The University of New Mexico football team beat their in-state rivals, the New Mexico State University Aggies, 34-23 in front of a strong crowd of 28,470 fans at University Stadium on Saturday. This is the first time UNM has won their first two games of a season since 2005.
UNM got off to a quick start, opening the game with a 3-play, 64-yard touchdown drive that was capped by a 4-yard rush from running back Bobby Cole.
The only score NMSU was able to manage as a response in the first quarter was a 43-yard field goal from kicker Ethan Albertson before the Lobos got another touchdown from Terry Wilson Jr.'s 15-yard pass to tight end Connor Witthoft; he carried this across for a touchdown, making the score 14-3.
The Aggies kicked another field goal to open the second quarter, cutting the Lobos' lead to 14-6.
UNM struggled offensively in the second quarter, allowing NMSU multiple opportunities to score. The Aggies ate into the Lobos' lead again with a lateral pass play from quarterback Dino Maldonaldo to wide receiver Isaiah Garcia-Castaneda, who then threw to tight end Thomaz Whitford for the touchdown.
Another UNM drive stalled out and, after going for a fourth down, the Lobos turned the ball over on downs with 4:11 left in the first half and gave NMSU a chance to take the lead.
However, Lobos linebacker Cody Moon picked off Maldonaldo’s pass at the NMSU 48-yard line, giving UNM great field position to try to extend their lead. Shortly after, Wilson hit wide receiver Andrew Erickson for a 17-yard touchdown pass that made the score 21-13.
NMSU quickly responded with a 75-yard touchdown; Maldonaldo completed a pass to Garcia-Castaneda, making the score 21-20 with 1:57 left in the half.
The score turned to 24-20 when the Lobos kicked a field goal to end the first half.
UNM’s defense didn’t allow NMSU to score during the third quarter, but the Lobos' offense remained cold, only getting another field goal from kicker Andrew Shelley to make the score 27-20 after three quarters.
NMSU began the fourth quarter with a 37-yard field goal that made the score 27-23 in favor of the Lobos but, with 12:32 left in the game, there was plenty of time for the Aggies to take the lead.
But UNM didn’t allow that to happen; Willson hit wide receiver Mannie Logan-Greene for a 58-yard pass that Logan-Green was able to run in for a touchdown, making the score 34-23 with 12:01 left in the game.
The Aggies didn’t score for the rest of the game, and a late interception by Jerrick Reed II with 2:16 left sealed the Lobos' victory in the Rio Grande Rivalry.
Head coach Danny Gonzales gave credit to NMSU and their head coach Doug Martin for competing against UNM at a high level. He said while he was happy with the way the Lobos ran the ball in the second half and the job the offensive line did in the fourth, he still saw areas for improvement.
“I thought we didn’t execute well enough,” Gonzales said. “We made way too many mistakes; in the first half I think we had seven penalties for 67 yards … but we were the better football team tonight.”
Gonzales was also happy with the defensive pressure his team was able to apply the whole night.
“Defensively, I thought we improved outside of three big plays,” Gonzales said. “Up front we improved dramatically; we got pressure on (Maldonaldo) all night long.”
As a whole, Gonzales felt that the major improvements from UNM’s last game against Houston Baptist were the running game and the performance of Wilson.
UNM will now travel to College Station, Texas to play against the fifth-ranked team in the country, Texas A&M University (2-0), on Saturday, Sept. 18.
Spencer Butler is a beat reporter at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @SpencerButler48