LAS CRUCES, N.M. (KTSM) – New Mexico State’s football program won twice off the field this week. The Aggies made sure they went 3-for-3 on Saturday.
NM State steamrolled FCS opponent Valparaiso 65-3 on Saturday at Aggie Memorial Stadium, as quarterback Diego Pavia went 9-13 for 323 yards and four touchdowns, while also rushing for a score in just one half of work. Pavia has accounted for 11 total touchdowns the last two weeks for the Aggies.
“He did what he needed to do. They weren’t going to let us run the ball. People said the last two weeks, ‘your quarterback’s going to have to beat us.’ He’s a very accurate thrower,” head coach Jerry Kill said.
Added Pavia, “I wasn’t lacking confidence, it was more just getting used to the playbook. Once I got comfortable with that, I felt like nothing could stop us.”
With the win, NMSU finished the 2022 regular season at 6-6 and will head to a bowl game in year one under head coach Jerry Kill with a ton of momentum. It’s just the third time in the 21st century that the Aggies have won six or more games in a season.
New Mexico State’s off-field wins this week came in the form of waivers from the NCAA. First, Valparaiso received one to play the Aggies in a 12th regular season game. FCS teams like Valparaiso can only play 11 games, unlike FBS teams, which play 12.
Then, a waiver submitted by NMSU that allowed them to become bowl eligible at 5-6 was granted by the NCAA on Thursday. That waiver allows the Aggies to jump in front of 5-7 teams due to the fact that their game vs. San Jose State was cancelled after the death of a Spartans player.
All that was left, then, was to win on Saturday and keep the momentum the Aggies got with a stunning blowout road win over Liberty last weekend.
NMSU started hot, as Pavia found Jonathan Brady for a 50-yard touchdown on the Aggies’ fourth play from scrimmage. Following a Beacons punt, NMSU needed just three more plays to score, when Pavia connected with Justice Powers for a 69-yard touchdown.
On NMSU’s next offensive play, Pavia hit Kordell David over the middle and he did the rest on a 70-yard score, as the Aggies led 21-0 after one quarter.
In the second quarter, Pavia found Bryce Childress on a 72-yard scoring toss, then ran one in himself from 13 yards out and NMSU led 35-3 at the half.
“I don’t know what got into Diego,” joked Powers postgame. “But to be honest, we all knew he could do that.”
However, on a long run that was called back by a penalty, Pavia pulled up with what appeared to be a hamstring injury and did not return. Pavia was in street clothes on the sideline in the second half, but appeared to be in good spirits.
Kill said after the game that he wasn’t sure of what Pavia’s condition was; Pavia said in the postgame press conference that if NMSU’s bowl game was played on Sunday, he would try to go. Those comments should give the Aggies hope that it’s nothing serious.
The second half featured some strong special teams play from NMSU resulting in a pair of blocked punts that the Aggies turned into touchdowns by Star Thomas and Jamoni Jones.
TCU transfer Ahmonte Watkins scored on a 78-yard touchdown on his first carry of the game early in the fourth quarter and third-string quarterback Weston Eget found Brady on a scoring toss in the red zone to finish off Valparaiso.
New Mexico State will now await its bowl game fate; for the second time in 61 years, the Aggies will be going to the postseason. The Arizona Bowl and the New Mexico Bowls do not appear to be options for the Aggies, however.
After a 1-5 start to the 2022 season, it didn’t always look like NMSU would have a shot at any bowl game, but finishing the season 5-1 has gotten the Aggies there.
“I was banking on so much and to start off 0-4, I did put my mind in the gutter, but now I can’t even describe how I feel. It’s an amazing feeling,” Powers said.
NMSU officials told KTSM that some of the options include the LendingTree Bowl in Mobile, Ala., on Dec. 17; the Frisco Bowl in Frisco, Texas, on Dec. 17; the Quick Lane Bowl in Detroit on Dec. 26; and the SERVPRO First Responder Bowl in Dallas, also on Dec. 26.
The decision won’t be made until Sunday and NMSU brass was still uncertain where they might be selected to go as of Saturday night. The Aggies will hold a 3 p.m. press conference to discuss where they’re headed.
Saturday’s win was also the final home game for NMSU’s 20 seniors, who were honored by Kill and his staff before the game. They will now get to close their Aggie careers in a bowl game.
“We realized that we could either continue down the path of last year (going 2-10) or we could figure some things out and try to change it. Everyone got on board and the magic happened at that point,” said NMSU senior linebacker Chris Ojoh.