ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Should the New Mexico Lobos beat the New Mexico State Aggies in football every year? That’s the subject of some debate.
What’s not up for debate is this: The Lobos hung a Grade A, big-time beatdown on the Aggies Saturday night.
New Mexico, scoring almost at will and getting some unaccustomed but welcome big plays from its defense, blasted its downstate rival 66-17 at University Stadium.
An announced crowd of 29,749 watched the Lobos stay in control from start to finish, with only isolated pockets of Aggie success.
New Mexico improved its season record to 2-3. New Mexico State dropped to 0-6.
The Lobos, who rushed for 497 yards in a 56-42 loss to UNLV the previous Saturday, gained 541 yards on the ground in thrashing NMSU.
“I think it was a continuation, really, on our offensive performance from last week,” UNM coach Bob Davie said.
But then, UNM’s onslaught on the ground was by no means unexpected. The Lobos entered the game ranked third in the nation in rushing offense; the Aggies came in ranked 123rd or last in rushing defense.
Perhaps the most pleasant development for the Lobos was a defense that created three turnovers, had three sacks and made key stops on third and fourth down.
Against UNLV, the New Mexico defense gave up 568 yards. Saturday, the Aggies had 451 yards and hit pass plays of 39, 55, 46 and 34 yards.
But, thanks to the turnovers, the sacks and those 11 stops, the Lobos held NMSU to 17 points.
“As we continue to grow … it’s (all about) developing a defense,” Davie said.
“We gave up some plays, but we came back and made some plays, as well.”
Junior defensive end Brett Bowers, who forced a fumble and had all three of UNM’s sacks, sported an ear-to-ear grin afterward.
“We definitely picked it up, did our job and made some plays,” he said.
On offense, the Lobos scored on their first five possessions, with a 100-yard touchdown kickoff return by Carlos Wiggins thrown in for good measure.
Quarterback Cole Gautsche and running back Kasey Carrier finished with 127 and 126 yards, respectively, and combined for four touchdowns. Wiggins had two carries for 57 yards and caught a 33-yard touchdown pass from Gautsche in addition to his TD kickoff return.
Carrier said Gautsche’s skill on the option and the outside speed provided by Wiggins, freshman Dameon Gamblin, et al. — plus the threat of the occasional pass — kept the NMSU defense off balance all evening.
“It makes things a lot easier, because now the safeties aren’t thinking about staying in the box,” Carrier said. “They know they have to roll with the guy coming in motion.”
But Carrier also credited a defense that got interceptions from linebacker Tevin Newman and cornerback SaQwan Edwards, as well as Edwards’ recovery of the fumble forced by Bowers.
Newman’s interception and Edwards’ fumble recovery set up a touchdown and a field goal.
Edwards, a converted wide receiver, prevented an NMSU touchdown with his interception in the end zone.
“We have a lot of playmakers on that side of the ball,” Carrier said. “Tonight, they came out and played and showed it.”
The Lobos took control from the outset and never lost it. But if there was a turning point, it might have been Newman’s interception.
After the Lobos broke on top with a seven-play, 69-yard scoring drive, Aggies quarterback Andrew McDonald hit Germi Morrison for a 39-yard gain to the UNM 35-yard line. But the Aggies stalled on their next series of downs, and on a fourth-and-8 play from the 33, Bowers sacked McDonald for a 2-yard loss.
Nine plays later, Carrier scored from the Aggies 1-yard line to make the score 14-0. Was the rout on? Not yet; the Lobos had gone up 14-0 on UNLV the previous week, yet lost by 14.
On the ensuing NMSU possession, Newman — playing in place of senior Rashad Rainey, who was limited with a stiff neck — stepped in front of a McDonald pass and returned it 26 yards to the Aggies 11. Carrier scored on the next play to make it 21-0.
THE SERIES: Both schools now agree that Saturday’s game was the 105th in the series.
Until this year, NMSU had been depriving itself of a victory. In fact, an NMSU news release early last week listed the series as 67-31 in UNM’s favor with five ties.
With Saturday’s outcome, the series now stands at 68-32-5.