The key to losing to Kentucky is trying too hard

One of the first fun things that we learned this football season is that Western Michigan is the best team in the state of Illinois. Another is that New Mexico State is the best team in the state of New Mexico, which I guess still isn’t saying much.

The Aggies had a chance, though. When unexciting Group of 5 teams play against some of the lower Power 5 teams, it’s always better to come away with a sneaky win; the losses only hurt so much more when you have a legitimate shot at coming out on top of a game where Vegas says you’re an 18.5-point underdog.

It’s a tough-fought game, tied, 35-all, at halftime. Kentucky is not a good football team and it’s either going to come down to coaching or talent that wins (or loses) this game. Kentucky scores on their first three possessions of the second half, helping them get up to a 55-42 lead after an 11-play drive that took six minutes off the clock through the start of the fourth quarter. The Aggies had two punts in the third quarter and quarterback Tyler Rogers put up a solid drive that was capped off with a 5-yard scoring run. With a pair of touchdown throws in the first half, Rogers is 14-for-25 with 198 yards through the air with 59 rushing yards and four total scores.

The Aggies had two punts in the third quarter and quarterback Tyler Rogers put up a solid drive that was capped off with a 5-yard scoring run. With a pair of touchdown throws in the first half, Rogers is 14-for-25 with 198 yards through the air with 59 rushing yards and four total scores.

Then comes the fourth quarter. NMSU is marching down field and a big play from Xavier Hall got them onto the 9-yard line. On first and goal, a play action pass play was called from the shotgun; two receivers on both sides, nothing too fancy. Hall lines up to Rogers’ immediate left and is faked the handoff after the snap, he’ll come up behind the two receivers on the top of the screen and was open for a pass. But by the time he’s available, Rogers already made up his mind on where his pass was going. He actually made his mind up about seven seconds ago.

It’s a bad pass and Rogers knows it. After the game, he took the L and knew what would have been if his team would’ve been able to score on it. “It would have been 55-49 and our defense could have got a stop that next drive and then we would have had a chance to tie it up,” Rogers told Las Cruces Sun-News.

Forgotten 5 EIC Nic Lewis: either I’m crazy, or Tyler Rogers threw a needless INT because he threw into double coverage instead of working through his progressions…

despite no real pass rush, and the RB being wide open on the high side

A bad throw, yes. But, besides the fact that it was intercepted and the Wildcats were able to chew off some clock afterward, what made it a bad throw?

The ball is placed on the right hashes, and Hall’s position made the wide-side of the field the strong side. Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops has assumed defensive play-calling duties (which hasn’t completely gone his way now, has it?), and doesn’t over-complicate things for his players to play in and NMSU head coach Doug Martin’s to play against.

Man-to-man coverages led to a lot of Aggie scores early and often, and the halftime switch to having the Kentucky corners play zone paid off on this play. He doesn’t have his linebackers show blitz, and there’s no added pressure to this 4-man front.

As noted, we see it’s a play action. NMSU’s right guard pulls with the rest of the line working to the right. The senior quarterback confidently begins to roll to his left where the X-receiver runs a curl route and the slot is the deep receiver, breaking towards the corner of the end zone 10 yards into his route.

The two receivers to the right are really close to one another on their routes as they eventually flood the middle. They’re not really options to throw to here, they’re just there to distract you and look pretty.

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The defense starts to work with the three wide receivers in the end zone and are all attracted to the direction Rogers is rolling to. Hall gets out of the backfield and is open, but Rogers likes his chances with the slot. If everybody watching from home can tell that Rogers didn’t give himself the time to just double check that there wasn’t a better option [on a shorter throw], the defense is picking up on that, too.

The SAM linebacker picks up the curl route and the cornerback goes back to where the quarterback is staring. The safety knows it’s going way over too his right, but his immediate attention is to the middle of the field where there’s two receivers from the other side that he’s got to watch out for.

In NMSU’s previous drive, there was a similar grouping of route-runners that looked pretty ugly, but it ended up working and got the Aggies into the red zone. The difference here is that the line of scrimmage is at the 9, not the 25; too tight of quarters to try something like that. Again, they’re decoys. I don’t think this was the best routes for these two receivers to have, or even just one of them could have a different route. This does not take away from Rogers’ mistake.

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What options does Rogers have? Well, the intended target is an option. A bad one, but an option. There’s also Hall underneath, who may or may not have been the actual guy his head coach wanted Rogers to throw to. But he didn’t. Rogers knew where the ball was going, and it cost him. A score here and they’re looking at a 6-point game with 10 minutes to play.

Or an incomplete pass here and they’re only at second down.

Or maybe he tucks the ball, runs, and slides for minimal gain, and it’s second down.

Or maybe he throws the ball way up to where only his receiver could get it, and by some fantastic display of athleticism, he comes down with an incredible catch and the receiver makes Rogers look good. Kentucky can still score again. (They scored on a punt return just a few minutes later).

Rogers simply screwed it up. He got greedy (possibly emotional?) on a throw after a couple of “shoulda had” plays earlier on that drive where his receivers dropped passes on huge plays — one should’ve been an easy touchdown.

Life hack: getting emotional makes you do stupid things.

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