EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — New Mexico State knocked off some 450 days of rust in their 43-17 loss to Tarleton State on Sunday at Sun Bowl Stadium, their first football game since November of 2019.
The Aggies were one of just three FBS programs (Old Dominion and UConn) not to play football last fall, but the only school opting to play games this spring. In fact, New Mexico State is believed to be the first FBS program to play in a spring football game since the late 1800’s.
“It’s for the players,” said New Mexico State head football coach Doug Martin. “They’ve been off for 400+ days and haven’t been able to play football or play in a game. This is the reward for all the hard work they’ve been through and all the sacrifices they’ve made during this COVID time.”
Sunday’s game was originally scheduled to be played at Aggie Memorial Stadium in Las Cruces, New Mexico, but state guidelines prohibit the Aggies from playing games in-between state lines. Sources tell KTSM it is costing the New Mexico State athletic department roughly $20,000 per game to play at Sun Bowl Stadium in El Paso, Texas.
“We promised these young prospective student-athletes and their parents that we’d do everything we could to let them practice and let them compete,” said New Mexico State director of athletics Mario Moccia. “I don’t want to be an outlier in being the school in the country that can’t keep their promises.”
New Mexico State played like a team that hasn’t seen the field in 450 days, surrendering over 500 yards of total offense to the Texans, an FCS program who will become a member of the WAC next fall.
The Aggies will play one additional spring game on Sunday, March 7, at Sun Bowl Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 3 p.m.
Game recap courtesy NM State Athletics
HOW IT HAPPENED | FIRST HALF
• On the game’s second play, Tarleton – who was playing in just its second game as a full-fledged NCAA Division I member – showed off the playmaking ability of its quarterback as Cameron Burston raced 70 yards up the near sideline to hand the Texans a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
• Burston hooked up with Gabe Douglas for an 86-yard touchdown strike on the Texans’ next offensive play from scrimmage, hiking the visitors’ lead to 14-0 with 11:43 left in the opening quarter.
• Following that big play, the Aggies capitalized on one of their own as Price took the ensuing Texan kickoff 94 yards to the promised land. The touchdown cut the Texans’ lead to 14-7.
• A costly Aggie fumble by Price wound up recovered by the running back in the endzone, leading to a Tarleton safety. Following the free kick, Burston capped a seven-play drive with a 21-yard touchdown sprint which put the Aggies in a 23-7 hole with 3:29 to go in the first.
• Another Burston-to-Douglas touchdown strike, this of one the 29-yard variety, as well as a field goal right before the halftime horn put the Aggies at a 33-7 disadvantage at the half.
HOW IT HAPPENED | SECOND HALF
• One of the Aggies’ three interceptions on the afternoon allowed the Texans to increase their lead further. Set up by a 53-yard interception return down to the Aggies’ five, Tarleton punched it in once again to make matters 40-7 with 14:03 left in the third.
• NM State kicked a field goal in the third before the Texans answered with one of their own in the fourth.
• Aggie starting quarterback Jonah Johnson tossed his first touchdown pass in an NM State uniform when he hit Robert Downs III for a 27-yard score with 3:28 to go in the game.
KEY PERFORMERS/STATISTICS OF NOTE
• Johnson finished with 187 yards through the air as well as a touchdown against three interceptions. Price was the Aggies’ leading back, getting 31 yards on the ground on 14 carries.
• Terrell Warner latches on to five balls from Johnson for a team-best 77 yards through the air.
• Trevor Brohard keyed the Aggies’ defense, finishing with a team-high 11 tackles and one of the team’s two sacks.
• Burston accounted for four Texan touchdowns, tossing for 252 and a pair of scores through the air and running for two more in a 79-yard performance on the ground.
• Douglas was Burston’s favorite receiver, reeling in seven catches for 190 yards and two touchdowns.