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New Mexico State quarterback Chase Holbrook leads an offense that rolls up 523 yards a game.
AP photo by Jake Schoellkopf
New Mexico State quarterback Chase Holbrook leads an offense that rolls up 523 yards a game.

New Mexico State's Mumme prepares to face AU rattlesnake

Apparently, Kaufman snatches rattlesnakes and shakes the tail, scaring friends, teammates and whoever else he thinks deserves a nice shock.

Mumme continued with what becomes an interesting analogy.

“I was talking to (Kaufman) before the game last week about doing that. It’s something I try to get him not to do during the season,” the coach said. “So I said, ‘How do you pick up a rattle snake?’ And he goes, ‘The main thing is to get it when it’s not mad.’ ”

After some brief laughter from his listeners, Mumme concluded, “I kind of feel like we’re getting Auburn when it’s mad. This is not a good feel for us.”

Neither is it for Auburn, a team still in shock after losses to South Florida and Mississippi State. If there was a must-win game, this is it for the Tigers. Although they’re a two-touchdown favorite, they will find facing Mumme’s unusual offense to be a challenge.

“It will be a big adjustment for us gong from having to face a power football team to one that throws it 60 times a game,” Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville said.

Mumme brings the famed “Air Raid” offense to Auburn this Saturday when his Aggies (2-1) face the reeling Tigers (1-2) in Jordan-Hare Stadium at 6 p.m.

The 57-year-old Mumme is familiar with SEC venues. After a successful stint at I-AA Valdosta State, he became the head coach at Kentucky in 1997.

Mumme, using his wide-open, pass-happy offense nicknamed “Mummeball” or “Air Raid,” led the Wildcats to back-to-back bowls — a feat accomplished just twice previously in the school’s 109-year history. His teams set a host of school passing records as the 1998 squad, led by the NFL’s No. 1 draft pick in quarterback Tim Couch, went 7-5.

But in 2000, his fourth and final year at Kentucky, the team went just 2-9 and Mumme resigned in February 2001 amid an NCAA investigation. The NCAA concluded its investigation two years later, slapping the Wildcats with three years of probation, major scholarship reductions and a one-year bowl ban for more than three dozen recruiting violations that happened during Mumme’s four-year stint.

After an 18-month hiatus, Mumme was hired as coach at Southeastern Louisiana, where he led the Lions to a 12-11 record in two seasons, again breaking passing record after passing record. He took the job at New Mexico State in 2004, slowly making his return to the elite of college football as he sheds the black mark on his name.

Mumme’s first team in 2004 went winless, and last season’s Aggies finished 4-8, but they are riding high after beating rival Texas-El Paso on Saturday.

New Mexico State’s Chase Holbrook threw for 434 yards and three touchdowns, while completing 36 of 48 in the 29-24 win, which ended a three-game losing skid to the Miners, who are coached by former Alabama coach Mike Price.

The victor of the rivalry game gets two traveling trophies: a spittoon and a shovel.

“We hadn’t won it in so long, we didn’t know what to do with the spittoon and the shovel,” Mumme said, “but we got them back. We get to keep them for a while.”

New Mexico State started the year with a 35-14 win over Southeastern Louisiana and then lost to New Mexico 44-34. Holbrook attempted 63 passes in that game and threw four touchdowns.

During his short time at Kentucky, Tuberville and Mumme’s teams never met, but the Auburn coach said he has watched film of Mumme’s offense for years, calling it “unorthodox” and “fast-paced.”

Defensive coordinator Will Muschamp agreed.

“They’re high-tempo no-huddle,” Muschamp said. “They want to get 80 snaps a game: That’s their goal.”

Muschamp said the Aggies use screen and shovel passes to replace a toss sweep or an off-tackle run. New Mexico State’s offense ranks 11th in the nation averaging 523 yards a game.

New Mexico St. at Auburn

6 p.m.

Five things you may not know about New Mexico State

  • New Mexico State has been to just three bowl games in its history: the 1936, 1959 and 1960 Sun Bowls.

  • The Aggies’ colors will look familiar to Auburn fans: crimson and white. New Mexico State also has a tradition of emblazoning many items, building and landmarks with the crimson letter “A” — standing for Aggies.

  • Not only is New Mexico State’s coach Hal Mumme a former Southeastern Conference head coach (Kentucky in 1997-2000), but Aggies’ defensive coordinator Woody Widenhofer served as head coach at Vanderbilt for five seasons (1997-2001).

  • Las Cruces, N.M. — the home of the Aggies — is the second-largest city in the state with an estimated population of 85,000. The desert city’s average rainfall is 8.5 inches. Decatur has an annual average rainfall of about 55 inches.

  • Aggies running backs coach Earnest Wilson served as an assistant coach at Alabama A&M during 1994-96.

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