tim Mauck. Mauck (6-1, 220 pounds) has a team high 53 tackles (32 solo) with one sack. He was named Big-West Defensive Player of the Week in his first game of the season.

“They have some good players that are extremely well coached,” said Sadler.

The Aggies are led by head coach Jim Hess who is in his fourth season. He has a 11-26 record at NMSU with an 18-year coaching record of 123-79-5.

This marks NMSU’s 64th homecoming game. They will be playing with a lot of enthusiasm to give their fans a homecoming victory. They will be well-rested after having an off week last Saturday. However, NIU will be coming in with a lot of momentum and confidence with a three-game winning streak.

The Huskies have the nation’s No. 1 rusher and will be playing an Aggie defense that gives up an average of 180.8 rushing yards per game. This could prove to be a big day for the Huskie offense as a whole because NMSU allows 378 yards per game average while NIU is averaging 378.8 yards per game.

Huskie quarterback Scott Crabtree, ranked 20th in the nation in passing efficiency, will just have to keep his eye open for Aggie outside linebackers Beau Le Breton and Sam Manuel who have a combined five sacks this season.

An important factor in this game will be the heat. With expected 80 degree temperatures, Sadler will need to keep his players rested and prepared.

“We have to keep people rolling … try to keep them fresh,” Sadler said.

This worked quite well in Nevada. With the talented depth on this season’s squad, Sadler has the personnel to move people in and out, keeping the team well rested for the final quarter. As far as homefield advantage goes, NIU upset Nevada on their turf so NMSU shouldn’t get too excited.

Word of the Prophets:

Rich Carlson: “With first place on the line look for an explosive Huskie offense to overpower NMSU. The real heroes in this game may be the bench who will be called upon to give the starters some rest from the heat. NIU 30 the Aggies 14.

John Dietz: “Just in case you didn’t notice, NIU has jumped out to a 7-0 advantage in every single game so far this season. Iowa State, Indiana and the rest of ‘em haven’t been able to keep NIU from scoring a quick TD in the first quarter and the Aggies will be no different. After that initial advantage, the Huskies will ride the wave of momentum to a 26-16 victory. Johnson: 195 yards.