LAS CRUCES, N.M. (KTSM) – New Mexico State has been to just one bowl game in the last 62 years and the thought that they’d have a chance to do so in 2022 with two games left seemed preposterous as recently as September.
However, the 4-6 Aggies find themselves in the position to replicate what the 2017 squad did and win two final games to achieve bowl eligibility, in Jerry Kill’s first season as the head coach.
First, NMSU has to confirm a replacement opponent for the Sept. 22 postponement with San Jose State. The Las Cruces Sun-News reported earlier this week that the Aggies were zeroing in on FCS opponent Valparaiso for a Dec. 3 clash at Aggie Memorial Stadium.
Valparaiso must get an NCAA waiver in order to play a 12th game as an FCS team; if they get it, NMSU would have a 12th game of its own.
In that scenario, NMSU’s Saturday showdown with Liberty takes on extra incentive. In order for a Dec. 3 game to mean anything for bowl eligibility, the Aggies would have to beat the Flames and be 5-6 entering that final game.
The task is easier said than done; Liberty is 8-3 this year and was ranked in the top-25 at times during the 2022 season. The Flames will be a Conference USA opponent for the Aggies in 2023, but for now they’re a fellow FBS Independent.
Liberty has some impressive wins on its resume in 2022. The Flames went on the road and beat Arkansas 21-19 on Nov. 5; they beat BYU 41-14 at home on Oct. 22; and they beat UAB 21-14 on Sept. 10.
They also have some questionable losses and near-hiccups on the schedule, losing to UConn on Nov. 12 and narrowly escaping FCS foe Gardner Webb, 21-20 on Oct. 15.
NMSU is coming off a tough loss at Missouri last Saturday, but before that the Aggies had won three games in a row. They’re aware of the task at hand and Kill himself is excited about the opportunity to be bowl eligible with two games left.
“I hope that they’re excited, they act like it. I told them it’s a brawl for it all; you either win it or you lose it,” Kill said. “We have an opportunity to do something that nobody thought they’d ever do. We’ll see what happens, but at least we’re doing something in November.”
The Aggies and Flames will kick off at 10 a.m. MT on Saturday in Virginia. The game can be seen on ESPN+.