Three quarters of stagnant offense and a big night from New Mexico State quarterback Tyler Rogers resulted in the New Mexico Lobos losing the Rio Grande Rivalry for the second year in a row.
Things got off to a quick start in the game, as UNM’s Tyrone Owens fumbled on the second play from scrimmage. The Aggies recovered in Lobos territory and quickly capitalized on the turnover with a touchdown.
However, things got sticky on the extra point as the Aggies fumbled the snap, and Jalin Burrell returned it 98 yards for the Lobos to notch two points.
From there, things slowed down — the teams exchanged punts until New Mexico State broke through again. NMSU quarterback Rogers launched a pass to midfield that went off the fingers of a UNM defender and into the arms of Izaiah Lottie. The wide receiver took the ball into the end zone for an 81-yard touchdown pass. This time, the Aggies were able to convert the extra point to put the score at 13-2, where it remained through the end of the first quarter.
Rogers came through with an impressive effort for the Aggies, passing for 401 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. Lobos head coach Bob Davie was very complimentary of the fourth-year quarterback following the game.
“I think he’s really good, I do,” Davie said. “He’s a fourth-year guy with a really good surrounding cast. It’s hard to find guys like number 16; he’s for real. I think they have a good scheme. I think they have been together now for five years — they have good players, good coaches and I think he’s really a good quarterback. When he doesn’t turn it over, he’s difficult. I thought our defense hung in there, honestly, they really did.”
The second quarter started with a strong drive for the Lobos, who marched 56 yards down the field but had to settle for a 23-yard field goal from Jason Saunders following a defensive stand by the Aggies.
Both sides were careless with the football at times, which was highlighted by a sequence early in the second quarter where the Lobos forced an NMSU fumble but gave it right back 17 seconds later when Richard McQuarley dropped the pitch from Lamar Jordan. The Aggies were able to cash in on that turnover as well, adding a field goal to put them up 16-5.
After forcing a Lobo punt, the Aggies marched deep into UNM territory but nearly gave it away when Jake Rothschiller forced another fumble. But the Aggies were to recover the the loose ball and eventually end the drive with a touchdown.
Undisciplined play hurt the Lobos again in the final minutes of the half, as a hold nullified a touchdown return on the kickoff from Elijah Lily. And instead of scoring on a potential game-changing play, UNM was forced to punt on the ensuing possession.
UNM had another opportunity, following a short NMSU punt, to put points on the board and end the half on a positive note. But quarterback Lamar Jordan threw an interception when he took a chance down the right sideline and the teams went into the locker room with the score 23-5 in favor of the Aggies.
In the first half, the Lobos had 10 penalties for 90 yards and three turnovers, with only 148 yards of total offense.
The second half appeared promising for the Lobos, as they started out by forcing an NMSU punt and drove down into Aggies territory. Unfortunately for UNM, it turned out the same way many of the first half drives did.
Jordan was hit as he threw and picked off again for the Lobos fourth turnover. It was also Jordan’s last play of the night, as he was replaced by Tevaka Tuioti. The Aggies put together another long, mechanical drive and capped it off with an 8-yard touchdown pass to Jaleel Scott. The third quarter ended with the Aggies ahead 30-5.
Despite the quarterback change, Davie said that Jordan is still the starting quarterback, and he just was out of sync tonight.
“He (Lamar Jordan) made some bad decisions and at some point you have to put the other quarterback in,” Davie said. “But as I stand here tonight, Lamar is still our quarterback. But certainly Tevaka kind of confirmed what we thought from practice. We’ll see.”
In the fourth quarter, the Lobos offense finally showed some life, as they took the ball 54 yards for a touchdown. Tuioti was hit as he threw and the ball was tipped in the air, but it still ended up in the hands of Chris Davis for a touchdown. Instead of kicking an extra point, the Lobos went for the two-point conversion, but the pass fell incomplete.
After a quick stop by the Lobos defense, the offense deployed the reverse, and it paid off. On the first play of the drive, the reverse to Jay Griffin IV went for 61 yards and a touchdown. This time, they converted the two point conversion to get back within 11 with 10:09 to play.
The Lobos’ defense came up big once again, as Jacob Girgle intercepted a Rogers pass and set the offense up inside Aggie territory. Unable to punch the ball in for a touchdown, Jason Sanders converted a 22-yard field goal to make it an eight-point game with 6:11 to play.
Another Aggie drive was snuffed out early, and the Lobos defense forced another punt. With 5:18 to play, the Lobos took over at the 35-yard line with chance to tie the game.
It looked like it wasn’t meant to be for the Lobos, as they went 3-and-out and were forced to punt. But UNM got the ball back again and turned an eight play, 80-yard drive into a 19-yard touchdown pass.
But the comeback effort fell short, as New Mexico was unable to pick up the two-point conversion. With 1:11 to play, and still trailing 30-28, UNM tried an onside kick.
NMSU recovered and forced the Lobos to burn its final two timeouts by running its way to first downs. Rogers was able to take a knee and allow the final seconds to tick off the clock for a second-straight win for the Aggies in the Rio Grande Rivalry.
Cameron Goeldner is a freelance sports reporter for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers men’s soccer but also contributes content for baseball, basketball, football and track and field. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @goeldfinger.