AUBURN, Ala. (KTSM) – New Mexico State was already winning on Saturday by virtue of a $1.85 million payout for playing Auburn. Diego Pavia and the Aggies wanted the actual win, too.
Led once again by their undersized quarterback from Albuquerque, NMSU (9-3) marched into Jordan-Hare Stadium and upset 25-point favorite Auburn (6-5), 31-10 on Saturday for their seventh consecutive victory.
“It’s kind of unbelievable what these kids have accomplished and what they continue to do,” NMSU head coach Jerry Kill said. “This win is one of the biggest wins I’ve ever been a part of.”
It’s NMSU’s first seven-game winning streak since 1960 and the Aggies’ nine wins are the most they’ve had since that same 1960 campaign.
Pavia led NMSU once again, going 19-28 for 201 yards and three touchdown passes. The Aggies gained 214 rushing yards, while holding an Auburn team that entered the game among the nation’s top rushing teams to under 100 yards on the ground. Overall, the Aggies out-gained Auburn 414-213.
Pavia was day-to-day much of the week with a hamstring injury suffered during last week’s Western Kentucky game, but you wouldn’t have known it based on his performance and the toughness he put on display.
“(Pavia) is the toughest player I’ve coached at the quarterback position,” Kill said.
NMSU entered the day having never beaten an SEC team in 27 tries. It exited the afternoon with arguably the biggest win in program history, adding to a long list of massive feats under second-year head coach Jerry Kill. It was also the Aggies’ first win over a Power-5 team since they beat Minnesota in 2011, a Golden Gophers team coached at the time by Jerry Kill.
In a season where the Aggies have already locked up back-to-back bowl berths for the first time since 1959-60 and a spot in the Conference USA championship game vs. Liberty on Dec. 1, a win over an SEC team is the ultimate icing on the cake (not to mention $1.85 million).
“This is the biggest thing we’ve accomplished since I’ve been here. No one in the world other than us thought we could win,” said NMSU defensive back Andre Seldon.
Pavia was, as usual, the catalyst for the Aggies. On their opening drive, Pavia led an 11-play, 75-yard drive that ended in a touchdown pass to Kordell David. NMSU’ defense limited Auburn to just 119 yards of offense in the first half, as the Aggies led 10-7 at the break.
It was the third quarter where the Aggies started to enforce their will on the Tigers. Pavia capped another extended drive (10 plays, 80 yards, 5:52 off the clock) with a 17-yard touchdown pass to Star Thomas to extend NMSU’s lead to 17-7 after three quarters.
Then, in the fourth quarter, Pavia once again was dazzling during a 16-play, 83-yard drive that took almost 10 minutes off the clock and ended with Pavia finding backup quarterback/wide receiver Eli Stowers on his third touchdown toss of the afternoon to give the Aggies a 24-7 lead with 8:42 left in the game.
After an Auburn field goal, the Aggies put the final touches on the victory with another scoring drive, all on the ground that Makhilyn Young finished off with a two-yard touchdown scamper.
NMSU is now 2-0 the last two seasons against teams coached by Hugh Freeze; the Aggies beat Freeze’s Liberty Flames last season in his final game at Liberty before going to Auburn.
Kill will receive a $25,000 bonus for beating Auburn, which he receives for each win over a Power 5 program. On the season, Kill has earned $80,000 in incentive bonuses: $10,000 each for wins over New Mexico and UTEP; and $35,000 for a nine-win season.
With their first win over an SEC team in hand, NMSU will turn its attention to the regular season finale at home next Saturday vs. Jacksonville State, then the CUSA Championship Game at Liberty on Dec. 1.