The new school year has started, and the New Mexico State University campus is in full swing with plenty of exciting “back to school” events and activities right around the corner. Students are ready to show up and represent the Aggies as fall sports resume on campus. Among the most exciting sports for students is football.
The Aggies open the 2017 season tonight at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona, where they will face the Arizona State University Sun Devils behind the arm of Aggie starting quarterback Tyler Rogers, who enters his senior year. This game will be a tough non-conference matchup to open up a season filled with hope and high expectations. Students and fans of the Aggies will have a lot to look forward to this season as the Aggies are more experienced than they have ever been in recent years.
The Aggies will be returning nine starters on offense, and ten on defense. The top starter is senior All-American running back Larry Rose III, who has rushed for 3,618 yards and 27 touchdowns at New Mexico State. The Aggies have notoriously struggled in football for many years now, including a 3-9 campaign last season, and another 3-9 season in 2015. This year is expected to have a different outcome, as nineteen players, who all came in as true freshmen, will now be entering their senior years.
Head coach Doug Martin is very optimistic about the season and his team as he heads into his sixth year as the leader of the Aggies. Martin believes there is a different, more confident tone among the players and coaching staff heading into the 2017 season. “There are a lot of different expectations this year, because they’ve been so close to getting over that hump and the players expect a lot more out of themselves with all the experience and leadership that these guys have,” Martin said.
The Aggies will only be starting one freshman this year on either side of the ball, which is the lowest number of freshmen to start for the Aggies since the 2013 season. The Aggies expect nothing less than an improved season. Among the goals they have been working on since the beginning of May are wins over their rivals and a 6-6 record or better. “I think the rival games are our big ones. UNM is our second game of the season, and then there is UTEP, who we haven’t beaten for a long time. We also would really like a six-win season, so these are the things our guys have really zeroed in on,” Martin said.
New Mexico State students are also ready for what should be the best football season in the last five years, and a season that can potentially set the tone for a new era at NMSU. The players are locked in for the new season and hope the city of Las Cruces and the NMSU campus community deliver some big crowds. Fan support means everything this season for the team, and the players have made it clear they are set on bringing pride back to the program and even making history by returning to a bowl game.
“It means a lot, it means a lot to us. We haven’t been to a bowl game in 56 years and we are trying to bring one back before our All-Americans and our students are out of here. We haven’t seen one in a long time and you never know when that will happen next, but we’re trying to get it now. We plan on getting a lot of stops, and want to win every Sun Belt game. We want to be number one in our conference,” said junior linebacker Terrill Hanks.
Overall, the excitement level among the players and the tone of fans and students on campus is different this year than in the past. The hopes of a six-win season feel closer than ever before, and long-time Aggie fans are hoping this is the season they may finally see a bowl game. One long-time Aggie fan, Jett Barella, feels the Aggies may even surpass the expectations of the players and the coaches. “We have an All-American running back surrounded by juniors and seniors on offense, and players who have been with each other since their freshman year on defense. They have been improving so much every year, and this experienced team seems to be the one that can make history for our university,” Barella said.
Kickoff tonight is set for 8:30 p.m. MST. The game will be broadcast live on the Pac-12 Network.
(Home games in bold)
Thu Aug 31 @Arizona State
Sat Sep 9 @New Mexico
Sat Sep 16 Troy
Sat Sep 23 UTEP
Sat Sep 30 @Arkansas
Sat Oct 7 @Appalachian State
Sat Oct 14 @Georia Southern
Sat Oct 28 Arkansas State
Sat Nov 4 @Texas State
Sat Nov 18 @Louisiana-Lafayette
Sat Nov 25 Idaho
Sat Dec 2 South Alabama