An Arizona Bowl record 39,132 fans, mostly NMSU Aggie fans, packed into Tuscon Stadium Friday evening to watch the NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl between Utah State and New Mexico State.
The game started off tame enough, as NM State got the ball and drove 59 yards for a field goal and the early 3-0 lead.
Then it got really fun.
Both teams would have kickoff return touchdowns back to back. The first was a 96 yard return by Utah State’s Savon Scarver, which was an Arizona Bowl record. The second was a 100 yard kickoff return by New Mexico State’s own Jason Huntley, an Arizona Bowl record! That’s right, the record was broken, then re-broken in a span of 14 seconds!
Then the game came to a halt.
The rest of the first half’s possessions ended in eight punts, two field goals, three turnovers (two by NMSU), and a missed field goal by Utah State, more on that later.
The second was more of the same: two punts, two turnovers, and another missed field goal by Utah State. Their kicker, Dominik Eberle was a Lou Groza finalist and only had two misses coming into the game.
One of those turnovers was by Utah State at the NMSU one yard line. Linebacker Terril Hanks made the game saving play, swatting a pitch out of the air and recovering it, saving six points and the game for NM State. Take a look.
After another five punts between the two teams, USU finally won the field position battle and broke through for a touchdown.
Then after another NMSU punt and USU missed field goal (#3), New Mexico State broke through, thanks to two great catches. One by Johnathan Boone on 4th down, the other by Mr. Scott. Jaleel Scott.
The rest of the fourth quarter ended in punts, leaving the game tied at 20 and headed to overtime.
These offenses struggled. NMSU was 4-22 on third down. Utah State 2-18. The Red Aggies were 3-3 on 4th downs, though.
Really, both teams were as evenly matched as they could have been. Yardage was 441-365 in Utah State’s favor. Turnovers were nearly even-NMSU had 3, to Utah State’s 2. The only real difference was Utah State’s four missed field goals. That’s right, Eberle missed another one.
Tied at 20, Utah State started with the ball and had the ball at 4th and goal from the NMSU 11. That’s a 29 yard field goal. And USU’s Lou Groza finalist missed it!!!
NMSU was now a field goal away from winning their first bowl game in 57 years! They did not disappoint.
With the ball, NM State had a 2nd and 6 from the USU 21. Tyler Rogers would hand the ball off to the heart and soul of the team, Larry Rose III, who took it in for a touchdown!!! NEW MEXICO STATE WON THEIR FIRST BOWL GAME IN 57 YEARS!
It was only fitting that Larry Rose would be the one to score the winning TD. With that touchdown, he tied the program record for career rushing touchdowns on his last career carry.
Then came the celebration! New Mexico State had their first winning season in 15 years, their first bowl win in 57 years and two Arizona Bowl records!
Here’s what Coach Martin had to say about the game after he becomes just the second NMSU coach to win a bowl game at the school.
One last look at that trophy!!!
Beautiful. LRIII (Offensive MVP), Leon McQuaker (Defensive MVP)