By Julian Martinez
The last time the NMSU football team celebrated a victory was September 6, 2014. One year and 17 games later, that feeling of victory finally graced the Aggie program, which had formerly held the nation’s longest active losing streak.
Attendance was low. There was a chill in the air and a program in desperate need of a win. The Aggies in their previous three outings lost by a combined score of 160-36, probably the most devastating of which came on Homecoming weekend as the Aggies entered their game against Troy three-point underdogs and lost 52-7.
Early on this game did not start pretty, as Idaho had a 17-play opening drive. Fortunately for the Aggies they were able to limit Idaho to a field goal. Unfortunately, following an Aggie-three-and-out, the Vandals found endzone after just two plays. Matt Linehan found Elijhaa Penny for a 29-yard score, giving the Vandals an early 10-0 advantage.
Idaho’s dominance of this game continued as Penny scored again on a 28-yard run and then tacked on another field goal from 39 yards out. This added up to 20 points unanswered to begin the game, much to the chagrin of the Aggie faithful, but then the Aggies showed they had a pulse offensively beginning with a 54-yard burst up the middle from Larry Rose III. The big rush from Rose set up Xavier Hall to score from 12 yards out, moving the score to 20-7.
Idaho pushed their lead only slightly further with a field goal as the first half of football came to an end. The Vandals went into the half with a 23-7 lead.
Coming out of the half, it was important the Aggies answer in someway but sadly the first play of the half did not go as planned, as Andrew Allen was picked off by Marc Millan. Idaho capitalized immediately with a Linehan-to-Callen Hightower touchdown pass, giving them a 30-7 advantage, the largest lead the Vandals would have.
Suddenly the Aggies’ fortune started to change. Allen pieced together a nine-play, 75-yard drive, and connected with Jordan Bergstrom, who had a defender in his face, for a nine-yard touchdown.
On Idaho’s next series, they had their first three-and-out. The Aggies’ offensive surge continued when they got the ball back, as Allen threw another touchdown, this time to Gregory Hogan, pushing the score to 30-21.
Notably on that particular drive, Rose on a 26-run was able to surpass the 1,000-yard mark for the season. The last NMSU running back to accomplish consecutive 1,000 yard rushing seasons was Denvis Mann from 1995-1998.
Idaho attempted to squash NMSU’s comeback on their next two possessions. Following the Hogan-touchdown, Idaho tack on 10 more points with Austin Rehkow’s fourth successful field goal of the evening and 19-yard scramble for a score from Linehan. Idaho at that point was ahead 40-21.
Feeling a sense of urgency, the Aggie offense thundered back, finding the endzone again in only three plays. Allen connected with Royce Caldwell on a 61-yard bomb, pushing the score to 40-27 following an unsuccessful two-point conversion attempt.
The Vandals had another three-and-out upon getting the ball back. This set up another Aggie-score. Allen found Tyrain Taylor in double coverage but still connected on 51-yard pass play, which with a scramble from Allen of 16 yards would eventually lead to Rose III punching it in from the one-yard line. This game, which had been far out of reach, became a one-possession game at a score of 40-34 in favor of Idaho.
Idaho in an attempt to ice out the game answered the Aggies’ crazy momentum with a nine-play scoring drive that culminated with Penny finding the endzone for the third time. Penny also rushed for a two-point conversion to pad the lead a little bit at 48-34.
It took only a minute and 13 seconds for Allen to drive the Aggies down the field for another score from Rose. Once again with the game being a one-possession game, and all the pressure on Idaho, the Vandals went three-and-out and give the Aggies an opportunity with three minutes left in the game.
The Aggies clutched this series on their own 32. Following a couple of incompletions, Allen ripped off a 23-yard run, pushing the Aggies into Vandal territory. A mixture of Allen and Rose continued the drive from there, eventually pulling the team to the Idaho nine-yard line. On first-and-goal, things could have gone very south for the team, as Allen who was the catalyst behind the Aggie-comeback suffered an MCL injury following what can only be considered a cheap shot.
Nick Jeanty had to play the rest of the game at quarterback for the Aggies. After a one-yard run and an incompletion, the Aggies were facing fourth-and-goal from the one-yard line. Then Rose once again came up big for the team, as he leaped over the pile at the goal line to give the Aggies a touchdown to tie the game.
The final seconds ticked away in regulation as Idaho was unable to piece anything together upon getting the ball back.
The Aggies set the stage for overtime as they were given the ball first and they could not have begun overtime any worse. They went backward in fact on their first two plays, setting up a third-and-35 at the Idaho 37. Then one of the most excellent plays imaginable came as Jeanty found Joshua Bowen in traffic for a 23-yard completion.
“If I had 25 Josh Bowens, we would never lose a football game,” says Head Coach Doug Martin in a post-game conference.
Decision time was not over for the Aggies’ coaching staff, as it was still fourth-and-12 following the completion to Bowen. Martin ruled out the idea of kicking the field goal and decided his offense would go for it, and the decision was rewarded as Rose rushed for a 12-yard carry to give the Aggies first-and-goal.
Rose must have made his mother, Yvonn Rose, who was seeing her son play for the Aggies in person for the first time, very proud as he scored his fourth touchdown of the night, giving the Aggies their first lead of the game, 55-48.
Idaho, per college overtime rules, had an opportunity to match the Aggies’ touchdown. They were unsuccessful, however, as on their first play Linehan was sacked for a one-yard loss and on the next play Terrill Hanks made an interception that will be remembered by Aggie fans for years to come, catching the football between his ankles.
The final in Aggie Memorial Stadium was 55-48. The losing streak ended and the Aggie faithful could rejoice everywhere.
“These kids deserve it,” says Martin. “They’ve been working hard. They’ve fought through a lot of adversity tonight, which was good to see us come out on the winning side of,” said Martin.
Andrew Allen threw three touchdowns in the second half of the game. Rose’s final stat line was 25 carries for 218 yards and four touchdowns.
“We’ve got the best running back in the Sunbelt conference and we might have the best running back in the nation,” says Martin. “(Rose) is special and he’s not just special on game day. He’s special every day and that’s what makes him an elite player. We were right about him in recruiting, everyone else was wrong.”
The Aggies’ next game will be on the road against a Texas State team that was quickly disposed of by Georgia Southern. Aggies will go into this match-up as favorites. The game will take place November 7 at 2 p.m. MST.