Aggie Football is returning this weekend, and after a long time off the field, everyone appears excited to be back. The NMSU Aggies were one of only three FBS football teams to not have a fall 2020 football season, and then only played against two FCS opponents during the spring 2021 semester. Tonight’s matchup against UTEP marks the Aggies’ first game against an FBS opponent since Nov. 30, 2019.
Sports pundits are billing the Aggies’ 2021 season as one of the biggest uphill challenges in the history of the game. Aggie football head coach Doug Martin indicated in an interview with KTSM that the players and staff definitely have their work cut out for them.
“People think we just missed the games, but we didn’t just miss the games; we didn’t practice for over 400 days,” Martin said. “This has been a huge blow to our program and something we’re trying to overcome.”
The 2021 season kicks off tonight in Las Cruces with the infamous Battle of I-10 against the University of Texas at El Paso.
The Aggies have defeated the Miners three times in as many meetings, and are looking for their fourth straight win tonight over their interstate rival.
This is also a significant season for Aggie football as this might be Doug Martin’s last year as head coach. Martin’s contract expires in June 2022, and it’s uncertain whether he will return for the 2022 football season. Director of athletics Mario Moccia also spoke to KTSM 9 News earlier this month and had this to say about it: “You take it one game at a time and ultimately do your evaluation at the end of the year.”
The Aggies are expected to be putting not just one but two quarterbacks on the field for the season opener, a rather uncommon practice for Coach Martin. Jonah Johnson and Weston Eget will both be leading the Aggies against the Miners in tonight’s game.
Wide receiver Dominic Gicinto, a recent transfer from the University of Missouri, sounded unfazed by Martin’s decision to rotate quarterbacks. “I’ve never been one to care who throws me the ball. It’s just who’s more professional on and off the field and whoever is mentally right when they’re in the game,” Gicinto said.
Forty players have been added to the team over the summer. Forty-six players on the team will be making their playing debuts this evening including both quarterbacks. Coach Martin still has faith in the team, telling the El Paso Times, “It’s been remarkable, a testament to their fortitude and resilience. I couldn’t be around a better group of people.”
Tonight’s game kicks off at 7:30 p.m. MDT at Aggie Memorial Stadium. Bally Sports Arizona, Comcast NM and FloFootball will broadcast the game.