The New Mexico State Aggies showed resolve in their 48-45 win over Fresno State on Saturday night.
The game seemed tailor made for an NMSU collapse — the team, which turned the ball over on downs, was trailing 45-41 with just under four minutes and thirty seconds to play in the fourth quarter.
Fans — and their weren't many to begin with in attendance — streamed for the exits, perhaps jaded by past experiences in the program's history.
But the defense showed up, forcing a three-and-out and getting the ball back.
The offense would score a touchdown — a Matt Christian fling to Taveon Rogers from 27-yards out put the Aggies up a field goal with just over a minute to play.
And then, once again, the defense held against a team with offensive weapons — and a good quarterback in Derek Carr — turning the Bulldogs over on downs.
A lesser Aggie team would have crumbled — this one responded.
And with that, the team took another step forward.
Yes, the Aggies are better this year — more competitive and just a more entertaining product to watch.
But it would have left somewhat of an empty feeling if NMSU had lost their final seven games of the season — after a 3-3 start to the 2011 campaign.
They needed a win — a home win — over an established Western Athletic Conference program like Fresno State late in the season.
A Fresno State team which had won all 17 of the meetings between the two programs going into Saturday night's affair.
The Aggies did it without two of their starters — standout safety Donyae Coleman and offensive guard Andrew Kersten were out because of injury. Coleman's replacement Justin Smith led the Agies with 13 tackles while true freshman Valerian Ume-Ezeoke started for Kersten and the offensive line continued it's good play.
In truth, Fresno State is down this year and the Aggies are up. NMSU matched up well with the Bulldogs — better than any other Aggie team in recent memory. They were the better team.
NMSU is now 4-6 overall, 2-3 in Western Athletic Conference play.
Dare I say it? They're still bowl eligible.
The final three games will be uphill battles.
But the season isn't over yet, either.
Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg