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NMSU makes history at Aggie Memorial, ends 57-year bowl drought

NMSU WR Izaiah Lottie celebrates as students rush the field following the Aggies' historic win to become bowl eligible for the first time since 1960.{ }{ }

credit: NMSU Athletics

LAS CRUCES, N.M. – The New Mexico State football team made history on Saturday at Aggie Memorial Stadium. Trailing 17-16 with under a minute left, the Aggies engineered a drive down the field that ended with Tyler Rogers hitting Conner Cramer in the back of the end zone for the final score to take down South Alabama 22-17 and gain bowl eligibility.

Following the monumental victory, head coach Doug Martin said, ““It was a great night and I was really proud of our football team. It’s a big win to beat a talented football team like that. That crowd tonight is what Aggie Memorial Stadium can look like every week. We got something special here and hopefully we have one more game to play. All these guys played a great game tonight. We have a great group of seniors and this is the proper way for them to go out.”

NM State (6-6, 4-4 SBC) opened the game in a defensive battle against South Alabama (4-8, 3-5 SBC) with neither team putting points on the board in the first quarter. Multiple flags and strong defensive stands allowed the score to remain 0-0 until the opening play of the second frame.

The Jaguars’ first play of the second was a first-and-10 from the NM State 11 and the South Alabama offensive coordinator called a quarterback keeper which Dallas Davis punched into the end zone to put the Aggies behind 7-0 at the 14:50 mark.

Not to be silenced, NM State moved down the field on a series that saw Rogers hit Jaleel Scott for a 33-yard completion all the way to the South Alabama 13-yard line. The Jaguar defense was able to force a fourth down, but Aggie kicker Dylan Brown came in to split the uprights on a 30-yard field goal attempt. This put the Aggies deficit at 7-3 just 2:10 into the second quarter.

The Aggie defense remained aggressive and on the next drive NM State forced a fumble on a rush which Shamad Lomax recovered on the South Alabama 33-yard line. The Aggies inched closer to the end zone but again were held to fourth down. Brown then lined up and nailed a 32-yard field goal attempt and NM State trailed by one, 7-6, with 9:57 remaining in the half.

After forcing the Jaguars to punt, the NM State offense retook the field looking to take the lead. On third-and-six they did just that when Rogers connected with Anthony Muse on a nine-yard touchdown score to give the Aggies a 13-7 advantage.

South Alabama threatened on the Aggies side of the field with the clock winding down. That hope was soured, however, when Terrill Hanks intercepted a pass at the 25-yard line to close out the first half.

The defensive thriller continued in the second half for both sides. NM State was eight yards from the opposition’s goal line when South Alabama intercepted a pass in the end zone to regain possession.

Any momentum the Jaguars had from the forced turnover was quickly spoiled when DeMarcus Owens intercepted a pass right at midfield on the ensuing drive.

The third quarter wrapped up with the score still at 13-7 and the Aggies on a fourth-and-20 from the South Alabama 22. Then on the first play of the fourth quarter, Brown added to the NM State lead with a 39-yard field goal to make it 16-7 in favor of the Aggies with 14:56 remaining.

South Alabama answered quickly with a nine-play drive that covered 75 yards and ended with a 17-yard touchdown pass to make the Aggies lead just 16-14.

The Jaguars then forced a turnover on downs and again orchestrated a scoring drive when Gavin Patterson knocked down a 27-yard field goal which put the Aggies down 17-16 with 5:24 left.

With the game on the line, the Aggies had 83 yards to cover. Rogers was 5-of-7 to open the drive which put NM State on the South Alabama side of the field. Just four plays later, Larry Rose III put up a pair of rushes to put the Aggies just seven yards from the end zone.

Seven yards out, Rogers surveyed his options and found Cramer in the back of the end zone for six. The Aggie defense then stifled the Jaguars to seal the victory and give the team its sixth win of the season.

New Mexico State football is now bowl eligible and awaits the opportunity to be selected for its first postseason appearance since 1960. Aggie fans looking to purchase tickets for the potential bowl game can do so at the Pan Am ticket office or by calling 575-646-1420. The ticket office opens at 12 p.m. MT on Sunday, Dec. 3.

NOTABLE

- This was the first win for NM State over South Alabama.

- The victory made the Aggies bowl eligible for the first time since 2002.

- The win moved Doug Martin into the Top-10 for most wins in program history.

- This was the first time NM State has won back-to-back games since 2015.

- Jonathan Boone recorded a season-long kick return of 35 yards.

- Dylan Brown tied a season-long with a 39-yard field goal conversion and set a season-high for most field goals hit in a game with three.

- Tyler Rogers set a career high in passing attempts with 61.

- Jaleel Scott tied a career-high for receptions in a game with nine.

- Larry Rose III set a career-high with nine receptions.

- Leon McQuaker set a season-high in tackles for loss with three.

- Scott moved into sixth-place all-time in program history with 1,042 receiving yards.

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