When I say that the New Mexico State Aggies had every bounce going their way in the first half, I’m not joking. Not even a little.
The Aggies fumbled twice, but one was scooped up by Jaleel Scott for an additional yardage gain. Tyler Rogers threw a ball into traffic that shot through the hands of the New Mexico defender… and right to Izaiah Lottie for an 81-yard touchdown scamper.
The one fumble the Aggies did lose was followed by a fumble recovery of their own on a sloppy option pitch two plays later. Peyton Theisler punted three times, two of them went less than 25 yards, and the third was followed up by Lamar Jordan’s first interception of the game.
Not everything went the Aggie way in the first half. Stody Bradley got ejected for targeting, and numerous ticky-tack penalties abounded. The Aggies were flagged for a total of seven penalties and 62 penalty yards, and they were the less penalized team. Saying this half was a bit uneven would be an understatement, but every Aggie bounce (y’know, after the first one that gave UNM a safety off a botched PAT) seemed to turn into gold for them.
This comparative stat line tells you everything you need to know:
Tyler Rogers: 19-for-27, 287 yards, 3 TD; 1 carry, -4 yards
Lamar Jordan: 8-for-18, 88 yards, 1 INT; 3 carries, -8 yards
The Lobos ended the first half with twice as many penalties as points. With a running offense as potent as New Mexico, you knew they would get untracked at some point, but it never really happened at any point in the first half.
The Aggies continued to press forward, chipping away at the Lobo defense, and by the end of the third quarter NMSU held a 30-5 lead and Lamar Jordan was on the bench. Everyone says that the Lobos are a second-half team, but it had yet to happen.
And then it happened. “It”s name was Jay Griffin IV.
Suddenly New Mexico had a speedster on the field and it paid off when he got into open space. With freshman Tevaka Tuioti under center, every time you blinked Griffin was doing something else. A scoring streak, spearheaded by Griffin’s 61-yard touchdown run and another five catches for 95 yards and another touchdown, found the Lobos trailing only 30-28 with a minute left to play.
Fortunately for the Aggies, Tuioti never saw Javon Fergurson drop into coverage and it left the Lobos without a game-tying two-point conversion and meant they’d need an onside kick to keep the magic going. A kick straight to Conner Cramer’s waiting arms foiled that plan, and then a handful of runs for Larry Rose sealed the deal.
PROS: The passing game was strong, and the defense did 3/4ths of a great job shutting down the potent New Mexico run game. Another 400 passing yards and four touchdowns for Tyler Rogers and nearly 100 yards from scrimmage for Rogers. Even in the fourth quarter when things fell apart, the defense did just enough to hold on for the win.
CONS: Adjustments. The offensive attack for the Lobos shifted when Tuioti and Griffin came into the game, and the Aggies never really figured out the adjustments to make in order to shut them down. They were fortunate that Tuioti made just enough mistakes to help them out. The offense also had some great success with tempo in the early going and then attempted to shift into a ball-control, close-the-game mode and failed miserably. Lots of dropped passes and odd throws.
This game did not unfold the way we thought, but it ended the way we thought. This offense will make hay in the Sun Belt, and we’ll see if the defense can keep doing just enough and the offense can get better at closing the deal.