Samuel: Aggies a good team despite losing streak

Updated: October 23, 2003, 2:54 PM ET

LAS CRUCES, N.M. -- The New Mexico State Aggies have lost five straight games, commit turnovers and give up touchdowns at the worst of times and have yet to beat a Division I opponent.

Still, coach Tony Samuel remains patient and positive his team hasn't quit on the season.

"You might think I'm crazy, but we are a pretty good football team," Samuel said this week.

If the Aggies are good, it hasn't shown up on the scoreboard.

New Mexico State is 1-6 overall and 0-3 in the Sun Belt Conference heading into Saturday's game against Louisiana-Monroe (1-6, 1-2).

It's been a dismal season for the Aggies, who were expected to contend for the conference title and a bowl bid. Their only win this season was against Division II member Western New Mexico. Since then, they've lost five straight, including losses to Idaho and Louisiana-Lafayette, both of which had not won a game until they played NMSU.

"It's been like a nightmare," says linebacker Jimmy Cottrell.

Like his coach, Cottrell says the Aggies aren't as bad as they've played.

"It's amazing watching film," he said. "It's three or four big plays we're giving up."

The losses to Idaho and Louisiana-Lafayette in recent weeks were a combination of NMSU turnovers late in the game and the defense's inability to stop the Vandals and Ragin' Cajuns from scoring the game-winning points.

Louisiana-Lafayette beat the Aggies 26-24 last week on Sean Comiskey's 21-yard field goal with eight seconds remaining. The field goal was set up by an interception that was returned to the NMSU 44-yard line.

The Aggies lost to Idaho 35-31 in a game New Mexico State led 21-0 at halftime. Again the collapse came late and quickly. NMSU halfback Tony Joseph fumbled at the Idaho 7-yard line with just over a minute left in the game and the Vandals then went 95-yards in 55 seconds, with quarterback Brian Lindgren tossing a 10-yard game-winning pass to Jeff Stowe.

"Turnovers, big plays and injuries," says Samuel of the big three problems that continue to haunt the Aggies.

Louisiana-Monroe beat Louisiana-Lafayette 45-42 two weeks ago for its first win of the season and is coming off a bye week. The Indians have scored more than 40 points and have had more than 500 yards of total offense in their last two games -- the other was a 44-41 loss to Arkansas State.

"We're pretty much getting on track where we need to be offensively," said Louisiana-Monroe coach Charlie Weatherbie. "Hopefully we can ... feed off one another offensively and defensively, but I expect our offense to do what it has done the last couple of weeks."

Weatherbie expects the Aggies to test his team's defense with the run.

"They'll run right at you, they'll run the option," Weatherbie said of the NMSU offense that's averaging just over 219 yards a game rushing.

Louisiana-Monroe's offense prefers to work through the air and wide receiver Mack Vincent is the leader. He's the school's all-time leading receiver with 180 career catches. That's two more than current Chicago Bears receiver Marty Booker had while at the Louisiana school.

"He's a sure-hands kind of guy," Weatherbie said of Vincent. "He finds a way to get open."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index