The New Mexico State Aggie football season is over as the team fell to Utah State 24-21 on Saturday.
The loss dropped NMSU to 4-9 on the season — Utah State is 7-5 overall and will play in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in Boise, Idaho later this month.
This was a tough loss for the Aggies and they really could have won the game.
NMSU was leading 21-17 but couldn't put things away.
The team didn't do anything with the ball at the six minute mark of the fourth quarter and punted back to Utah State, which went 83 yards on 13 plays for the winning TD with 35 seconds left.
NMSU got the ball back but immediately threw an interception — quarterback Matt Christian looked deep on the first play of the possession and was picked off.
The Utah State offense was very unimaginative — the team ran the ball 73 times for 392 yards.
Quarterback Adam Kennedy completed 12 of 16 pass attempts for 123 yards and three TDs — his first was a 21-yarder to running back Robert Turtbin on blown coverage by NMSU and the final one was the game winner from 8 yards out to Matt Austin. Freshman QB Chuckie Keeton is healthy but the team continues to ride Kennedy, who's won five-straight games as the starter.
Still, this game featured Utah State running the ball — really, I thought NMSU held up OK in run defense. Utah State didn't break off any huge runs during the game, they just chipped away on the Aggies.
There's a lot of talk about Turbin — an NFL-caliber player — but his running mate Michael Smith is a really fine player as well as is backup Kerwynn Williams. Smith led the way on the ground with 121 yards, while Turbin added 98 and Kennedy had 95.
The final drive saw Utah State facing a fourth and 1 from the Aggies 12-yard line. Kennedy went right and slipped — a handful of players slipped in that area of the field during the game — and his knee came down close to the first-down spot. The official spot got him the first — it was a very close call that could have gone either way. If it went the Aggies way, they would have had win No. 5.
Robert Clay actually got in the game — he hasn't had an offensive play in what felt like forever — and ran well in the first half. I thought the Aggies could have gone to him on the goal line just before halftime — instead they ran a quarterback sneak on second down and then — with 16 seconds left and no timeouts remaining — they elected to pass the ball. A Utah State linebacker came through, Christian was pressured and his pass to the left for Bateman was intercepted. BIG play in the game.
Running back Kenny Turner also had a fumble in the first half at the Utah State 35 — both of those turnovers took away promising NMSU drives as the Aggies went into the locker room down 14-7.
Utah State also missed some chances — twice in the first half USU moved the ball inside the 10-yard line only to come away without any points. NMSU's goal line and short-yardage defense was good on Saturday.
Bateman did have a 50-yard touchdown, beating safety Chris Harris on a post-route. Harris slipped — on that part of the field again — and Bateman was able to catch the ball and get in.
The play was set up by a forced fumble — Kennedy was hit by NMSU safety Ben Bradley — that was recovered by David Niumatalolo.
Senior cornerback Jonte Green had his second interception in two weeks. They're also the first two interceptions of his Aggie career.
Some of the tackle numbers in this game were outrageous.
Donyae Coleman led the way with 23. Niumatalolo had 17, Ben Bradley had 14 and Boyblue Aoelua finished with 12.
I thought the Aggies tackled pretty well on the day and a handful of times a single tackle saved a big run for Utah State.
The announced attendance was 13,631 is payed attendance, not people actually at the game.
That's good, because it's a joke. That number couldn't have been farther from the truth — there were easily 10,000 less people than that at the game. We all know NMSU has to make attendance requirements, and it would at least seem they did that.
For those that are interested, that number, according to NMSU's sports information staff, puts the Aggies over the 15,000 average attendance mark for the year. On Thursday the school put out a release saying the Aggies needed more fans to come out to the game or they would fall short of 15,000 — and be without bowl eligibility for next season. In turn, their standing in the FBS could have been in jeaporady as well. Don't really know what to make of this — or why they would send out such a release to begin with, two days before the game no less.
That release sure didn't get more people to come out. Maybe it helped them sell another ticket or two. Maybe.
When it's all said and done, it appears NMSU had a contingency plan in place to get above that threshold anyway.
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