The College Bowl Season is upon us, and Pylon University is bringing the breakdowns on offense, defense, and special teams, along with the sport’s traditions and great moments. In this edition, it’s the New Mexico Bowl preview, one of five bowl games that get things started Saturday.
WHAT: Gildan New Mexico Bowl
WHEN: Saturday, December 20 – 2:20 p.m. EST (ESPN)
WHERE: University Stadium – Albuquerque, NM
Expect a strength versus strength game when the punishing Aggies defense takes on a potent Miners rushing attack. Utah State allowed only 4.8 yards per play in 2014, the best mark in the Mountain West Conference. However, this defense faces a running game that churns out over 200 yards per contest on the ground.
When UTEP Has the Football
The Miners’ ground game faces a huge task getting yards against the Utah State defense, led by stout sibling linebackers Zach and Nick Vigil. The brothers have combined for 261 tackles, including 35.5 for losses and 16 sacks. Zach Vigil, a senior, is a talented and very athletic veteran, as he demonstrated on this sack against San Jose State:
For UTEP, running back Aaron Jones is the key. The sophomore ball carrier has 100+ yard games to his credit this season, including 237 in the Miners’ season-opener against New Mexico. If he can find any running room against this defense, UTEP could pull off the upset. Helping the ground game is tight end Eric Tomlinson, long-lost brother of another miner, Yukon Cornelius:
While the big TE is used primarily as a blocker, he also has 18 catches for 125 yards and a TD on the season.
When USU Has the Football
While defense is their strength, the Aggies feature a balanced offense that can move the ball in the air and on the ground. Due to inordinate injuries at QB, Utah State turned to fourth-string quarterback Kent Myers back in October. Despite his inexperience, the freshman has shown the ability to make plays with his arm and his feet, such as this read option run against San Jose State:
Myers has five touchdown passes and only two interceptions this season, but expect Utah State to focus on the running game and emphasize field position in this contest.
Offensive guard Bill Vavau joins Zach Vigil as a top Aggies prospect for the upcoming draft, with CBS Sportsline ranking both players in the Top 15 at their respective positions. For the Miners, the 6’7″, 270-pound Tomlinson made the preseason watch list for the John Mackey Award and is considered a solid tight end candidate.
The Aggies’ strong 2014 campaign ends with a big win in New Mexico.
Utah State 31, Texas-El Paso 14
All video and images courtesy ESPN and utepthletics.com. Yukon Cornelius is a registered trademark of Royal Treasury LLC.
Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkSchofield.