LAS CRUCES, New Mexico (KTSM) – New Mexico State had multiple opportunities to lead Hawai’i at the half on Saturday night at Aggie Memorial Stadium.
Instead, the Aggies shot themselves in the foot on a pair of drives late in the second quarter and wound up on the wrong side of a 41-21 defeat against the Rainbow Warriors.
NMSU forced two turnovers late in the half and put together two drives into the red zone, but managed just three points on those two second quarter drives, squandering a chance to lead 24-17 and instead trailing 17-13 at the half. Hawai’i would put the game away in the second half.
“Nobody can question how hard they’re playing,” said head coach Doug Martin. “We missed opportunities to score, missed tackles. It’s a case of us beating ourselves as opposed to Hawai’i. I don’t want to take anything away from them, but I don’t think they’re more talented than us.”
Quarterback Jonah Johnson returned to the lineup for New Mexico State after missing last week’s win over South Carolina State with a wrist injury. Johnson was 28-47 for 280 yards, one touchdown and one interception, to go along with two lost fumbles that turned into Hawai’i touchdowns. Sophomore Dino Maldonado, who threw for over 300 yards and three touchdowns last week, did not see the field.
“He (Jonah Johnson) gave us some great opportunities the way he ran and stayed alive because we didn’t pass protect well enough tonight to really help him,” said Martin. “If we had to put an inexperienced quarterback up against the defense, it would have been a disaster. His ability to move and run and check us into the right pass protections was big tonight. I thought he played very well.”
Hawai’i’s Chevan Cordeiro was 16-25 for 277 yards, a touchdown and a pick. The Rainbow Warriors’ first play from scrimmage set the tone, as Cordeiro hit Nick Mardner for a 74-yard score.
This is the first of two meetings this season between the Aggies and Rainbow Warriors. NMSU will pay a visit to Honolulu on Oct. 23 looking for revenge.
Next up for NMSU is a trip to play San Jose State next week.