Aggies (1-6) mean business while in paradise to face Hawaii - Albuquerque Journal

Aggies (1-6) mean business while in paradise to face Hawaii

New Mexico State wide receiver Isaiah Garcia-Castaneda (2) lines up against Nevada in Reno, Nev. on Oct. 9. The Aggies are in Hawaii for Saturday’s game against the Rainbow Warriors. (AP Photo/Tom R. Smedes)

Disappointing as it may sound, the New Mexico State Aggies’ football trip to Hawaii this week will be pretty much strictly business.

NMSU (1-6) is in the islands for round two of its home-and-home season series with the Warriors (3-4) on Saturday. Thanks to COVID-19 restrictions, the Aggies won’t get to do much sight-seeing.

“Pretty much just practicing at a high school, staying at a hotel and playing a game,” NMSU coach Doug Martin said of his team’s itinerary. “When I was an assistant coach we went to Pearl Harbor and it was awesome. But because of COVID, this is really just a football trip.”

Hawaii’s COVID restrictions remain strict, with visiting players and coaches required to show proof of vaccination or a current negative test result before making the trip. Saturday’s game will be the first time the Warriors have played in front of home fans since the pandemic began, but the crowd will be limited to 1,000 people.

“It’s going to be very different without the energy the crowd brings,” Aggies safety Caleb Mills said, “but it may actually help us communicate on defense. I had one of my worst games the first time we played Hawaii, so I feel like I have something to prove this game.”

The Warriors took a 41-21 victory over NMSU on Sept. 25 in Las Cruces, improving to 9-0 in the all-time series. Hawaii led just 17-13 late in the second quarter of this season’s first meeting, but the Aggies missed a short field goal late in the first half and the Warriors pulled away in the second half.

Hawaii was an 18-point favorite in the rematch as of Friday afternoon.

“Run it back,” NMSU quarterback Jonah Johnson said. “That’s exactiy what this game is like. We had a great game plan and a lot of opportunities the first time we played (the Warriors). We just have to have a more complete game this time.”

Statistically, the Aggies have held their own in numerous categories this season. They have 154 first downs to opponents’ 155, have been outgained just 1,991 yards to 1,980 through the air and have a plus-one turnover ratio through seven games.

But opponents have more than doubled NMSU in terms of rushing yards (1.223 to 588) and have scored 30 touchdowns to the Aggies’ 19.

“Mental errors,” Mills said. “We’ve been there every game, then we make mistakes and the game gets away from us. We have to keep going, keep pushing and try to elimiate the mental errors.”

Martin agreed, saying his team will try to identify specific goals for each of its remaining games. This week’s goal, he said, is simple.

“No New Mexico State football team has beaten Hawaii in the history of the school,” Martin said. “This team has an opportunity to change that.”

Saturday

New Mexico State at Hawaii, 10 p.m., Team 1 Sports app. (streaming)


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