ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Late Stop Gives NMSU Its First WAC Win of Season
The New Mexico State football team survived a special teams outburst from Idaho and an injury to starting quarterback Matt Christian to earn its first Western Athletic Conference win of the season Saturday night, beating beating the Vandals 31-24 in front of 12,711 fans at Aggie Memorial Stadium.
While the NMSU coverage teams struggled, surrendering a 64-yard punt return to Justin Veltung and a 95-yard kickoff return to Princeton McCarty in the third quarter, the Aggie defense held up well, holding Idaho to 279 yards of total offense and forcing four turnovers.
Clinging to a 31-24 lead in the fourth quarter, the NMSU defense stopped Idaho on fourth-and-goal at the 1-yard line with 21 seconds remaining.
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“I am so proud of our guys,” said NMSU coach DeWayne Walker. “We’re not playing with three of our starting defensive linemen. We also have a starting linebacker out. Coach (Dale) Lindsey and our defensive staff have worked their butts off. So it was nice to execute a defensive game plan, and it helped us get a ‘W.'”
As usual there were plenty of stars on offense as well. Junior running back Kenny Turner rushed for a career-high 171 yards – his third consecutive game with more than 100 yards rushing, and junior college transfer Kemonte’ Bateman posted two receiving touchdowns.
Meanwhile, the quarterback platoon of Christian and Colwell proved to be effective, even if extended playing time for Colwell wasn’t initally part of the plan. Christian threw for 102 yards and a touchdown before leaving the game in the second quarter with a shoulder injury. He didn’t return until the final play of the game.
In his absence, Colwell, a true freshman from Manvel, Texas, performed admirably, throwing for 100 yards and his first career TD pass. The young signal caller’s effort impressed Walker.
“I know (offensive coordinator Doug) Martin spends a lot of time with him. We swear by this kid,” Walker said. “It’s great to see a young kid come in and help us out to get our first conference victory.
“I brought our guys together at halftime and told them that we need to support our freshman quarterback, and the guys came through.”
The Aggies continued their fast start to games and scored on the opening drive for the second consecutive game. NMSU marched down the field, and Turner capped the drive with a 14-yard rushing touchdown. The score was his third of the season.
On the ensuing kickoff, senior safety Donyae Coleman forced and recovered a fumble on the 27-yard line. The Aggies capitalized on the next play to extend the lead to 14-0 when Christian found Bateman on the left side of the end zone for a 20-yard touchdown.
An Aggie miscue allowed Idaho to score and cut into NMSU’s lead to 14-7. The Aggies answered when senior wide receiver Taveon Rogers returned the kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown to give the Aggies a 21-7 advantage.