The New Mexico State Aggies finally found their high-octane offense Saturday.
Their defense? Missing in action.
After averaging just 9.0 points per game in its first three games, NMSU racked up 52 against New Mexico at Dreamstyle Stadium. The Aggies marched up and down the field for most of the day, accumulating 489 yards and 29 first downs.
But with UNM’s offense also moving nearly at will, the Aggies had little margin for error – and the offense/special teams committed three costly ones in a deflating 55-52 defeat.
“Defensively we couldn’t get off the field,” Aggies coach Doug Martin said. “In a game like that, whoever has the ball last is probably going to win. Give (the Lobos) credit. They kept it away from us when it counted.”
Martin referred to the final 5 minutes, 22 seconds of the fourth quarter. UNM took over at the 5:22 mark at its 25-yard line nursing a 55-52 lead. The Aggies had momentum, having scored back-to-back touchdowns to trim a 55-38 deficit to three points.
But NMSU’s defense could not get a stop. The Lobos, who piled up 598 yards of offense, churned out several first downs as the clock steadily ran down.
New Mexico State’s lack of defense took some of the luster off a marvelous outing by quarterback Josh Adkins, who became the third FBS quarterback to amass three passing touchdowns and three rushing TDs in a game this season. Adkins finished 30-for-47 passing for 335 yards with one interception – which was returned for a score on his first attempt of the game.
In spite of his team’s strong offensive numbers, Adkins was not about to blame NMSU’s defense for the team’s 0-4 start.
“It’s inconsistency,” Adkins said. ‘Last week (against San Diego State) our defense played well and (the offense) played terrible. Today that was flipped a little bit. We’ve got to find a way to do it on both sides of the ball.”
Excluding a kneel-down to end the first half, New Mexico’s offense scored on all but three of its possessions Saturday. NMSU’s defense forced two punts and safety Austin Perkins came up with a fourth-quarter interception.
But Martin lamented his team’s inability to stop the run, especially on the Lobos’ clinching final possession. UNM rushed for 243 yards on 51 carries.
“We didn’t defend the run well at all,” he said. “The quarterback runs in the fourth quarter killed us.”
Still, in what became the second-highest scoring game in the rivalry’s long history, NMSU lived to regret three key mistakes.
⋄ A first-quarter pick-six by UNM’s Jerrick Reed II after Aggies wideout Tony Nicholson fell down with the pass in the air.
⋄ A third-quarter field goal attempt by NMSU’s Dylan Brown that was deflected at the line and fell short. (A make would have tied the score at 41).
⋄ A third-quarter bad snap that cost the Aggies 18 yards and forced a punt. UNM capitalized with a touchdown that gave the Lobos a 55-38 lead early in the fourth.
The three miscues made for a long bus ride back to Las Cruces in spite of what was easily the Aggies’ best offensive performance of the season.
“This is what I thought our offense could look like all season,” Martin said. “We answered scores and played with a lot of heart, so hopefully that can end up being a positive.
“And honestly, this is what a rivalry game is supposed to look like, whether the score is 55-52 or 10-7. Both teams fought to the end. As coaches, that’s what you want to see.”
Below: Postgame interview audio, NMSU coach Doug Martin
Below: Postgame interview audio, NMSU quarterback Josh Adkins
Below: Postgame interview audio, NMSU running back Jason Huntley