San Jose State vs. New Mexico State Preview: Aggies Seek Two In A Row

San Jose State vs. New Mexico State Preview: Aggies Seek Two In A Row

Fresh off its first win over rival UNM since 2017, New Mexico State looks to capitalize with another defeat of the Mountain West when San Jose State visits.

Oct 18, 2022 by Kyle Kensing
San Jose State vs. New Mexico State Preview: Aggies Seek Two In A Row

For the first time since 2017, New Mexico State owns the bragging rights coming out of the Battle of I-25. The Aggies now seek back-to-back wins over FBS opponents for the first time since 2018, and their third win over Mountain West Conference competition on the season, when San Jose State visits Las Cruces in Week 8. 

New Mexico State rebounded nicely from its Week 5 disappointment against FIU, stifling New Mexico's offense while hitting enough big plays on the other side of the ball to win by two touchdowns. 

Highlights: New Mexico Vs. New Mexico State

"What I just came from, that's what coaching's all about," Aggies coach Jerry Kill said in his postgame press conference, referring to the celebratory locker room scene. "It ain't about the coaches...It's about seeing those kids smile. They're having the time of their life in that locker room, and that's why you coach. I'm so happy for the kids, I'm so happy for the seniors.

"And then I'm happy for Las Cruces," he added. "Our fans and our people were the difference tonight; certainly on third-down situations. They were loud, [New Mexico] jumped offsides and that's the reason. It's called home-field advantage." 

The 21-9 decision improved NMSU to 2-1 against the Mountain West this season, with an average margin of victory of 15.5 in those contests. The Aggies look to parlay the positive energy, and again try to capitalize on home-field, against a tough Spartans bunch. 

San Jose State Spartans (4-2) 

Brent Brennan oversaw one of the most dramatic turnarounds in all of college football, leading San Jose State to its first-ever Mountain West championship just two seasons removed from a 1-11 finish. 

The Spartans look like contenders for another conference title in 2022, though suffered a setback last week in a 17-10 loss at Fresno State. They look to rebound with their aggressive defense when they visit Aggie Memorial Stadium on Saturday. 

San Jose State isn't producing sacks at nearly the rate it did in its 2020 campaign, when it ranked 24th nationally, but the Spartans front seven is containing the run as effectively with yields of just 3.5 yards per carry (3.2 in 2020). The Spartans have been even better against the pass with an opponent completion percentage of less than 60 for just 168.3 yards per game and six touchdowns allowed against seven passes picked off. 

Seven different Spartans are responsible for those interceptions, including All-American defensive end Cade Hall. The versatile Hall has been in on a tackle for loss in every game so far this season, broke up a pass in SJSU's blowout of Western Michigan, and made a pair of quarterback hurries at Wyoming. 

Containing Hall on the edge figures to be a priority for New Mexico State's offensive line, but the Aggies will also have to contend with Viliami Fehoko up front. Fehoko is a preseason 1st Team All-MW honoree who combines speed with range to make plays all over the field. 

NMSU held Fehoko in check during last year's 37-31 nail-biter in the Bay Area; doing so again will be key to give the Aggies offense opportunities to move the ball. 

San Jose State's quarterback is also a familiar face from a competitive Aggies loss last season, albeit not from the trip to Silicon Valley. Chevan Cordeiro spent last season as the starting quarterback at Hawaii, where he passed for almost 2,800 yards with 17 touchdowns. Cordeiro led the Rainbow Warriors to a 41-21 win in Las Cruces that was closer than the final score indicates. 

The dual-threat Cordeiro is on pace for 3,200 passing yards in the regular season, and has thrown just one interception against seven touchdowns in 2022. 

New Mexico State Aggies (2-5) 

An excellent defensive performance in last week's rivalry game reflected the hard-nosed approach for which Kill's teams are known. The Aggies held the Lobos to 269 yards and just 3-of-16 on third downs, thanks in part to a Herculean performance from Chris Ojoh. 

The standout linebacker ranks 31st among all FBS players with 61 tackles after racking up 15 against New Mexico. Ojoh went for 14 in the Sept. 24 win over Hawaii. 

Ojoh was also one of four Aggies with a sack, joining Trevor Brohard, Lazarus Williams and Izaiah Reed. Expect continued pressure generated on the quarterback to be a point of emphasis this week, but with some restraint due to Cordeiro's mobility. The Spartans quarterback rushed for 31 yards with a touchdown against the Aggies defense a season ago. 

New Mexico State's offense is still looking to click consistently, but quarterback Gavin Frakes delivered a promising performance with a pair of touchdowns from his 10 total completions in Week 7. TCU transfer Ahmonte Watkins and JUCO import Kordell David stepping up for long receptions and a touchdown catch each bodes well for New Mexico State building some more explosiveness out of its offense. 

Long-yardage plays have come in short supply against the San Jose State defense, though, with just 13 passes of 20-plus yards and only five of 30-plus. 

Cracking that code to move the ball through the air may prove necessary to give the run game some relief. NMSU ran the ball more effectively against UNM than the previous outing against FIU, but approaching a performance akin to the UTEP matchup when it averaged 4.7 yards per carry en route to two touchdowns is the kind of effort the Aggies need to complement an improving passing game.