LAS CRUCES, N.M. (KTSM) – To find the last time New Mexico State football hosted a home game that was televised on ESPN, you have to go back to a much different era of college football.

Oct. 15, 2006, a Sunday night at Aggie Memorial Stadium in a game that featured NMSU hosting a Boise State team that would shock the world a few months later by beating Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl. A feisty Aggies team lost that game, 40-28.

Fast forward almost 17 years later and the 2023 Aggies have a huge opportunity at their feet: Opening the new season on ESPN in a nationally-televised home game vs. UMass to begin year two under Jerry Kill.

Coming off of a 7-6 campaign and a bowl victory in 2022, it’s a massive opportunity for the Aggies to prove that last year was no fluke.

“You can go back in history, but for us to be able to play on ESPN for the last game (last year) and then play on ESPN for this game, I don’t know when the last time that happened, I imagine never,” Kill said. “That is something that is exciting. Anytime you can be on national TV helps our whole state, our university and it helps our football team.”

A big crowd is expected and expectations are much higher for NMSU entering this season than they were a year ago. Bringing back the majority of their offense from 2022, including quarterback Diego Pavia, there’s good reason for the high expectations.

“We want to start the year brand new, fresh. We don’t want to start how we did last year. We all want to shock the world and show that we’re the best team in the nation,” Pavia said.

It’s familiar territory for Pavia in a lot of ways, too. He started NMSU’s opener vs. Nevada last year, but didn’t play well. However, he turned things around midway through the season, ironically, on the road at the same UMass team the Aggies will host on Saturday.

Pavia came into the game at halftime and led NMSU back from a deficit to a 10-point win. From there, the Aggies won four of their last five games, including the Quick Lane Bowl. Pavia hopes Saturday is a similar jumping-off point vs. UMass, but one that skyrockets the Aggies to new heights.

“I feel like I had a good grasp on what they were doing defensively all throughout the whole week going through film. Then, the guys just trusted me,” Pavia said. “The week before I sat down with some of the guys and that was the changing point in them trusting me and it was about me getting my opportunity again. Once I got it, I wasn’t going to let it go.”

NMSU will host UMass at 5 p.m. MT on Saturday on ESPN at Aggie Memorial Stadium.