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NMSU football falls to UMass in season opener

The crowd was met with disappointment at the New Mexico State University football season opener on Aug. 26, as the University of Massachusetts claimed victory over the Aggies, 41-30. 

Heading into the first quarter, the Aggies were eager to kick off the first game of the season at Aggie Memorial Stadium.  

The Aggie football team runs onto the field for their season opener against UMass at Aggie Memorial Stadium Saturday, Aug. 26, 2023. (Photo by Josh Jaeger/Kokopelli)

Coming off a promising 7-6 season in 2022, the team had high hopes after taking down Bowling Green 24-19 in the Quick Lane Bowl last December.

NMSU quarterback Diego Pavia was expected to have another promising season this year.  

“Obviously I don’t want to start [the season] like we did last year,” Pavia said. “We want to come out and shock the world. We want to show the nation we are the best team in the nation, and that’s what we’re here to do.” 

NMSU sophomore and avid Aggie sports fan, Marshall Mecham, was among the thousands of spectators at Saturday night’s game.  

“I was expecting a win because of last season’s victories,” Mecham said. “[NMSU] beat UMass last season by double digits, so I was expecting a better [game].” 

The UMass offensive and defensive strategies played a key factor in the close victory. Some of the star players on the opposing team were quarterback Taisun Phommachanh and running back Kay’Ron Lynch-Adams. Phommachanh passed for 192 yards, and Lynch-Adams scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns. The defensive line for the Minutemen had several interceptions and sacks that also played a vital role in their win.  

NMSU cheerleaders lift Pistol Pete as he performs air push-ups for the crowd after the Aggies score their first touchdown in the second quarter against UMass. (Photo by Alex Ortiz/Kokopelli)

The Aggies also had a few thrilling moments throughout the game, with Pavia and running back Monte Watkins attempting to save the day. Pavia went 16-for-27 passing for 248 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions, while Watkins finished with 95 yards rushing on two carries.

The deciding factor of the game occurred after halftime when a missed field goal during the third quarter killed the Aggies’ momentum. UMass continued to run the ball into the end zone during the last quarter, ending the game with a 10-point lead over NMSU.  

At the postgame press conference, NMSU head coach Jerry Kill expressed his disappointment in the outcome of the season opener.  

“I don’t think we played up to our abilities,” Kill said. “Sometimes you got to play the first game to see where you’re at, and that’s one thing we certainly identified … where we’re at and where we need to go. We’re not going to let this carry on like we did for about five games last year. We’re going to get it taken care of.” 

The next game will be played at the Aggie Memorial Stadium against FCS opponent Western Illinois on Saturday, Sept. 2.  Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. MDT. 

April Borjon contributed to this report. 

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