Remembering That Time When The Aggies Ushered in the End of an Era

When looking at the revival of New Mexico State football, many look to the South Alabama game last year or the Arizona Bowl victory as seminal moments for the program.
Some will even mention the back to back victories over New Mexico in 2016 and 2017, which included a triumph over a 9-win Lobo team. However, few remember a pair of games that were just important.
With Louisiana on the docket, I think it’s time we remember the 2015 and 2016 victories over the Cajuns.

2015

Coming into the 2015 game, the Aggies were at 2-6 struggling through another season in their bowl drought, but riding a two-game win streak.
While Louisiana-Lafayette came in at 4-5, they were fresh off a 9-win season where they gained the odd distinction of becoming the first team to win the same bowl four years in a row.
They needed to only win 2 of the next three games in a slate that consisted of New Mexico State, Appalachian State, and a Troy team that would go 4-8. The Cajuns looked to start their bowl run with an easy home victory over a team they had beaten 44-16 on the road the previous year. The Aggies would spoil the Cajuns’ Crescent City quest.
In a game that featured seven lead changes, the fans were treated to duel between two of the best backs in the Sun Belt as Larry Rose went for 27 carries for 191 yards, while Elijah McGuire countered with 18 carries for 159 yards for the Cajuns.
The game came down to the foot of Parker Davidson, who delivered one of the biggest kicks in Aggie history, a 21-yarder with 1:29 to go. Rodney Butler picked off a Brooks Haack pass with 1:19 to go to seal the upset.
The Aggies increased their win streak to three games, while Louisiana-Lafayette would lose their last two games to Appalachian State and Troy by a combined score of 69-24 and snap their New Orleans Bowl streak.
The win was arguably the biggest for the Aggies since their victory over Minnesota in 2011, but seemed like a mere anomaly at the time.

2016

The following year’s clash took place earlier in the season, but Louisiana-Lafayette came in at 2-2 still hoping to avenge the previous year’s defeat versus the 1-3 Aggies. Once again, the Aggies had different plans.
While Rose would have another superb outing versus the Cajuns, with 112 yards and a touchdown, it was Tyler Rogers and Gregory Hogan who stole the show, with Rogers completing 31-49 passes for 354 yards and two touchdowns, completing 11 of those to Hogan for 172 yards and a touchdown.
The game went to two overtimes, and New Mexico State would capitalize on a 22-yard missed field goal by Stevie Artigue, winning the game on Sebastian Anderson’s recovery of a Larry Rose fumble in the end zone.
Just like that, New Mexico State had defeated one of the flagship programs of a conference that would boot them after 2017.
Looking deeper, the win streak represented a changing of the guard in the Sun Belt, and the emergence of a new era for New Mexico State football.
Here are both team’s records from 2011, the start of Louisiana-Lafayette’s bowl-streak, to before the 2015 game, and after the 2015 game.

Louisiana-Lafayette:

2011-November 20, 2015:
40-21 (zero losing seasons, one Sun Belt title)
November 21, 2015-Present:
13-20 (two losing seasons, zero Sun Belt titles)

New Mexico State:

2011-November 20, 2015:
11-46 (zero winning seasons)
November 21, 2015-Present:
13-21 (one winning season, and one bowl victory)
While both teams’ records are almost identical after 2015, it is the records before that truly tell the story. Louisiana-Lafayette was once a flagship program in the Sun Belt, before the loss, while the Aggies were a laughingstock not only in conference but nation-wide.
In the span of less than two-years, Louisiana would become a middling Sun Belt program, firing Mark Hudspeth after a 5-7 2017 season marked by embarrassing 47-3 and 63-14 loses to Arkansas State and Appalachian State, respectively.
New Mexico State, of course would become a respectable Group of Five program, most notably going 7-6 in 2017 and snapping their haunting 57-year bowl drought with a 26-20 victory over Utah State in 2017.
Additionally, New Mexico State has fielded two All-American players in that time, 2015 AP Third-Team All-American RB Larry Rose, and 2016 Phil Steele 4th-Team All-American MLB Rodney Butler.
While this year’s game may not have the same program-changing implications as the 2015 and 2016 games, it is crucial if the Aggies want a chance at a bowl game this year.
The Louisiana game starts a three-game stretch of easily winnable games that includes Texas State and Alcorn State.

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