LAS CRUCES, N.M. — After spending the last two weeks on the road, the NM State football program returns home Saturday for a 6 p.m. kickoff against the South Carolina State Bulldogs at Aggie Memorial Stadium.
Returning home for the first time since Aug. 28 against UTEP, Saturday’s contest against South Carolina State will be the first all-time meeting between the two programs, and will mark the first time in program history that the Aggies have faced off with a member of the MEAC conference.
HOW TO WATCH:
Director of Broadcasting Adam Young (PBP) and color commentator Danny Knee will bring Aggie fans all of the action live on FloFootball and Comcast New Mexico. Fans can also check out Saturday’s contest on tape delay on BallySports Arizona on Saturday at 10:30 p.m. and Monday at 4 a.m. local time.
NM State fans can listen to “Voice of the Aggies” Jack Nixon and Cory Lucas on the all-new Varsity Network app by LEARFIELD, and the following Aggie Sports Network affiliates:
Artesia: KSVP 990 AM
Carlsbad: KAMQ 1240
El Paso: 1380 AM KHEY
Gallup: 1230 AM, 94.9 FM KYVA
Las Cruces: KXPZ 99.5 FM
MATCHUP NOTES (South Carolina State):
• NM State WR Isaiah Garcia-Castaneda became the first Aggie WR to catch a touchdown and a record a non-receiving touchdown in a game since WR Tyrian Taylor ran for a touchdown and threw for a touchdown against Kentucky on Sept. 17, 2016. A former high school QB, Garcia-Castaneda hit TE Thomaz Whitford on a double-pass for an 11-yard touchdown early in the second quarter and then caught a 75-yard touchdown two drives later. He is the first Aggie to record multiple touchdowns this season. Garcia-Castaneda missed the Aggies contest at San Diego State due to COVID-19 protocols. The receiving touchdown was his first as an Aggie.
BEND BUT DONT BREAK:
• The Aggie defense has been extremely stingy this season on both three downs and in the redzone. NM State has held opponents 47 points in 13 total redzone trips (3.6 points-per-trip). After allowing UTEP to score on all four redzone opportunities in Week 0 (1 TD, 3 FG), the Aggies have opponents to just 5-of-9 in the redzone the last two weeks. The Aggies defense held UNM scoreless three times last week in the redzone and ranks 31st in total redzone defense.
The Aggies defense is also one of the better units in the country on 3rd down. Teams are converting just 30% of their third downs against NM State, the 31st-best mark in the country. NM State forced two turnovers on downs Saturday.
BROHARD OR GO HOME:
• Junior captain and linebacker Trevor Brohard should be back in action this week for the Aggies. Brohard missed the Aggies last two contests due to COVID-19 protocols.
NEW OPPONENT, WHO ‘DIS?
• The Aggies will face a first time opponent on Saturday when South Carolina State visits Aggie Memorial Stadium. In addition to never facing off with SC ST in program history, the Aggies will also face off with their first member of the MEAC in school history.
• After only suffering one season-ending injury during the preseason and Week One, the “injury bug” has hit NM State in back-to-back weeks. The Aggies lost Missouri transfer Dominic Gicinto to a season-ending broken arm against San Diego State two weeks ago, while starting quarterback Jonah Johnson went down with a wrist injury during the first quarter of Saturday’s contest against UNM. Johnson status for Saturday’s contest against South Carolina State is doubtful. Backup quarterback Weston Eget, who missed the last two contests due to a non-season-ending knee injury is questionable for Saturday’s contest.
STATE OF THE UNION:
• Freshman 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. In his second-career start against San Diego State, Union had three tackles, a pass breakup and recorded a fumble recovery. Last week the corner had a career-best nine tackles against UNM.
• Independence CC transfer Syrus Dumas will be eligible for competition Saturday for the first time. Dumas was forced to miss the first three-games due to an NCAA Clearinghouse matter. Dumas is projected to start this week at cornerback.
• Sophomore quarterback Dino Maldonado was thrust into action Saturday afternoon after QB Jonah Johnson was forced from the game due to injury. Maldonado arrived at NM State as a walk-on during fall camp from Ventura College. The California native transferred to Ventura College from Portland State. Maldonado did not appear in game action for the Vikings, but did play in eight games for the Pirates in 2019. Maldonado threw for 1,724 yards and 10 scores. The QB completed 20-of-28 passes for 314 yards and three scores.
After preparing as the back-up last week due to Eget’s injury, Maldonado completed 13-of-34 passes for 192 yards and the 75-yard touchdown to Garcia-Castaneda. Maldonado also showed off his speed, rushing for 46 yards on six attempts, including a 37-yard scamper that set up the Aggies first touchdown. Maldonado was named the start this week by head coach Doug Martin during his weekly press conference on Tuesday. It will be the first start of Maldonado’s career.
BEHIND ENEMY LINES:
• South Carolina State enters Saturday’s match up with an overall record of 0-2 this season. The Bulldogs opened the 2021 season with a tough 45-42 loss to SWAC rival Alabama A&M and a 49-3 setback at Clemson last Saturday.
• Quarterback Corey Fields Jr. has led the way for the Bulldogs this season. The signal caller has completed 24-of-52 passes for 345 yards (172.5/game) and a touchdown. Fields was limited to just 10-of-24 passing for 132 yards Saturday against nationally-ranked Clemson. The QB was intercepted once, and also rand for 15 yards. In the Bulldogs opener against Alabama A&M, Fields was 14-of-28 for 213 yards and a touchdown. The QB also added 89 yards rushing and a score on nine attempts.
• Wide receiver Shaquan Davis was the Bulldogs top performer against Alabama A&M, catching five balls for 140 yards and a touchdown. The wide receiver missed Saturday’s game at Clemson and did not appear in the initial two-deep.
• Cornerback and FCS All-American Decobie Durant is the Bulldogs most impactful player on defense. The corner has three pass breakups this season and recorded both of his interceptions this season on Saturday against the Tigers.
COACH SPEAK (HC DOUG MARTIN):
“I was really proud with how our guys handled adversity last weekend at New Mexico. Going into the game we had nine guys out due to COVID-19 protocols and then we were down to our third-string quarterback for almost all of the game. There were a lot of opportunities for our guys to fold, but they kept fighting. We had it as a two-point game in the fourth quarter. I cannot say enough about how hard our guys are playing and how hard they’re fighting. We’ve got a lot of things to overcome right now. There was a lot for our guys to deal with, so I’m really proud of how our guys are playing.”
On South Carolina State:
This is a really good football team that people here probably are not very familiar with. Being from the Carolinas, I know a lot about South Carolina State. This is a program that has produced a lot of NFL players throughout the years. Coach [Oliver “Buddy”] Pough is a legend in that area, and will be the all-time winningest coach there. Willie Jefferies was there before who is a big-time legend in the Carolinas. This is a very proud program and has always been a winning program. They have won multiple MEAC Championships and will win more in the future. It’s a dynamic program and football is very important to their fans. This is going to be a very tough task for us this week.”
The Aggies will close out a two-game homestand next week when the Rainbow Warriors of Hawaii visit Las Cruces for a 6 p.m. kickoff. The Sept. 25 contest will serve as the annual “AG Day” and will also be the Aggies homecoming contest.