By: Derek Gonzales
We are four weeks into the college football season and there is still hope in Las Cruces for a bowl game. Yeah, it’s been awhile since we’ve turned to the calendar to October with the Aggies still having a shot, but believe it or not, NMSU is in as good as a position to turn to the corner as they’ve given themselves in recent memory. Here’s how the Aggies could be on their way to ending their 56-year bowl drought.
Beating UNM without Rose
Can you imagine LSU without Leonard Fournette, or Stanford without Christian McCaffrey? What about Florida State without Dalvin Cook? Those teams would be in a world of trouble without their all-world running backs, but the Aggies more than weathered the storm without AP All-American Larry Rose III. NMSU could not afford to begin the season 0-2, and somehow beat the better of their two rivals with a 32-31 win over New Mexico. UNM went 7-6 a year ago and returned most starters this season, so the importance of the win cannot be understated. As UNM coach Bob Davie said, “Our team has nothing to be ashamed about. That team [NMSU] is going to win some games this season.” Through three games, the team’s leading rusher is senior Xavier Hall with 163 yards, but Tyler Rogers leads with team with 63 carries. With Rose back, the same offense that hung 42 points on an SEC defense without their All-American will gain his services back. Watch out.
The schedule isn’t as daunting as we thought
With the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns coming into town for homecoming Saturday, it is another chance for the team to pick up a conference win against a traditional Sun Belt power that they were able to beat on the road last season. The Aggies, with Rose, should be able to beat ULL at home. With a bye week before playing FCS-bound Idaho, the Aggies will be rested and confident and should beat a Vandal team that will not have more than two wins on the season at that point. At worst, NMSU will be 3-3 at that point. With Georgia Southern coming in the following week, it will be a tough game for NMSU. But with the team stopping a triple option offense early in the season [UNM], the Aggies will be prepared and if they struggle defensively, this team can win a shootout against any team in the Sun Belt, and will beat the Eagles, pushing the team to 4-3. A money game against Texas A&M on October 29 will act as a bye week for coach Martin and Co., as he should hold out key guys and go into the game with the goal being to not get anybody injured. Arkansas State will be the first game of the last quarter of the season, and the Aggies will lose a game on the road against a team that will be fighting for the conference crown. At 4-5, the Aggies will come home for two straight, needing to win two of three to be bowl eligible. They will beat Texas State; another team they beat a year ago. Rose has said that he tries to have his best game against Texas State, and with the threat of Rogers being able to throw the deep ball efficiently, the offense will continue to light up Sun Belt defenses. Appalachian State will roll into Las Cruces and will spoil senior day unfortunately. The Mountaineers are the best team in the conference, and the task will be too tough for NMSU to overcome. For the last game of the regular season, the team heads to Mobile, Alabama for a matchup with South Alabama. South Alabama is only averaging 17.6 points-per-game through three games, so the Aggies will throw everything they have at the Jaguars, and will find a way to win the game with their offense. 6-6 record and bowl bound.
Special teams are a strength of the team
In 50/50 games, the deciding factor almost always comes down to special teams. The Aggies have five 50/50 games [Troy, ULL, GSU, Tex. St., USA], but the reason I am confident in them winning most of these is because of how well freshman punter Peyton Theisler and sophomore kicker Parker Davidson have played. NMSU doesn’t beat UNM without Theisler’s amazing play to chase a bad snap into the end zone and manage to punt it off before the defense blocked it or recovered the loose ball. It saved the Aggies two points, and the Aggies ended up winning by one. Thus far, Theisler is averaging an outstanding 46.6 yards per punt. Davidson has been a perfect 5-for-5 on field goals, including a 4-of-4 performance against UNM that earned him the Sun Belt Special Teamer of the Week award. If these two can keep making winning plays, the Aggies will find themselves winning close games they didn’t win in Martin’s first three years.
So you heard it here first. The New Mexico State football team WILL go to a bowl game this year. Start saving money for the road trip to whichever city hosts the Aggies in their first bowl game since 1960.
Derek Gonzales can be reached at: email@example.com
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