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Aggies bowling after 57-year hiatus

On Saturday, Dec. 2, the NMSU Aggies faced off against the South Alabama Jaguars in Las Cruces. With a crowd of over 26,000 fans in the stands, Aggie Memorial Stadium was packed. The Aggies did not disappoint; they walked away with a 22–7 victory. The game marked the sixth win for the Aggies this season, and it made them eligible to play in a bowl game.

This is the first time in 57 years the Aggies will be playing in a bowl, and only the fourth time in program history. “It certainly was a historic win last night,” NMSU Director of Athletics Mario Moccia told the Las Cruces Sun-News following the South Alabama win. “It made me feel good, not just as the director of athletics, but as an alum. I had an outpouring of support from alums, friends in the business. The national exposure that this athletic program, the football program and the institution has received was phenomenal,” Moccia said.

The 1960 NMSU Aggie football team was the last NMSU squad to play in a bowl game. The Aggies entered the 1960 Sun Bowl with a 10–0 record and a top-20 national ranking. The 1960 team was the only football squad in NMSU program history to go undefeated, finishing with an 11–0 record after defeating the Utah State Aggies Dec. 31 in the 1960 Sun Bowl in El Paso. The NMSU Aggies will face off against Utah State again today in the NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl in Tucson. Kickoff is at 3:30 p.m. (Photo courtesy of NMSU)

Coach Doug Martin is in his fifth season as head coach, and earned a $20,000 bonus as payment for getting the Aggies to a bowl game. According to CBS Sports, the Aggies previously accounted for the nation’s longest bowl drought. Arizona Bowl Executive Director Alan Young extended an invitation to the NMSU Aggies to participate in the NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl in Tucson, Arizona, on Dec. 29.

The bowl game’s close proximity to Las Cruces made the decision to accept Young’s invitation an easy one.  “If you stick us too far back east, then it becomes a financial issue with our fans. If you’re obligated to buy X number of tickets and we can’t sell them to our fans, then it becomes a costly enterprise,” New Mexico State Chancellor Garrey Carruthers explained to El Paso’s NBC 9. The NMSU Aggies will face the Utah State Aggies. Coincidentally, the last time the NMSU Aggies appeared in a bowl game, they defeated the Utah State Aggies 20–13 in the Sun Bowl on Dec. 31, 1960.

NMSU’s Sun Belt Conference membership ends at the close of the 2017 season. Next year the Aggies will play as a Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) independent. Gregory Herschel, a 1987 graduate of New Mexico State, extended his heartfelt words of confidence to the Aggies: “As an NMSU alum and a former employee of the New Mexico Department of Agriculture, I would like to encourage the NMSU football team in all their efforts to defeat Utah State.”

NMSU sold its entire ticket allotment the first day the tickets went on sale. Half of the ticket revenue will go to the Sunbelt Conference and NMSU will keep the other half. Kickoff will be at 3:30 today at Arizona Stadium in Tucson. The game will be televised on CBS Sports Network.

“Who would have thought that Aggies football would have the storybook ending with all of the trials and tribulations,” NMSU Athletic Director Mario Moccia told the Las Cruces Sun-News. “So many people probably thought that the storybook ending wasn’t in the cards for us.”

Next year, NMSU will play Utah State again, renewing their previous Western Athletic Conference (WAC) rivalry. The crimson Aggies will face off against the blue Aggies Dec. 8, 2018.

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