It’s hardly ideal resorting to Plan D four weeks into a football season, but that’s where the New Mexico State Aggies find themselves.
Starting quarterback Jonah Johnson, who left Saturday’s game at New Mexico in the first half with a wrist injury, is not expected back anytime soon, NMSU coach Doug Martin said during Tuesday’s media conference. Walk-on sophomore Dino Maldonado, from Santa Maria, Calif., will get his first start Saturday when the Aggies host FCS South Carolina State.
“Jonah’s still being evaluated as far as whether he’ll need surgery or not,” Martin said. “I don’t know his status for the rest of the season, but it doesn’t look good for the near future.”
Plan B, redshirt freshman Weston Eget, who battled Johnson during preseason camp for the starting job, also is off the table. Eget remains in rehab for a knee injury and could be available soon, Martin said, but he won’t play Saturday.
Plan C at quarterback likely would have been Trevor Appleman, but the true freshman was only recently released from COVID protocol and is not sufficiently prepared. Instead, it will be Maldonado, who got his feet wet and earned considerable praise for his performance in a competitive 34-25 loss to UNM.
“It was not an ideal situation on Saturday, but he didn’t look scared or intimidated,” linebacker Eric Marsh said of Maldonado. “He just went out there and played hard. We’re behind Dino now.”
Maldonado’s numbers were not particularly efficient. He was 13-of-34 passing for 192 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. Maldonado also led NMSU in rushing with six carries for 46 yards.
But he also made enough plays to keep the Aggies in the game. They trailed just 27-25 early in the fourth quarter and remained within striking distance until the final minutes.
“Dino made some good throws, had a couple nice runs,” Martin said, “and only one of the interceptions was his fault. The receiver dropped the ball on the other one.”
Martin said NMSU’s coaching staff will tailor this week’s game plan to Maldonado’s strengths and cut back on the pre-snap reads and changes that Johnson or Eget might normally employ.
“We’ll do the things Dino’s comfortable with,” Martin said. “That’s where we are.”
On a positive note, junior linebacker Trevor Brohard has been released from COVID protocols and will play this week, Martin said. Brohard, a Los Lunas High alumnus, led NMSU with 11 tackles against UTEP but missed the last two games.