LAS CRUCES, N.M. – The biggest rivalry game in the state of New Mexico is finally here, as the Aggies and Lobos are set to clash at 5 p.m. Saturday afternoon from University Stadium in Albuquerque.
HOW TO WATCH:
Saturday’s Battle of I-25 can be viewed live on Stadium and WatchStadium.com. Ari Wolfe (PBP) and Mike Lamb (Color) will handle all the broadcast duties.
NM State fans can listen on the all-new Varsity Network app by LEARFIELD, and the following Aggie Sports Network affiliates:
MATCHUP NOTES (UNM):
WHOLE LOT OF HISTORY:
• The Rio Grande Rivalry or the Battle of I-25 is one of the oldest rivalries in college football. Dating back to 1894, NM State and UNM have met 110 times and the rivalry is actually 18 years older than the State of New Mexico (1912). The Aggies are looking to snap a two-game losing streak against the Lobos.
• The Lobo defensive scheme Saturday should look pretty familiar to the Aggies, as DC Rocky Long has a very strong influence on San Diego State’s defensive strategy. After spending a decade as the man in charge of the Lobo program (1998-08), Long spent a season as SDSU’s defensive coordinator before spending a decade at the helm of the SDSU program (2009-19). The Aggies faced Long’s defensive scheme last weekend at SDSU. CLUB 70 Both NM State DC Frank Spaziani and UNM DC Rocky Long are at least 70 years of age. Spaziani (74) boasts 47 years of experience while Long (71) just completed his 46th season as a coach. Both Long (SDSU) and Spaziani (Boston College) spent a decade as a head coach and the duo boasts 93 years of combined experience.
RESTRICTED AIR SPACE:
• The Aggies pass defense was extremely stout Saturday against SDSU. The unit held the Aztecs to just 6-of-19 passing for just 76 yards. After being hit for a pair of 50-yard passes in the opener against UTEP, the Aggie defense allowed just two completed passes of 20+ yards, and no passes over 25 yards. NM State also recorded its third interception of the season Saturday when Caleb Mills picked-off a Brookshire pass in the third quarter. The 76 yards passing are the fewest the Aggies have allowed in a game (min. 15 attempts) since App State recorded just 75 yards passing during the 2017 season (Oct. 7).
• WR Dominic Gicinto broke his arm during the second quarter of Saturday’s contest against San Diego State. The Missouri transfer had a strong game in the first half before his injury on Saturday, hauling in seven passes for 64 yards and a score. Gicinto recorded the Aggies lone touchdown of the season thus far, an eight-yard strike from Jonah Johnson in the second half.
COMING UP THE MOUNTAIN:
• Saturday’s contest at San Diego State was the first of seven contests the Aggies will play against the Mountain West this season. On Saturday, NM State will make the short trip to New Mexico (Sept. 11). The 2021 schedule also features a home-and-home with Hawaii (Sept. 25, Oct. 23), road contests at San Jose State (Oct. 2) and Nevada (Oct. 9) as well as a home game with Utah State (Nov. 6).
STATE OF THE UNION:
• Sophomore corner Torren Union continues to impress for the Aggies. The nephew of movie star Gabrielle Union and former NBA superstar Dwyane Wade, Union transferred to the Aggies from South Dakota State. In his first-career start against UTEP, the Arizona native had six tackles and a pass breakup. On Saturday, Union had three tackles, a pass breakup and recorded a fumble recovery.
• The Aggies two-deep this week features a couple of changes. Carson Pharris will make the start for the Aggies at right guard, while Stephawn Townsend is projected to make the start at right tackle. WR Cole Harrity will slide into the projected starter role at the ‘H’ position, replacing the injured Gicinto. True Freshman PJ Johnson makes his 2021 two deep debut at the aforementioned ‘H’ spot.
• After not facing off with either New Mexico or UTEP during the COVID-19 impacted 2020- 21 season, the Lobos and Miners return to the Aggies schedule in 2021. UNM and NM State didn’t meet in football for the first time since 1945, while the Aggies and Miners didn’t face off for just the third time since 1945, when World War II necessitated the cancellation of that season. NM State will hit I-25 on Sept. 11 for the matchup against UNM.
COACH SPEAK (HC DOUG MARTIN):
“Whenever you play a defensive coached by [defensive coordinator] Rocky Long, you know it’s going to be a great defense. They had Houston Baptist on their heels the entire game. They do a great job of disguising what they’re trying to do and where they’re bringing pressure from. He just does a great job of coaching. Offensively the QB [Terry Willson III] they got from Kentucky is a weapon. Anytime you get a quarterback out of the SEC it’s going to be an upgrade. He makes their whole offense different and better. They’re going to be a tough challenge for us this weekend.”
The Aggies return home next Saturday when South Carolina State visits Las Cruces for a 6 p.m. kick. Fans can catch all the action live on FloSports, the Aggie Sports Network and Varsity Network app.