LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) — Dino Maldonado threw for three touchdowns and Juwaun Price ran for two more as New Mexico State rolled to a 30-point lead in the third quarter, then held off a late rally to beat South Carolina State 43-35 on Saturday night for its first win of the season.
In his first career start, Maldonado finished with 321 yards on 24-of-32 passing with three touchdowns, becoming the first Aggies quarterback to throw for over 300 yards in their first career start since 2007.
Maldonado’s first two touchdown passes were on the money, first to Jared Wyatt, then to Isaiah Garcia-Castenada to give the Aggies a 35-13 lead at halftime.
“With reps throughout the week I felt like I was going to be comfortable. My O-line did a great job, the receivers got open and it’s my job to get them the ball,” said Maldonado. “I feel great, it’s football. I’ve played it my whole life. You wouldn’t think we’re 1-3 right now. This team wants to win and we’re going to try to do that every week.”
NMSU (1-3) scored on its first drive of the second half, but then couldn’t find the end zone again as the Bulldogs mounted a furious rally. A Kendrell Flowers touchdown with 1:35 remaining cut the lead to 43-35. SC State got the ball back with a chance to tie the game, but Nick Giacolone picked off Corey Fields to ice the game.
Despite Maldonado’s stand-out performance in place of the injured Jonah Johnson and Weston Eget, NMSU head coach Doug Martin would not commit to starting Maldonado next week. If Johnson or Eget can play, it appears they would get the nod.
“He doesn’t have enough experience to handle everything quite yet,” said Martin. “Both Jonah and Weston could’ve possibly played if we need them but we wanted to try to get out of this game without further injury to those guys to get them healthy and we accomplished that. We’ll see where they are this week.”
Price ran 14 yards for the game’s first touchdown, then added an eight-yard run to start the second quarter to give the Aggies a 22-0 lead. Price finished with 62 yards on 13 carries. Maldonado threw touchdown passes of 37 and 41 yards in the second quarter to put New Mexico State up 36-13 at intermission, then added his third scoring pass early in the third quarter to make it 43-13.
Corey Fields Jr. threw four touchdown passes to bring the Bulldogs (0-3) back, connecting on 30 of 47 pass attempts for 352 yards, but he was intercepted three times. Will Vereen had nine catches for 118 yards.
New Mexico State will host Hawaii next Saturday at Aggie Memorial Stadium.