As difficult as the first six games on Utah State's football schedule were, the boys in blue still were able to find some sympathy for somebody else. Maybe it's because they're Aggies, too.

"I kinda feel bad for New Mexico State," said USU Coach Chuck Shelton, whose team scored 34 points because of six NMS turnovers and won 55-10 in Logan Saturday, sending the Las Cruces Aggies to their 26th straight defeat."Their kids play harder with the odds against them than most of the teams we'll play against. They just don't have the folks," Shelton said.

"They're not a sorry team," agreed USU cornerback Scott Munson, who had a fumble recovery and interception. "Give New Mexico credit. They put together a couple of good drives."

New Mexico State scored 10 points in the first half. "Two fairly anemic defensive stands," Shelton said.

"We tried to come back on the very next series and dominate," said Munson. He added that Utah State's defensive goal was to hold New Mexico to 10 points for the game. After it got 10 in the first half, USU's defense vowed a shutout in the second. And did it.

Utah State bottled up New Mexico State's Alvin Warren, No. 5 in the Big West in receiving yards, holding him to four catches for 41. "Our game plan was pretty good," said Munson. "All they could run were a lot of quick routes."

Utah State, with a dominating offensive line, still had fits with New Mexico State middle linebacker Steve Campbell, who made 15 tackles to lead both clubs.

"We didn't have a way to get their middle linebacker blocked," said Shelton. "Our running yards were a little hard to come by."

USU gained 285 yards on the ground - 141 by Roger Grant - but took 61 tries to do it, though the blue Aggies never felt forced to pass to open things up.

Grant now has 951 yards rushing and, with three games left, is already ninth on the Aggies' single-season totals list with an excellent chance to become the school's first 1,000-yard man in 11 years on Saturday at Cal Fullerton.

And Utah State, still in the Big West race at 3-1-1 in league play, has a chance to make it to .500 overall - an accomplishment after going 1-4-1 to start the season.

With two wins since then - admittedly against weaker teams - Shelton's seeing a pattern. "We continue to identify ourselves as a team that, if we'll function, we'll play pretty well," he said.

"We got a little better this week than we were last week (a 31-6 win over UNLV), and it's unusual for a team to be improving at this late date," Shelton said.

He'd probably be fully convinced if the Aggies win at Fullerton.

"You know me," Shelton laughs. "By the middle of the week, I'm sure Fullerton's going to beat us by 30 points.

"We've never played a good game in Southern California, and we've never beaten Fullerton at Fullerton," he adds more seriously.

AGGIE ACHES - None of speak of, says trainer Dale Mildenberger.