The New Mexico State University football team made history on its home field Saturday, Nov. 4, as the Aggies clinched a bowl bid for the second year in a row. For the first time since the 1959-60 football seasons, the Aggies qualified for back-to-back bowl games when they earned their 7th win of the season in a 13-7 victory against Middle Tennessee State University.
Leading up to this season, the football program has undergone many developmental changes, including infrastructure changes incited by head coach Jerry Kill. However, new turf isn’t the sole explanation for the flourishing football program. Kill’s influence was especially prominent this Saturday, as the Aggies secured their first consecutive bowl trip in 60 years while under Kill’s instruction.
The game started with a bang as the Aggies turned a punt return into a touchdown, only for it to be taken back due to a holding penalty by NMSU. This would be just one of many penalties called throughout the game, easily upsetting Aggie fans. By the end of the first quarter, every claim of a false start that erupted from the speakers was followed by an audible groan from the crowd.
All night, both teams held each other in defensive battles up and down the field. Despite the back-and-forth plays, the Aggies maintained majority time of possession and were able to gain an advantage in the second quarter with a one-yard touchdown by tight end, Ron Tiavaasue.
NMSU quarterback Diego Pavia rushed for 39 yards on three plays, giving his teammates the opportunity to make it to the end zone. In total, he rushed for 67 yards and threw for 95 yards on the night.
In the second quarter, MTSU scored its first and only touchdown, which left the scoreboard at a tie, 7-7. Later, the Aggies missed a field goal opportunity, but they were able to grab a 10-7 lead right before halftime. At the end of the third quarter, NMSU scored another field goal that would give them the lead for the remainder of the game.
The victory was made possible by the persistent defense the Aggies put up, especially in the final seconds of the last quarter when an incomplete pass from the 15-yard line terminated the Blue Raiders last chance to score.
The crowd’s roaring and grimacing faces turned to celebration when the clock hit zero. As the players rushed the field and threw water in the air, the stadium announcer shouted, “The Aggies are going bowling!”
The bowl-bound Aggies still have work to do as they prepare for their next game against Western Kentucky University on Saturday, Nov. 11, at 1:30 p.m. If they can continue their 5-game winning streak, the Aggies may be looking at a spot in the Conference USA Championship game in early December.