Horrific start, unhappy ending.
That about sums up Saturday night for the New Mexico State University football team.
An Aggies team with little margin for error committed one after another in its annual Rio Grande Rivalry game on Saturday against New Mexico at University Stadium. The fallout: Lobos 66, Aggies 17, NMSU’s 17th loss in a row.
After playing competitive games against its previous midmajor foes, UTEP and San Diego State, NMSU (0-6) was thoroughly trampled Saturday. The Lobos (2-3) rushed for 541 yards and seven touchdowns.
The Aggies generated 451 yards of offense but turned the ball over three times and had a pair of glaring special teams breakdowns that added dirt to the landslide.
“We made way too many mistakes to give ourselves a chance,” NMSU coach Doug Martin said. “We don’t have guys making plays, and we’ve got to re-evaluate some positions during our open week. We’ve got to make some changes.”
Martin’s displeasure was focused on his offense. NMSU moved the ball at times and hit a few big plays but came nowhere close to UNM’s consistent production.
New Mexico State’s defensive players, however, pointed fingers directly at themselves.
“(UNM) threw a couple new things at us,” Aggies safety Davis Cazares said, “but for the most part we knew what was coming. We just didn’t do our jobs well enough. It’s on the defense to figure out a way to get off the field.”
Defensive lineman Kevin Laudermill agreed.
“It wasn’t about the offense not giving us rest,” he said, “and it wasn’t all about what (the Lobos) did. It falls on our defense. We’ve got to wrap up, make tackles and do better.”
Allowing 9.7 yards per rush to a passing-challenged opponent was certainly frustrating for the Aggies. But there was plenty of disappointment to go around as NMSU struggled in all phases.
It began with offense. Martin talked all week about the need for his offense to score early and often. The Aggies didn’t.
NMSU’s first three possessions netted as many turnovers (one) as first downs and helped dump the visitors into a huge early hole. UNM’s Tevin Newman intercepted an Andrew McDonald pass to set up Kasey Carrier’s third TD run of the first quarter.
Trailing 21-0, the Aggies finally got their offense started. Rio Rancho High grad Adam Shapiro capped a solid drive with a 4-yard TD run on a well-executed reverse to cut the deficit to 21-7 early in the second quarter.
Considering New Mexico had blown a 14-0 lead in a 56-42 loss to UNLV just a week earlier, NMSU and its fans had at least reason for hope.
That was dashed on the ensuing kickoff.
NMSU lost containment along the left sideline and Carlos Wiggins went 100 yards untouched for a touchdown to make the score 28-7.
“That was a killer,” Martin said. “We finally get some momentum, and we don’t even get our defense on the field before we’re giving up points.”
It was a worst-case scenario for Martin’s defense, which entered the game ranked last nationally in both rushing yards and points allowed.
The Aggies had hoped to play with a lead and force UNM to pass. Instead the run-happy Lobos simply ran, ran and ran some more.
While NMSU would have dearly loved to go into its coming bye week celebrating a win, the timing may not be all bad. Freshman quarterback King Davis III missed a second straight game Saturday and was “not recovered enough” to play, Martin said.
Davis should be good to go when the Aggies host Rice on Oct. 19, and the off week will allow NMSU time to make any other changes Martin deems fitting.
“Yeah, it’s a good time for a bye week,” running back Brandon Betancourt said. “We’ve got to figure some things out – on both sides of ball.”