From sea to shining sea, most universities eagerly await the return of college football season. It’s a time of new beginnings, serendipity and optimism, but for Aggie fans, it’s a whole other story. And if this past spring was any indication of what the 2021 season will bring, there’s absolutely no reason to keep hope alive.
But what exactly is “hope” for the Aggie football team? Let’s rewind to 2017, a year when hope was at an all-time high for the team. Quarterback Tyler Rogers and running back Larry Rose III were the stars, and by New Mexico State University standards were part of a high-powered offense.
It was Rogers and late-game hero Conner Cramer who sealed the deal on that fateful December morning, one that saw Aggie Memorial Stadium packed to the brim. The win against South Alabama in the last conference game NMSU played as a football-only member of the Sun Belt Conference, sent the Aggies to their first bowl appearance since battling Utah State in the 1960 Sun Bowl.
A mere 27 days later, the Aggies would travel to Tucson, Arizona, to take on Utah State in a bowl game once more. For the first time in a long time, the national spotlight was on NMSU’s football program. Utah State quarterback and future Aaron Rodgers protégé Jordan Love threw for 254 yards, but no touchdown passes. The game became an overtime thriller, and Larry Rose III led the offensive charge for the Aggies by running 132 yards and sealing the deal with the game-winning touchdown.
It took five seasons for head coach Doug Martin to get both a winning season and a bowl game appearance — five years to bring a long-ailing fanbase some much needed optimism and hope.
He did it, and in the three and a half years since, that hope has been all but squashed.
The following year’s home opener was nationally televised on ESPN. It was “Week Zero” and there was a full house, but by the 7:13 mark of the third quarter, the crowd began filing out. The hope for another six-win season dwindled to what eventually became a 3-9 season.
Over the span of a 13-game campaign in 2017, the team averaged 340.2 passing yards per game and 110.1 rushing yards per game. Defensively, they gave up 234 yards in the air and 166.6 yards on the ground. During the last full season of Aggie football, the 2019 season, fans saw a steep decline. Offensive productivity dropped in the air, but partially increased on the ground. The team went from a 7-6 record in 2017 to 2-10 in 2019.
Fast-forward to this spring. As the only program in the Football Bowl Subdivision to play football in the spring, there was a hope that maybe the Aggies would go undefeated.
Then Tarleton State showed up, came to play, and dismantled NMSU 43-17. The Aggies would rebound and defeat Dixie State the following game, but that first loss raised alarm bells.
Under head coach Doug Martin, NMSU has only had hope for a victorious football season once. This makes sense for a coach who has been nothing but underwhelming during his tenure, garnering 23 wins and 64 losses. That barely scratches the surface of his head coaching career. Martin went 29-53 during his time as head coach at Kent State from 2004-2010.
If there’s anything to be learned from the last seven years under Doug Martin it’s that the Aggie football program needs a new coach, and it needs one now. Since 2017, it feels like the program has grown complacent with Martin’s frankly unremarkable coaching ability. While his 2018 contract extension made sense after the once-in-a-generation Aggie bowl victory, that extension may have become yet another albatross to the program.
Martin’s current contract expires at the end of the 2021 season. Here’s hoping there’s not another contract extension coming his way.