NMSU Football Hopes to End 57-Year Bowl Drought
The longest bowl drought in college football history could come to an end Saturday afternoon in Las Cruces. The New Mexico State Aggies are currently 5-6 on the season, but the team has a chance to win its sixth game and qualify for the postseason if they defeat South Alabama. The last time they played in a bowl was in 1960 when they defeated Utah State 20-13 in the Sun Bowl. The Aggies went 7-5 in 2002, but they were not invited to a bowl game since they were 28 bowl games 15 years ago compared to 40 bowl games today. They also went 28-11-1 between 1964 and 1967 but they have no postseason appearances to show for it. There were only nine bowl games played during those years in the 1960s, so a seven or eight-win NMSU team was not good enough to qualify.
This opportunity for the Aggies to play in a bowl game is important for a number of reasons. They are in their final year with the Sun Belt, and their football program will be forced to go independent beginning with the 2018 season. The reality is that NMSU will have to hang on as an independent until the next conference reshuffling effects the Mountain West and CUSA. The Aggies also played half of their season with head coach Doug Martin in the final year of his contract. However, the school rewarded their football coach with a three-year contract extension, putting the team at ease as well as fans who thought they might lose their head coach at the end of the season. Finally, the long drought has NMSU fans dreaming of a chance to go bowling, since many of them have never experienced a postseason game before.
The team’s offense has been led by the three-headed monster of seniors Larry Rose III, Jaleel Scott, and Tyler Rogers. Rose III has 801 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns this season, Scott has 908 receiving yards and 8 TDs, while Rogers has thrown for 3374 yards and 24 TDs. However, Rogers injured his shoulder against Louisiana Lafayette two weeks ago, and he did not play last week against Idaho. Reports out of Las Cruces indicate that Rogers should be ready to play this Saturday. Defensively, redshirt sophomore Cedric Wilcots leads the team with 7 ½ sacks, and he was just named Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Week. The Aggies have set a new season-high record with 35 sacks.
If the Aggies are able to defeat South Alabama, they will most likely play in Tucson at the Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl. That game features tie-ins from the Mountain West and Sun Belt Conferences. I hope that Saturday afternoon’s game is sold out and Aggie Memorial Stadium is louder than it has been in decades. The football team deserves it, given all of the adversity that they have had to overcome. The announced crowd of 21,894 for NMSU’s win over Idaho last Saturday included all tickets issued. The stadium officially seats 28,853 so a sell out is not out of the realm of possibility. There is no doubt that fans will storm the field and tear down the goal posts if the Aggies are able to beat South Alabama. You might even see NMSU Director of Athletics Mario Moccia hanging on a goalpost himself and leading the postgame celebration. Best of luck to the Aggies and Coach Martin. They deserve it.