ARKANSAS VS. NEW MEXICO ST.:

Aggies forge ahead from abyss

By: Bob Holt
Published: Tuesday, September 26, 2017
New Mexico State's Larry Rose III runs with the ball against UTEP during an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, Las Cruces, N.M. (Robin Zielinski/The Las Cruces Sun-News via AP)
Photo by Associated Press
New Mexico State's Larry Rose III runs with the ball against UTEP during an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, Las Cruces, N.M. (Robin Zielinski/The Las Cruces Sun-News via AP)

FAYETTEVILLE -- New Mexico State's football team has the longest bowl drought in college football.

The Aggies' last bowl appearance was on Dec. 31, 1960 when they beat Utah State 20-13 in the Sun Bowl to finish 11-0 and ranked No. 17 in The Associated Press poll.

New Mexico State has enjoyed just nine winning seasons in the 56 years since its Sun Bowl triumph -- most recently with a 7-5 record in 2002 -- but there's optimism around the program as the Aggies (2-2) prepare for Saturday's game against the Arkansas Razorbacks (1-2).

The Aggies will come to Reynolds Razorback Stadium with some confidence and momentum after beating Texas-El Paso 41-14 last Saturday night. They won at New Mexico 30-28 along with losses at Arizona State 37-31 and to Troy 27-24.

Bret Bielema on Texas A&M, New Mexico State

(By Blake Sutton)
[View Full-Size]

A columnist for the El Paso Times wrote this might be the season New Mexico State finally goes to a bowl game again, and that was before the Aggies beat the Miners by 27 points.

"People probably ought to pump the breaks on the bowl talk a little bit," New Mexico State Coach Doug Martin said Monday with a chuckle. "We've got a long way to go.

"But I think the biggest difference for us is we're not playing true freshmen for the first time."

The Aggies, who are listed as 161/2-point underdogs against the Hogs, were a combined 10-38 in Martin's first four seasons as coach, going 2-10, 2-10, 3-9 and 3-9.

Dan Enos on Texas A&M, New Mexico State

(By Blake Sutton)
[View Full-Size]

"We had to rebuild the program here," Martin said of the Aggies, who have won less than 30 percent of their games, posting a 168-394 record, which includes a 7-2-1 mark in 1967. "When we took over we only had 61 players on scholarship.

"This is the first year that we've been able to get back up to a normal number of scholarship players (85) and have some experienced players. This is the best team we've had since we've been here."

New Mexico State has 30 players on its two-deep who are seniors, juniors or redshirt sophomores, led by running back Larry Rose III and quarterback Tyler Rogers.

Rose, a senior who missed the first three games last season after undergoing sports hernia surgery, has 631 carries for 3,990 yards in his career along with 98 receptions for 785 yards.

Paul Rhoads on the busts, Kamren Curl, pass rush

(By Blake Sutton)
[View Full-Size]

This season Rose has 63 carries for 372 yards and 20 catches for 150 yards.

"Larry's a dynamic player," Martin said. "He could play at any level. He really does a great job making people miss. He's an excellent receiver out of the backfield. He's a guy that's getting a lot of attention out of NFL scouts."

Rogers, a fifth-year senior, has completed 132 of 202 passes (65.3 percent) for 1,413 yards and 12 touchdowns with 4 interceptions this season.

"Any ball they ask him to throw he can make it," Razorbacks defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads said. "He can throw from the far hash to the far boundary and put it there on time."

Rogers completed 40 of 57 passes for 398 yards and 3 touchdowns at Arizona State.

"Tyler's really playing well for us right now," Martin said. "He's getting us into good plays and out of bad ones. I think he's playing his best football.

"But saying all that, he hasn't seen a defense like we're getting ready to see Saturday, so that'll be a big test for him."

The Aggies have 12 sacks for 54 yards in losses. They finished with 11 sacks last season.

"We're bringing a lot more pressure than we have in the past," said Martin, crediting defensive coordinator Frank Spaziani, who held the same position at Boston College and also was the Eagles' head coach.

"He's putting our players in a position to succeed," Martin said. "We don't have the biggest guys in the world."

Eight Aggies have at least half a sack, led by senior outside linebacker Dalton Herrington with 3 1/2.

"They blitz all over the place," Razorbacks offensive coorindator Dan Enos said. "They're very well coached. They play extremely hard. They create issues for you just based on the multiplicity of what they do."

Martin said not to read too much into New Mexico State losing by six points at Arizona State.

"Arkansas would beat Arizona State pretty good, I think, just the size and the strength," he said. "It's like comparing apples and oranges."

The Aggies played two games on the road against SEC teams last season, losing 62-42 at Kentucky and 52-10 at Texas A&M.

"We've been in big stadiums," Martin said. "We don't have freshmen playing, so all of our guys have experience doing this.

At a glance

RECORDS New Mexico State 2-2; Arkansas 1-2

RANKINGS Neither team is ranked BETTING LINE Arkansas by 16½

COACHES Doug Martin (12-40 in 4th year at New Mexico State, 41-92 in 10th year overall); Bret Bielema (26-28 in 5th year at Arkansas, 94-52 in 12th year overall)

SERIES Arkansas leads 5-0 overall, 2-0 in Fayetteville

TELEVISION SEC Network

RADIO Razorback Sports Network, including KABZ-FM103.7, in Little Rock; KQSM-FM, 92.1, KIGL-FM 93.3, KAKS-FM 99.5 and KUOA-AM 1290 in Fayetteville; KERX-FM 95.3 in Fort Smith, Sirius 137, XM 190

"It's going to be a challenge, but I think our guys get excited about playing a game like this. They want to prove that they can play at that level."

Sports on 09/26/2017

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