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Bragging Rights! New Mexico State earns first win of season, beats UTEP 27-20

Defense and special teams help Aggies retain Brass Spittoon and Silver Spade

NCAA Football: Arizona Bowl-New Mexico State vs Utah State Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been a long 10 years.

That’s how long it’s been since the Aggies last won in the Sun Bowl against UTEP. Check out the highlights here.

Thankfully, that streak was broken Saturday as the offense did just enough and the defense and special teams carried the team to a 27-20 victory over the rival Miners despite being out-gained 429-311, out first-downed 24-15 and losing time of possession 40:48-19:12.

This game was really lost by the Miners’ own mistakes that started early and remained throughout the game.

UTEP would get the opening kickoff and go three and out, forcing a punt at their own 29. Christian Gibson—who had a great game— slipped around the Miners’ players and blocked the punt, which was picked up by Izaiah Lottie and ran in for a touchdown.

UTEP would respond with Kai Locksley being a one man wrecking crew. He ran for 52 yards and threw for another seven to bring the Miners even at seven. Locksley is a game changing player and the Aggies struggled to contain him all night.

NCAA Football: Texas El Paso at Tennessee
Kai Locksley carried the Miner offense and is a game changing player.
Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

But NM State’s offense did just enough to keep the Aggies in the game. On the ensuing drive, Josh Adkins converted a key 3rd and 8, leading to a Christian Gibson 38 yard rush to set up a 22 yard Dylan Brown field goal. 10-7 NM State.

On the following Miner drive, the defense bent but didn’t break giving up a few big runs and committing some penalties but eventually holding UTEP to a game tying field goal.

Then the game took a turn for the worst that made everyone watching remember it was a contest between two winless teams.

With the Miners in the red zone hoping to take their first lead of the entire season, Roy Lopez would force a fumble which was recovered by Billy Nipp. Two plays later, with NM State driving, Adkins would get hit from behind giving UTEP the ball right back.

But then, Cedric Wilcots II, recording one of eight Aggies sacks, knocked the ball loose and Malik Demby picked it up and ran 55 yards for the score.

New Mexico State v Arkansas
Cedric Wilcots II had 2.5 sacks, including a strip sack that Malik Demby returned 55 yards for a touchdown
Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

After halftime, a missed tackle would allow Terry Juniel to go 76 yards to tie the game up at 17.

On the next Miner drive, they would attempt a 44 yard field goal to go up by three but that sailed wide and kept the score at 17-17.

On the following Aggie drive, the Miners would have a missed tackle of their own on a third down and ran 53 yards for the touchdown, which ended up being the difference. But UTEP wasn’t done yet.

They used 9:21 and were knocking on the door before the Aggie “bend-don’t-break” D held them to a field goal.

The Aggies would respond with a field goal drive of their own before a Locksley pass was intercepted on 4th down giving the Aggies the win!

Some Thoughts

Christian Gibson should have earned himself some more carries as he had 103 yards, the first time this season any Aggie has topped 100 yards in a game.

Josh Adkins didn’t look the best (50% completion) but did just enough to carry the Aggies to their first win. He also threw for 156 yards. There are still a lot of things to fix on this side of the ball but with a bye week coming up before the first game against Liberty, I am hoping for some improvement come October 6!