LAS CRUCES – It didn’t have to be pretty.
At times, it wasn’t.
New Mexico State ended an 11-game losing streak dating back to last season with its first victory of the 2019 season, beating FCS opponent University of Incarnate Word 41-28 on Saturday at Aggie Memorial Stadium.
Saturday’s game was exactly what the Aggies needed in all three phases. The Aggies gained a season-high 613 total yards, sacked the quarterback a season-high six times and OJ Clark’s first-quarter punt return touchdown was the school’s first since 2008.
“I’m just really happy for our players and our staff to get that first win,” said NMSU coach Doug Martin. “It was a great celebration in that locker room. Those kids have earned it. They’ve been a hard luck group, but their work ethic has been great. Their attitude’s been great. They practice hard every week, including this week. It was a couple of the best practices we’ve had. They’ve kept fighting, and they gave themselves a chance.”
Despite turning the ball over twice on fumbles at the goal line and through the end zone, the Aggies led 21-0 after the first quarter en route to a 24-7 halftime lead.
UIW made it 27-14 entering the fourth quarter, but Jason Huntley pushed it back to a three-score lead. Huntley took a kickoff 59 yards into UIW territory and three straight Huntley runs ended with his sixth touchdown of the season to make it 34-14 with 13:53 to play.
A UIW kickoff return touchdown made it 34-21 with 13:41 to play.
Huntley finished with a career-high 174 yards, but he also fumbled at the goal line in the first quarter with the ball rolling through the end zone for a touch back. Christian Gibson looked to score his first touchdown of the season, racing 50 yards on fourth-and-1, but UIW’s Ian Peterson knocked the ball out before Gibson crossed the goal line to give UIW the ball with 11:52 to play.
The Aggies defense forced a three-and-out and NM State closed the game with an 11-play, 83-yard scoring drive. Gibson did indeed get his first TD of the season, capping the drive from a yard out with 3:49 to play.
New Mexico State quarterback Josh Adkins found Tony Nicholson for two touchdown passes in the first half. The first was a 34-yard score. Adkins found Nicholson on a corner route at the 5 and Nicholson did the rest, diving to the pylon.
Nicholson scored later in the first from 42 yards out as Adkins found him on a crossing route and Nicholson outran the Cardinals defense to the end zone.
The Aggies out gained UIW 352-86 in the first half. OJ Clark made it 21-0 with a 77-yard punt return touchdown. It was Clark’s first punt return touchdown of his career and the first for an Aggies player since Chris Williams in 2008 against Alcorn State.
The Cardinals didn’t cross midfield until the second quarter when they capped a 51-yard drive with a Keyondr Philio 1-yard touchdown run that made it 21-7 with 9:31 left in the first half.
The Aggies out gained the Cardinals 352-86 in the first half with Adkins completing 21 of 29 for 258 yards and two touchdowns.
Up next: New Mexico State will host I-10 rival UTEP on Saturday at 2 p.m. UTEP is 1-9 after a 37-10 loss at UAB on Saturday.
“Getting that win was a huge accomplishment for [our players],” Martin said. “Hopefully, they’ll be ready to move forward to next week playing a tough UTEP team and a rival. We’ll see if we can hang on to that trophy. That’s going to be our bowl game.”
New Mexico St. 41, Incarnate Word 28
Incarnate Word 0 7 7 14—28
New Mexico St. 14 10 3 14—41
NMS—Nicholson 34 pass from Adkins (D.Brown kick), 4:38
NMS—Nicholson 42 pass from Adkins (D.Brown kick), 1:23
NMS—Clark 77 punt return (D.Brown kick), 14:42
IW—Philio 1 run (Mohr kick), 9:31
NMS—FG D.Brown 30, 4:00
NMS—FG D.Brown 28, 4:46
IW—A.King 11 pass from Copeland (Mohr kick), :24
NMS—Huntley 1 run (D.Brown kick), 13:53
IW—Tolds 100 kickoff return (Mohr kick), 13:41
NMS—Gibson 2 run (D.Brown kick), 3:49
IW—Copeland 1 run (Mohr kick), :57
First downs 20 26
Rushes-yards 25-39 47-295
Passing 243 316
Comp-Att-Int 22-50-2 28-38-0
Return Yards 100 166
Punts-Avg. 11-35.4 4-42.75
Fumbles-Lost 1-0 4-2
Penalties-Yards 9-94 12-106
Time of Possession 24:51 35:09
RUSHING—Incarnate Word, K.Brown 9-31, A.King 5-28, Philio 4-15, Copeland 7-(minus 35). New Mexico St., Huntley 25-174, Gibson 14-115, Romero 1-4, Adkins 6-4, (Team) 1-(minus 2).
PASSING—Incarnate Word, Yeager 4-10-0-62, Copeland 18-40-2-181. New Mexico St., Adkins 28-38-0-316.
RECEIVING—Incarnate Word, Sullivan 3-48, Rogers 3-19, A.King 3-14, Hardy 2-47, Henderson 2-34, Campbell 2-22, Anthony 2-22, Perry 2-19, Perez 1-7, Ducros 1-6, K.Brown 1-5. New Mexico St., Downs 6-71, Nicholson 5-98, Clark 5-47, Mills 3-28, Bodison 2-37, Lottie 2-25, Warner 2-4, Huntley 2-3, Wyatt 1-3.
MISSED FIELD GOALS—New Mexico St., D.Brown 36.