NMSU Football Wins Arizona Bowl 26-20 In Overtime

Written By: NM State Athletic Dept.

TUCSON, AZ - On Friday, Dec. 29, the New Mexico State football team made history in Arizona Stadium against Utah State. As head coach Doug Martin said, “It was poetic that Larry Rose scored that touchdown.” That touchdown was the game-winner in overtime to take home the 2017 NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl over Utah State, 26-20, effectively ending the 57-year bowl drought for the Aggies.

The game opened up with early scores for both sides. NM State struck first on its opening drive when Dylan Brown split the uprights on a 23-yard field goal attempt. The lead did not last long, however, as Utah State returned the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown to go up 7-3 just 3:59 into the game.

NM State erased that deficit in a hurry when Jason Huntley answered with a 100-yard kickoff return touchdown to give the Aggies a 10-7 advantage with 10:47 left in the opening quarter.

Just two drives later, the NM State defense forced a fourth down and Utah State sent out the punt team. The opposition went for a fake punt but a quick reaction by the Crimson & White saw them force a fumble, which was recovered by Shane Jackson at the USU 35.

Moving down the field NM State was looking to increase the lead but an interception for Utah State gave them the ball back at their own 19. The opponent then successfully moved into the red zone and opened the second quarter with a 35-yard field goal to tie the game back up at 10.

In a game full of early lead changes, NM State came right back on the next possession and Brown came back on the field to nail a 33-yard field goal. This score gave the Aggies from Las Cruces a 13-10 edge at the 11:35 mark.

The quick scoring slowed down with each defense forcing a punt on six of the next seven drives. Utah State hoped to knot the game back up on a 44-yard field goal attempt but the kick went wide and NM State held their lead.

That lead lasted until the closing seconds of the first half when Utah State knocked down a 30-yard field goal to put the score at 13 apiece heading to the locker rooms.

Early in the third quarter, Utah State again lined up for a field goal, this from 49 yards out, looking to take the lead. With the help of a raucous NM State crowd, the team again pressured the kicker and he missed on a 49-yard attempt.

An interception on the next drive for the Crimson & White gave USU the ball back just past midfield. Then on a 41-yard pass, coupled with a defensive pass interference, Utah State sat on the NM State one-yard line.

The opposition sat just three feet away from grabbing a six-point lead. That was until Terrill Hanks made a great play and jumped a pitch to the running back and recovered the fumble to hold the score at 13-13, which stood heading into the fourth quarter.

After a short punt in the fourth, Utah State began their drive at the NM State 24 yard line. They then moved the ball down the field and capped the drive off with a one-yard rushing score to grab a 20-13 advantage with 13:28 remaining.

NM State would remain behind by seven for the next 6:58 of action. Then a great pass from Tyler Rogers to Jaleel Scott saw the receiver haul it in and keep his foot inbounds for the score. This would tie the game up at 20 and the Arizona Bowl did not see a winner in regulation.

After winning the toss and selecting to defend, NM State’s defense stood strong and held Utah State to a fourth-and-goal. Utah State lined up for a 28-yard field goal, but the attempt knocked off the upright and the kick was no good.

This gave NM State the opportunity to take home the trophy. The team did just that when Larry Rose III found the hole and broke off for a 21-yard score to win the 2017 NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl for NM State with a final score of 26-20.

NOTABLE
- NM State’s opening score was the first time this season that the team had hit a field goal on the opening drive.
- Jason Huntley’s 100-yard kickoff return tied for the longest in school history.
- The 40-yard rush by Larry Rose in the second quarter was the 10th 40+ yard play of the year for the Aggies.
- The 40-yard rush also tied a season-long for Rose.
- This was the first bowl since the 2011 Las Vegas Bowl to have both teams return a kickoff for a touchdown.
- The game-winning touchdown also tied Larry Rose III with James “Preacher” Pilot for the most rushing touchdowns in program history with 37.
- NM State remains undefeated at 3-0-1 all-time in bowl games.
- Larry Rose III was named the Arizona Bowl Offensive MVP.
- Leon McQuaker earned the nod as the Arizona Bowl Defensive MVP.