Written by: NMSU Athletic Dept.
RUSTON, LA. - Freshmen quarterback J.J. McDermott threw for 319 yards and two touchdowns in his first career start for the New Mexico State football team, but Louisiana Tech came back from a 21-9 fourth quarter deficit to win, 22-21 Saturday night at Joe Aillet Stadium.
For the first three and a half quarters of the game, the Aggies had dominated the Bulldogs and held 12 point lead with under seven minutes to play. But two touchdown passes from La Tech quarterback Zac Champion put the Bulldogs up by one, 22-21, with 1:53 left to play.
The Aggies faced a fourth-and-one on their own 40 yard-line and McDermott’s pass to Chris Williams was broken up giving the Bulldogs the victory. La Tech improves to 2-4 on the year and 1-2 in WAC play while the loss pushes the Aggies record back to 3-4 and 0-2 in conference play.
McDermott played very well for the Aggies in his first career start, completing 29-of-40 passes for the 319 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.
Williams caught 11 passes on the evening for 170 yards and two touchdowns. He is now tied with Lucious Davis for the most 100-yard receiving games all-time in Aggie history with 11.
Champion completed 22-of-35 passes on the evening for 215 yards as he was able to break through the Aggies defense that had suffocated the Bulldogs for three and a half quarters. Patrick Jackson caught seven passes for 78 yards to lead the eight Bulldogs who caught a ball.
Up 7-3 at the half, New Mexico State came out on its opening drive of the third quarter and drove down 55 yards to the La Tech 23 when Aggie kicker Paul Young had his 39-yard field goal blocked. Bulldog Weldon Brown caught the deflection and returned the ball 54 yards to the Aggie 31 yard-line.
The Aggie defense held strong and only allowed a 31-yard field goal by Danny Horwedel to keep NMSU on top, 7-6 with 5:56 left in the third quarter.
Derek Dubois then returned the ensuing kickoff 30-yards and on a second-and-11, McDermott hit Chris Buckner for 23 yards down the sideline to the Bulldog 41. Five plays later McDermott hit Williams in the corner of the endzone for the duo’s second touchdown hook-up of the game, putting the Aggies up 14-6.
The touchdown ended the Aggies three-game streak where they did not score in the third quarter, but La Tech answered right away with a Horwedel 35-yard field goal to cut the Aggies lead to 14-9.
The Bulldogs got into Aggie territory on the kickoff return when Dusti Mitchell returned the kick 29 yards to the Aggie 45. Zac Champion had a 20 yard run on La Tech’s first play to set up the field goal four plays later.
New Mexico State was able to answer right back with a six-play, 64-yard drive capped off by a two-yard touchdown run by Justine Buries to make the score 21-9. McDermott was 3-for-3 on the drive for 42 yards, all to Williams. One of Williams catches was a miraculous 28-yard reception on the sideline where he was able to get one foot down before pummeling into the cheerleaders on the sideline.
La Tech kept its hopes alive late in the fourth quarter, driving 60 yards on six plays to cut the Aggies lead to five, 21-16 with under seven minutes to play. After Champion had been flushed out of the pocket, he threw a pass against his body into the endzone that was deflected by Alex Bernard right into the hands of Brian Jackson for the 10-yard score.
The Bulldogs held NMSU on the following drive, but Aggie punter Jared Kaufman pinned the Bulldogs down on their own three yard-line with his 57-yard punt. That punt halted La Tech’s momentum momentarily and the Aggie defense forced the Bulldogs to punt the ball back to the Aggies.
Once again the Bulldogs held the Aggies and they got the ball back on their own 33 yard-line with 3:50 left to play.
It took them only six plays to reach the Aggies 30-yard line and on the seventh play, Champion found Phillip Livas on an near the sideline that Livas turned up field and took it into the endzone to give La Tech its first lead of the game, 22-21. They could not complete the two-point conversion and with 1:53 left to play the Aggies were down by one point.
NMSU then found themselves on a fourth-and-one at their own 40, when McDermott had his short pass over the middle to Williams broken-up, ending the Aggies hopes to come from behind.
Midway through the fourth quarter, the Aggies defense had allowed only 211 yards of total offense and no touchdowns. Champion threw for 145 yards in the final quarter while the Aggies were only able to gain four first downs and 74 yards, which played out to be the difference Saturday evening.
Both the Aggies and the Bulldogs struggled offensively to get anything going in the first quarter. It wasn’t until the last three minutes of the opening period that either team was able to capitalize on a drive.
NMSU forced La Tech to go three-and-out for the second time on its third drive before McDermott drove the Aggies 60 yards down the field into the endzone with just over a minute left in the first quarter.
The drive had appeared to stall when the Aggies faced a third-and-12 on the Bulldog 38 yard-line, but McDermott was able to find Derek Dubois for a 22-yard completion to keep the drive alive. Two plays later, McDermott found a wide-open Williams over the middle for a 16-yard touchdown pass, the first of his career.
Williams' touchdown reception was his 10th on the year, marking the fifth time in program history that a receiver caught 10 or more touchdown passes in a season - Williams has two of those after he had 12 touchdowns last season.
La Tech was able to get three points back midway through the second quarter when Horwedel hit a 36-yard field goal after the Bulldogs drove 61 yards on nine plays.
With 3:18 left to go in the first half the Aggies got the ball back on their own 24 yard-line. Buries rushed for 17 yards on the first two plays of the drive. Then McDermott hit A.J. Harris on a crossing route that he took for 30 yards down to the La Tech 29 after he made several defenders miss.
Three rushing plays later had the Aggies backed up one yard and on fourth-and-11, Aggie Kicker Paul Young missed a 47-yard field goal attempt with 13 seconds left and the Aggies only led 7-3 heading into the locker rooms.
New Mexico State had 174 yards of total offense at the half, 116 of that came off of McDermott’s arm as he was 9-for-11 in the first two quarters.
Chris Williams became the ninth Aggie ever to go over 3,000 all-purpose yards, surpassing the milestone with his 47-yard catch from McDermott on the Aggies third drive of the game. He finished the game with 218 total yards.
After two consecutive road games, the Aggie return home next Saturday, Oct. 20 for their homecoming game against Idaho at Aggie Memorial Stadium at 6:00 p.m.