CSJ 2022 Game Preview: Nevada at New Mexico State

Nevada at New Mexico State
When: Saturday, August 27, 10:00 PM EDT
Where: Aggie Memorial Stadium, Las Cruces, N.M.
TV/Streaming: ESPN2 / Watch ESPN

This last G5 vs. G5 game of Week 0 will match two new coaches for both Nevada and New Mexico State. Both teams will likely look much different than the teams from 2021.

Jerry Kill takes over the New Mexico State program, who fired prior Coach Doug Martin after nine seasons with the Aggies. Kill was the interim head coach last season with TCU after TCU fired Gary Patterson for the last four games. Kill was an assistant prior to being the interim head coach for TCU and was the head coach previously at Minnesota before that.

Nevada lost Coach Jay Norvell to Mountain West rival Colorado State and hired former Wolf Pack assistant Ken Wilson. He comes to Reno after being a was in the Pac-12 assistant first at Washington State and most recently at Oregon from 2013 through 2021. 

These two schools have played eight prior times with Nevada picking up seven victories over NMSU. Last year, the two met in Reno and the Wolfpack dominated the game before letting a couple of late touchdowns to the Aggies to make the score somewhat respectable with a 55-28 Nevada win.

Here is a look at some highlights of last year’s game between these two squads:

Nevada Wolf Pack (8-5, 5-3 MWC, 2021)

LOCATION: Reno, Nev.

HEAD COACH: Ken Wilson (1st Season, 0-0 @ UNR & Overall)

Nevada will look much different than the throw air raid game that QB Carson Strong and WR Romeo Doubs thrilled Wolf Pack fans with the past few seasons. Both Strong and Doubs were NFL drafted this past spring.

The new look of the Nevada offense will be one of more running back orientated. This means RBs Toa Taua and Devonte Lee will heavily be used. Nevada ranked second-to-last in the FBS in rushing yards per game, so it might not be a seamless transition.

The quarterback situation to replace Strong will either be Nate Cox or Oklahoma State transfer Shane Illingworth. Cox started the Wolf Pack’s loss to Western Michigan, while Illingworth threw for seven touchdowns with two picks in two seasons as a backup for the Cowboys.

While there are question marks on the offense, the defense for Nevada is much more seasoned with eight starters back this fall. The center of the defense will be upfront with DT Dom Peterson as a significant pillar in the middle of the line. He made 10 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks a season ago from a position that is not known to have these kinds of statistics.

Key Player: RB Toa Taua

Taua approached 800 yards in 2021 despite Nevada’s imbalance of run and pass. He will have the opportunity to shine more in his last season in Reno this year. But New Mexico State’s defense knows this and will be keying in on the run game. Taua will need to break some tackles and get the tough yards like he has in fairly limited fashion the last couple of seasons.

New Mexico State Aggies (2-10, Independent 2021)

LOCATION: Las Cruces, N.M.

HEAD COACH: Jerry Kill (1st Season, 0-0 @ NMSU, 154-101 Overall)

The Aggies will look to get back to a bowl eligible type team that will try to fit Coach Kill’s scheme of he’s wanting to run the ball, rely on the defense, and try to control the clock.

The Aggie quarterback situation is still a battle with last year’s backup Dino Maldonado and Diego Pavia, a JUCO transfer as last year’s starter Jonah Johnson hit the transfer portal.

Maldonado played sparingly but rushed for 68 yards a season ago.

Pavia quarterbacked New Mexico Military Institute to the 2021 NJCAA national championship with a dual-threat game that produced 1,728 yards passing; 21 passing touchdowns to just one interception; and 658 rushing yards with seven touchdowns on 110 carries.

One-time Michigan RB O’Maury Samuels is the top returning ball-carrier, having rushed for 202 yards with a touchdown a season ago but will look to be the top ball carrier this season. But fellow RB Ahmonte Watkins, who played for Kill at TCU has the makings of a potential, star for the Aggies.

LB Chris Ojoh, along with fellow LB Trevor Brohard and DE Lazarus Williams look to be the Aggie defensive leaders. Ojoh was the star last year with 16 tackles for loss and six sacks and both team-highs. 

Key Player: QB Dino Maldonado or Diego Pavia

QB Dino Maldonado

The key to Coach Kill’s offense is the ability for the QB to be used not only in the passing attack but probably more so in the run game. I think both signal callers will likely play some in this game so Kill can see which will be the better in his philosophy.
Maldonado played sparingly last year but started one game where he threw for 192 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions against NMSU rival New Mexico.

Pavia led New Mexico Military Institute to the 2021 NJCAA national championship with a dual-threat game that produced 1,728 yards passing; 21 passing touchdowns to just one interception; and 658 rushing yards with seven touchdowns on 110 carries. 

The key for the Aggie signal caller is to keep with Kill’s philosophy of ball control to limit Nevada from seeing the ball. If either of these two can accomplish this, NMSU will be right in this game.

Fearless Forecast:

Last year’s game between these two teams really has little bearing on the outcome in this year’s contest. Nevada will use the run game and think with Taua handling the load, the Wolf Pack will be able to control the clock more.

New Mexico State though will keep this one interesting for the first half but Nevada will wear down the Aggie defense in the second half to get a comfortable road win. Nevada 31 New Mexico State 20