For New Mexico State, or any program for that matter, to win in the Western Athletic Conference, you better have an offense that can put up 30 points a game. NMSU feels it has that, especially if sophomore quarterback Andrew Manley stays healthy coming off an ACL tear in 2011.

But it is the program's defense that head coach DeWayne Walker thinks could actually put the Aggies over the top this fall.

"Heading into 2012, we think this could be the year for us to make a run at it," Walker said. "We're excited about it."

By "it" Walker doesn't necessarily mean a WAC title,nike air max shoes although he'd love to have that before the seven-team league crumbles after this year. For NMSU, "it" is simply a bowl game -- something the Aggies haven't played in since 1960, by far the nation's longest bowl drought.

And the defensive-minded Walker has been far too frustrated for his first three seasons watching his program give up yards, especially on the ground right up the middle, to stand for one more year of sub-par defense.

"I think I'm going to kill myself or somebody if we don't play good defense this year," Walker, the former UCLA defensive coordinator, said in July.

For that to happen, the Aggies will rely heavily on defensive end Donte Savage to generate a pass rush the Aggies haven't been able to rely on much in Walker's first three seasons as head coach.

Savage is a senior who sat out the 2011 season when he was ruled academically ineligible in fall camp. Between him and junior college transfer linebacker Trashaun Nixon, the Aggies think they have at least a couple players who could contend for All-WAC First Team honors this season. More importantly, though, the team is confident its defense can improve on the 36 points per game it allowed in Walker's first three seasons.

The Aggies hit the junior college ranks hard to shore up its defense and a handful of those transfers are expected to start or be top reserves on the defense from Day 1.

"Heading into this season we kind of focused more on the defense and I think you're going to see great improvement on the defensive side of the ball because that was the focus from a recruiting standpoint," Walker said.

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