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New Mexico State wins Arizona Bowl in OT
TUCSON, Ariz. — New Mexico State senior running back Larry Rose III is good when he makes a promise.
After a fumble earlier in the game — one that kept the game close — he told his coach Doug Martin that he’d make it up to the team later. And so he did when he ran 21 yards for the game-winning touchdown as NMSU defeated Utah State 26-20 in overtime Friday night in the Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl at Arizona Stadium.
“I wouldn’t want to go out any other way,” said Rose, who was named the game’s MVP after rushing for 142 yards and the game-winner. “I told him that I’d make it up to (him) and the game ended (in regulation) and I hadn’t made it up. I was like, ‘Oh, man, there is a lot of pressure on me. I told him I got him and I like to be a man of my word. Coach dialed it up and I just ran it.”
New Mexico State (7-6) won its first bowl game in 57 years and after the game the NMSU fans stormed the field to celebrate.
“When you look at the South Alabama game (the win to get them in the bowl game) the city of Las Cruces and Aggie Nation is on board,” Martin said. “People came from everywhere tonight. Tonight was just remarkable. They were the big emotional bond that helped us win. It creates a big window of opportunity for New Mexico State University.”
Utah State (6-7) had failed to score in its chance in the overtime when Dominik Eberle missed a 29-yard field goal attempt that hit the right upright. He missed four field goals in the game after missing just two in the regular season.
“He’s my kid. He’s my field goal kicker,” Utah State coach Matt Wells said. “I love that kid, and he’s been really consistent all year. Was I surprised? Yes. Was I disappointed in him? Not one bit.”
Trailing 20-13 New Mexico State tied the game when senior quarterback Tyler Rogers hit Jaleel Scott in the end zone for an 11-yard touchdown with 6:31 left in the fourth quarter. The play was reviewed for about two minutes before the decision was made that Scott had possession of the ball and was able to get a foot down inbounds.
That touchdown came one play after NMSU picked up a first down on a fourth-and-6 play when Rogers hit receiver Jonathan Boone, who made a diving catch on the 10-yard pass to save the drive.
“There were a couple of catches the guys made in crucial times but that one was huge,” Martin said. “We’ve talked to our players all the time (saying) great players make great plays at crucial times. ... I think it’s a mark of a championship football team when you can make those plays.”
Utah State took a 20-13 lead by taking advantage of a 14-yard punt by the New Mexico State’s Payton Theisler. It gave Utah State possession at the New Mexico State 24-yard line. Four plays later, running back LaJuan Hunt went in from the 1-yard line with 13:28 left in the game.
“We’re hurting right now, but I’m so proud of our seniors and I’m proud of our coaching staff at Utah State,” Wells said. “These kids they fought with everything they had, spilled all their guts out there, and for that I am a proud coach.”
The score was tied 13-13 at halftime, and Utah State had a chance to take the lead early in the second half, bu Eberle missed a 49-yard field goal with 10:41 left in the third quarter. He missed a 48-yarder with 10:18 in the fourth quarter with the scored tied at 13.
Eberle entered the game having made 16 of 18 field goals and was a finalist for the Lou Groza Award, given to the best college place kicker in the country.
After Eberle’s miss in the third quarter, Utah State had another opportunity when quarterback Jordan Love found Ron’quavion Tarver at the 2-yard line. But on the ensuing play, Utah State fumbled the ball away.
New Mexico State scored first on a 12-play, 59-yard drive that led to Dylan Brown’s 24-yard field goal and a 3-0 lead just 3:45 in to the game.
Utah State’s Savon Scarver ran the kickoff back 96 yards to give USU the lead at 7-3 just 14 seconds later. It was USU’s first kickoff return for a TD since 2015.
Then, New Mexico State’s Jason Huntley returned the ensuing kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown to retake the lead at 10-7.
Utah State took advantage of a turnover by turning it into a 35-yard field goal by Eberle to start the second quarter and tie the score.
New Mexico State followed it with Brown’s 33-yard field goal with 11;35 left in the second quarter to make it 13-10 NMSU.
Utah State had a chance to tie it with 4:28 left in the half but Eberle missed a 42-yard field goal attempt.
But after a New Mexico State turnover, Eberle hit a 30-yard field goal to end the first half tied at 13.
NOTES: This was Utah State’s sixth bowl game in seven years and 12th in school history ... Utah State QB Jordan Love was 25 for 44 for 254 yards ... Former longtime Arizona head coach Dick Tomey spoke to Utah State players earlier this week in preparation for the game. ... New Mexico State entered the game with 587 pass attempts, second most ever for a season. And New Mexico State ranked fourth in country in passing offense with 352.6 yards per game ... New Mexico State QB Tyler Rogers entered the game second in the country with 347.7 passing yards per game this season. He was 29 of 54 for 191 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions on Friday.