The New Mexico State Aggies plan to come out guns blazin’ in Saturday’s regular-season football finale.
Tyler Rogers intends to be the triggerman.
With a rare shot at bowl eligibility in their sights, the Aggies will host South Alabama for a 2:30 p.m. kickoff at Aggie Memorial Stadium. A win would give NMSU a 6-6 record and keep hopes alive for the program’s first bowl appearance since 1960.
No one around the long-struggling program expects a win to come easily, but the Aggies’ odds seemed to improve a bit during Tuesday’s weekly media conference. Rogers, NMSU’s starting quarterback who sat out last week with a right (throwing) shoulder injury, said he fully expects to be in the starting linuep against the Jaguars (4-7, 3-4 Sun Belt Conference).
The redshirt senior has put up monster numbers this season. He ranks third nationally in completions per game (27.9), sixth in total offense per game (339.8 yards) and 14th in points responsible for (188). Despite missing NMSU’s last five quarters of action, Rogers ranks 16th in total passing yards (3,374).
Rogers said he suffered a grade 2 sprain of the AC joint during the second half of NMSU’s 47-34 loss at UL Lafayette on Nov. 18. He was in uniform and warmed up prior to last week’s 17-10 win over Idaho but did ended up standing on the sideline cheering on backup QB Nick Jeanty.
“It was definitely hard,” Rogers said, “because warming up I was thinking I had a good chance to get in. But Nick did an awesome job and it gave me more time to recover. I’m thankful I get to come back for our last game and can play on Senior Day.”
Aggies coach Doug Martin said Rogers would only have played in an emergency situation last week.
“If he’d taken a hit and landed on that shoulder,” Martin said, “he probably would’ve been out for the season. But Tyler threw the ball Sunday really well and his progress is very encouraging. We fully expect him to start Saturday with Nick ready in case Tyler can’t finish.”
The Aggies will be largely healthy for Saturday’s contest, Martin said. Offensive lineman Jamin Smith, who missed the Idaho game with a viral infection, is expected to play.
One notable exception is wide receiver OJ Clark, who is out with a separated shoulder. Clark ranks second on the team with 44 receptions for 492 yards and three touchdowns.
South Alabama figures to have little sympathy considering the attrition it has faced, especially at running back. Starter Xavier Johnson was suspended for the season, Tywun Walters has missed three games for disciplinary reasons, and three other backs have gone down with injuries. Sophomore Tra Minter and senior Carlos Robinson are the last backs standing for the Jaguars.
South Alabama also is in the awkward position of playing its final game under head coach Joey Jones, who has been with the program since it started in 2009. Jones announced his resignation after the Jaguars’ most recent game, a 52-0 loss to Georgia Southern, but it is effective at season’s end.
Martin expects Jones’ departure to be a source of motivation for the Jaguars.
“I have a lot of respect for coach Jones and I know their kids are going to play their hearts out for him,” Martin said. “Our players have basically had a chip on their shoulder all year and that has to be the case again Saturday. It’s going to take everything we have to win this game and we know that.”