By Julian Martinez
Coming off the heels of a blowout loss to SEC powerhouse University of Florida, the Aggies hoped to rebound against the Georgia State Panthers for their first conference game of the year.
The game had all the makings of an offensive shootout from the get-go. The Aggies’ defense had a lot of trouble constraining the Panthers’ balanced offense early, as GSU drove down the field to score on their first two possessions of the game, forcing an early 10-0 deficit.
Looking to answer, NMSU’s Tyler Rogers deceived the GSU defenders, leaving Teldrick Morgan wide open for a 75-yard touchdown. This would be the beginning of a big day in the passing game for Rogers.
GSU answered back on their next possession with running back Kyler Neal finding paydirt on a little cutback to bring it in from four yards out. On their next possession, the Aggies drove the ball deep into GSU territory only to turn it over on downs when Larry Rose III got stopped just short of the end zone on third down. A drop on fourth down cost the Aggies a score.
The Aggie defense came up with their first pivotal stop of the Panther offense when GSU wide receiver Robert Davis put the ball on the ground in an attempt to make a bigger play. Jaden Wright then picked up the ball and took it to the house to get the Aggies a score away from taking the lead.
Unfortunately, in what would turn out to be an inauspicious day for freshman kicker Parker Davidson, the PAT was blocked, leaving the score at 17-13.
The next few possessions were quiet for both teams, until Rogers made a poor throw resulting in an interception that placed GSU at the Aggie five-yard line. All the Panthers needed was one play, another short touchdown by Neal, to bring their lead to 24-13. The Aggies and Panthers went into halftime at that score.
The Aggies struck first in the second half. Following a fumble, Rogers hit his target, Jordan Bergstrom, from 33 yards out for his second touchdown. Davidson missed his second PAT attempt of the game, putting the score at 24-19. NMSU’s Kawe Johnson, the man who forced the fumble, was carted off the field following that play.
The next 10-points of the contest went to GSU, on a 22-yard field goal and quick strike to receiver Penny Hart from 24 yards out. The Panthers nabbed their biggest lead of the game with the score being 34-19.
Feeling a sense of urgency, the Aggies stormed back with a flurry of passes from Rogers. They drove 75 yards on nine plays before getting Rose III involved for a short 6-yard scamper.
Then, following a GSU punt, they needed only eight plays to go 80 yards before Rogers delivered a beautiful touchdown to Tyrain Taylor, who was a big factor in this comeback with his ability to get open deep. The score was 34-32 following a failed two-point conversion attempt in an effort to make up for the previously missed PATs.
The Aggies had one more attempt to drive the ball down the field with three minutes left on the clock. In their game against the Panthers last year, the difference was a touchdown in the final minute that gave the Aggies the win, a memory that was probably fresh in the minds of GSU’s coaches.
The Aggies ran 11 plays on this drive, but when it came down to fourth down with 12 yards to go, NMSU Head Coach Doug Martin put his trust in his kicker from 49-yards out. Unfortunately, the all-important kick sailed wide right, ultimately giving GSU the victory.
Martin, in his postgame conference, noted the decision to go Davidson on fourth and twelve was due in large part to the false-start penalty that backed up the Aggies. He says he believes Davidson has more than enough leg strength to have made that kick. Davidson was a three-star recruit before the Aggies picked him up, the only player to receive a star ranking in the Aggies last recruiting class.
Notable stats to take away from this game are the combined 1,111 yards that both teams combined to put up. Rogers also surpassed his career high for passing yards in a game, with his final line being 445-yards and three touchdowns. His previous career high for passing yards was 405. Rogers’ stats directly correlate to the emergence of his favorite target against the Panthers, Taylor, who ended his day with 10 receptions for 206 yards and two touchdowns.
The crowd was huge at Aggie Memorial Stadium, with the final tally being 27,201.
“We appreciate the support, we hope that the fans don’t give up on us, we can be something special,” says Rose III.
A large portion of that crowd began to leave when the Aggies fell behind further in the fourth quarter.
The Aggies’ next challenge will be in the I-10 rivalry here at home against the University of Texas – El Paso. The Miners are coming off a tough loss to Texas Tech University, where they not only lost 69-20, but also saw their star running back, Aaron Jones, taken off the field with an injury. This can be beneficial to an Aggie defense that allowed 222 yards to GSU in this past contest. The game will take place Saturday, September 14, at 6 pm.