Ags’ QB not easy to fluster

By: Bob Holt , Tom Murphy
Published: Friday, September 29, 2017
New Mexico State's Tyler Rogers (17) warms up before a football game against Arizona State, Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
New Mexico State's Tyler Rogers (17) warms up before a football game against Arizona State, Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

FAYETTEVILLE -- Sacking New Mexico State quarterback Tyler Rogers won't be an easy task for the Arkansas Razorbacks.

The Aggies (2-2) like to get the ball out quickly and let playmakers -- including 6-6 Jaleel Scott and slippery running back Larry Rose III -- do their work.

Rogers has been sacked less than 2 times per game.

The Razorbacks, meanwhile, rank 79th with 1.7 sacks per game.

"He's got great composure and a good cast of characters all around him," Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema said of Rogers. "They get the ball out. ... That's how they're going to beat pressure."

Arkansas has 5 sacks, 3 in the opener against Florida A&M and 1 each against TCU and Texas A&M.

Arkansas defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads said there aren't many offenses these days that are vulnerable to sacks because the ball comes out quickly and quarterbacks have the ability to check down.

"New Mexico State is as good as anybody," Rhoads said. "The quarterback's back there at about 6 yards, he's dropping another 3 yards after he gets the ball, and his offensive line is excellent in pass protection."

The Aggies have allowed seven sacks in four games.

"New Mexico, Arizona State, you see these teams bringing all kinds of numbers to try to get to him and they don't get any pressure on the quarterback," Rhoads said. "We've been operating a little more out of a three-man pass rush on some passing downs than we'd like to for this reason or that, and because of that it's hurt our ability to get a little bit of pass pressure and it's something we're addressing."

Been there, done that

Defensive line coach John Scott can relate to what New Mexico State will be feeling Saturday.

Scott came to Arkansas from the New York Jets, but before that his coaching stops included Western Carolina, Missouri State and Georgia Southern, so he's been involved in games with teams that played Power 5 opponents for hefty financial guarantees.

Georgia Southern lost 45-21 at Alabama in 2011 and 45-14 at Georgia in 2012 when Scott was an assistant.

"They'll be fired up," Scott said of New Mexico State. "I've been on that other side. Any time you're able to come into an environment like the one we have here, they'll come in here jacked up. They won't be afraid. So it'll be our job to show them that this is our house and you've got to take care of your own home turf."

'Steamboat' OK

Redshirt freshman Cole Kelley said the nickname "Steamboat" is starting to grow on him.

"I'm not going to lie to you," Kelley said. "At first I didn't like it, but I'm starting to get used to it.

"It's pretty cool, I guess, to have my own nickname. I appreciate it."

The full nickname is actually "Louisiana Steamboat" in reference to Kelley's 6-7, 268-pound frame and the fact he's from Lafayette, La.

Martin extension?

The Las Cruces (N.M.) Sun-News reported this week that New Mexico State officials and Coach Doug Martin are closing in on a contract extension for the fifth-year coach.

Martin, whose Aggies have defeated rivals New Mexico and UTEP in the same season for the first time since 2002, has a 12-40 record. His contract, which pays $364,044.13 per the Sun-News, runs through Dec. 31.

"Four years ago when I came here with a vision to build a football program, I thought Las Cruces would jump behind it if it was a good product," Martin said after Saturday's 41-14 victory over UTEP. "I thought it could be like an East Carolina or a Boise State or those types of places and I still think it can."

End of half I

Bret Bielema and offensive coordinator Dan Enos defended their strategy at the end of the first half on Saturday.

The Razorbacks, leading 21-17, took over at their own 39 after De'Vion Warren's 39-yard kickoff return with 1:57 remaining in the first half.

Austin Allen threw a pass on the left flank for Jordan Jones that resulted in a 1-yard loss on first down. After that, David Williams ran for 6 yards to the Arkansas 44 and the Razorbacks let the clock tick down to 16 seconds before calling timeout. After an incomplete screen pass directed toward Jared Cornelius, Arkansas punted to the Aggies' 24 for the final five seconds of the half.

Bielema said the flow of the game and knowing the Razorbacks would receive the second half kickoff led him to decide not to launch into a two-minute offense after first down.

"You've just had two scores against our defense in a short fashion. I thought our offense was playing well, but I didn't want to give up a big play or a big hit," Bielema said. "I did not want to give the ball back to them with any significant time. If we'd had success on the first two plays, we were kind of looking at it differently."

Offensive coordinator Dan Enos agreed with the strategy.

"The first play of the drive, we [called] a play-action shot," Enos said. "We had a guy open and we had a guy get beat on a protection and we had to throw the ball quickly to the check down and he got tackled inbounds and we lost a bunch of crucial time there.

"We didn't want to, at that point, push the envelope I guess. Coach makes those decisions and I was 100 percent on board with it."

End of half II

Texas A&M Coach Kevin Sumlin, speaking on his radio show Monday night, discussed his offensive strategy at the end of regulation.

Trailing 43-40, the Aggies reached the Arkansas 21 with 55 seconds left before sticking to the ground game, seemingly content to settle for a Daniel LaCamera field goal try to force overtime.

Sumlin said he didn't want to put too much pressure on quarterback Kellen Mond and that his trust in LaCamera led to the play selection in the final minute.

"I was a little bit concerned down the stretch to put the ball in his hands to throw it to win it," Sumlin said. "Everybody says, 'Well, you did that in overtime.' Well, you're playing a normal game at that point."

The Aggies reached the Arkansas 9 before settling for LaCamera's 27-yard field goal with four seconds remaining.

Sumlin is 5-0 in overtime games.

Where's Stewart?

Sophomore receiver Deon Stewart has started all 3 games, has 3 catches for 31 yards but only 1 catch in the past 2.

Stewart had two catches for 22 yards, including a 16-yard touchdown, against Florida A&M,.

"Deon is the one we've got to get going a little bit," offensive coordinator Dan Enos said. "He's really practiced very, very well.

"He hasn't seen the fruits of his labor come to fruition yet as far production on the field. I think he's close to breaking it out and catching some balls."

Quarterback Austin Allen said he expects Stewart to start catching more passes.

"We can't connect right now, but he's getting open and running good routes," Allen said. "It'll come. We'll hit that big play and things will just start clicking."

Two trophies

New Mexico State claimed two trophies with its 41-14 victory over UTEP last week in what is called the Battle of I-10.

The Aggies were awarded the Silver Spade, a replica of an old prospector's shovel found in an abandoned mine in the Organ Mountains near Las Cruces, N.M., as well as the Mayor's Cup, nicknamed the Brass Spittoon, which was added to the rivalry game in 1982.

No boots

Arkansas has not made a field goal through three games, joining UMass, Navy, Vanderbilt and Oregon as the only FBS teams who have attempted, but not made, a field goal.

UMass is 0 for 4 on field-goal tries, while Arkansas, Navy and Vanderbilt have missed two each and Oregon has gone 0 for 1.

Decker back

Don Decker, Arkansas' head strength and conditioning coach from 1998-2007, will be on the New Mexico State sideline. He's been the Aggies' strength and conditioning coach since 2013.

Decker was an assistant strength coach for the Razorbacks from 1993-1997 before being promoted. He followed Houston Nutt to Ole Miss after the 2007 season.

Extra points

• The Razorbacks practiced inside Reynolds Razorback Stadium on Wednedsay.

• Receivers coach Michael Smith and junior receiver Jonathan Nance joined Coach Bret Bielema on his weekly radio show tonight at 7 p.m. at the Catfish Hole Restaurant.

• An HC-130 aircraft, part of the 154th Training Squadron of the 189th Airlift Wing in the Arkansas National Guard, will perform a flyover following the national anthem just prior to kickoff of the 11 a.m. game on Saturday.


More headlines

Sports on 09/29/2017


Have a comment on this story? Join the discussion or start a new one on the Forums.