New Mexico State caps off 57-year bowl drought with OT win over Utah State
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) —
Larry Rose III scored on a 21-yard run in overtime and New Mexico State won in its first bowl game in 57 years, beating Utah State 26-20 in the Arizona Bowl on Friday night.
Utah State (6-7) had the ball first in overtime and Dominik Eberle hit the right upright on a 29-yard field goal, sending a groan through the Utah State crowd. Eberle made 16 for 18 field goals during the regular season, but missed three in the Arizona Bowl.
New Mexico State (7-6) ran two plays in overtime, with Jones bursting through a hole on the left side of the line to send the Aggies and their fans rushing onto the Arizona Stadium field. Jones finished with 142 yards on 16 carries.
The third Arizona Bowl started with some early fireworks on special teams.
Utah State's Savon Scarver returned a kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter, then New Mexico State's Jason Huntley took the ensuing kickoff 100 yards for a score.
The excitement leveled off considerably until LaJuan Hunt scored on a 1-yard run in the fourth quarter, set up by a shanked punt from New Mexico State's Payton Theisler.
New Mexico State's Tyler Rogers, held in check most of the game, answered by moving the Aggies on a 69-yard scoring drive, capped by his 11-yard touchdown pass to Jaleel Scott that tied it at 20. A video review overturned the initial call that Scott was out of bounds.
This was a rematch 57 years in the making.
New Mexico State had not been to a bowl game since the 1960 Sun Bowl. The opponent: Utah State.
The teams played multiple times since then while playing together in a variety of conferences. Utah State, now in the Mountain West Conference, went to eight bowls since then, including six of the last seven.
New Mexico State went into a bowl-less tailspin, finishing with a losing record 44 times since that last bowl game. It had 14 straight losing seasons, including a 0-12 mark in 2005, before winning its final two games this season to finally get back to bowling.
The long-awaited rematch turned into the Special Teams Bowl in the first half.
New Mexico State's Dylan Brown made two field goals, Eberle made two and missed two, and each team had a kickoff return for a touchdown.
After a third quarter of defensive stops and punting, both teams found the end zone to send the game overtime.
Utah State racked up 441 yards of offense and kept Rogers from having a big game, but had a rough night on special teams.
New Mexico State made its first postseason game in nearly six decades a memorable one by rallying for a victory.
Utah State must replace seniors Hunt and cornerback Jalen Davis, a second-team AP All-American, but Love is a redshirt freshman.
New Mexico State will have big holes to replace with Rogers and Rose among the seniors it will have to replace.