LAS CRUCES, N.M. (KTSM) – New Mexico State outscored FIU 17-0 in the fourth quarter to secure its first-ever Conference USA win on Wednesday night, 34-17 over the Panthers.
The victory moved the Aggies back to .500 and 3-3, 1-1 in CUSA and was their first conference victory since 2017, when NMSU was playing in the Sun Belt. FIU falls to 3-3, 0-3 in CUSA action.
NMSU rolled up 439 total yards of offense in the victory, led by quarterback Diego Pavia, who was 20-31 for 256 yards and two touchdowns, while also rushing for 46 yards, most of which came on a 43-yard rushing score on the first play of the fourth quarter.
“This game was critical for us. It gives us our first win in the conference. Our crowd did a heck of job of coming out and supporting us,” said NMSU head coach Jerry Kill. “Trying to get used to a Wednesday game, I’ve been part of this in the MAC before, and it’s hard. I’m proud of our young people. They played physical and they played hard. We played the way I said I want a Jerry Kill football team play. The only thing I didn’t like is that we didn’t play very smart. We’ll focus on that.”
Pavia’s big outing came after over a week of controversy surrounding a video that appears to show Pavia urinating on the Lobos’ logo inside the University of New Mexico’s practice facility.
NMSU head coach Jerry Kill commented on the matter for the first time after NMSU’s win; Pavia was not made available to the media, as has been the case since the incident went public.
“Believe me, we handle things internally and there’s nobody in this room or anybody else that would want to do what he has to do,” Kill said. “He’s got an early morning. We’ll internally handle things and he’s taken that with very good maturity and he didn’t have to so you’ve got to give the kid some credit.”
Pavia’s teammates, running back Monte Watkins and cornerback Andre Seldon, said postgame that Pavia apologized to the team, took full responsibility and showed accountability for his actions.
With the controversy in the rearview mirror, NMSU put FIU in its rearview mirror as well. The teams traded scores through the first three quarters; NMSU took the lead three separate times, but each time, the Panthers were able to counter and tie the game.
That changed in the fourth quarter, as Pavia’s 43-yard scamper for six broke the seal. After forcing an FIU punt, NMSU used a quick, four-play, 61-yard drive to take a 31-17 lead on a three-yard touchdown run by Star Thomas. The big play on that drive was a 32-yard run by Watkins down to the FIU three-yard line.
From there, NMSU’s defense came up big, with two interceptions to keep FIU at bay. The first was by Seldon off a tipped pass in the end zone to thwart a would-be scoring drive by the Panthers. The second pick came after an NMSU punt, by Torren Union.
Pavia completed passes to 11 different receivers and seven different players recording a carry on the ground for NMSU, which rolled up 183 yards rushing, led by Watkins with 89 yards on just five carries.
NMSU will look to carry the momentum of the victory into next Wednesday, when the Aggies are again at home to host Sam Houston at 7 p.m. on CBS Sports Network in another edition of Weekday CUSA football.