New Mexico State will likely play in a bowl game for the first time since 1960.
With a touchdown in the final minute Saturday against South Alabama, the Aggies won their sixth game of the year to clinch bowl eligibility. With NMSU trailing 17-16, the winning score came on a seven-yard touchdown pass from Tyler Rogers to Conner Cramer with 32 seconds remaining.
From there, the Aggies’ defense finished it off to close out the 22-17 victory.
Fans stormed the field in celebration after the win and head coach Doug Martin was in tears during the post-game interview.
New Mexico State, which closed out the regular season by winning three of its final four games, led 13-7 at the half and increased the lead to 16-7 early in the fourth. However, the Jaguars stormed back, cutting the deficit to 16-14 with a touchdown at the 11:49 mark of the fourth and going ahead 17-16 with a 27-yard field goal with 5:24 to play.
On the ensuing drive, the Aggies offense, which threw an interception, punted twice and turned it over on downs already in the second half, put together a 15-play, 83-yard drive to pull out the win.
Rogers, who entered the game No. 16 in the country with 3,374 passing yards, finished 40-of-61 for 451 yards and two touchdowns. The touchdown catch by Cramer, a converted quarterback, was his only reception of the game.
Though New Mexico State has reached six wins eight times since 1960, the program hasn’t played in a bowl since then. Most recently, NMSU went 7-5 in 2002, but was not invited to a bowl. NMSU has the longest bowl drought in the country.
This year, the 6-6 Aggies will likely head to the Arizona Bowl. The Arizona Bowl and the New Mexico Bowl are the only bowl trips the school can afford:
According to a report from NBC 9 in El Paso, the school may be forced to be picky about bowl locations if it gets selected for a postseason appearance because of financial reasons. Lower-tier bowl games are typically costly enterprises for schools and New Mexico State isn’t in a position to absorb a financial hit.
“If you stick us too far back east, then it becomes a financial issue with our fans and if you’re obligated to buy X number of tickets and we can’t sell them to our fans, then it becomes a costly enterprise,” New Mexico State chancellor Garrey Carruthers told the station.
Martin won a combined 10 games in his first four seasons with the program, which played its final game as a member of the Sun Belt on Saturday. The Sun Belt voted to remove NMSU and Idaho in order to go with 10 teams and two divisions beginning in 2018.
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