A week earlier against Utah, Utah State coach Dave Arslanian hoped his team could get into overtime, where he figured they would have a good chance because of his coaching experience with overtimes in the Big Sky Conference.
Arslanian got his wish Saturday night - times three - as the Aggies battled New Mexico through three overtimes. Alas, the Aggies came out on the losing end of the tense battle, losing a 39-36 thriller before 31,267 at University Stadium.The winning touchdown came on a 25-yard pass from Graham Leigh to Germany Thompson, who caught the ball at the goal line between two Aggie defenders. The sellout crowd, which had been standing throughout the overtime, exploded in cheers at the sudden victory, which moved the Lobos to 2-0 on the season.
USU, meanwhile, fell to 0-2 with its second straight loss to a Western Athletic Conference opponent. It marked the second straight year the Aggies have lost to New Mexico by three points.
"There's no consolation - we should have won this game," said Arslanian. "I was proud of the way we regrouped and had several chances to win. We just couldn't get it done."
The loss spoiled a superb game by the Aggie defense and fine performance by quarterback Riley Jensen, who completed 28 of 54 passes for 338 yards and two touchdowns. However, the Aggies had no rushing attack, finishing with negative 19 yards as Demario Brown, who sat out much of the week with a sore ankle, managed just 13 net yards on 18 carries.
The Aggies had come back from a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 23-23 on a Brad Bohn field goal with 1:22 left.
That meant each school faced its first-ever overtime contest. In overtime, opponents take turns with possessions from the 25-yard line and play until they either score, run out of downs or turn the ball over.
The Lobos won the coin toss and let the Aggies take the ball in the first overtime. Jensen was sacked for an 11-yard loss before he came up with a 12-yard pass to Aaron Jones. Then Bohn kicked a 41-yard field goal to put the Aggies up by three.
The Aggie defense held and even pushed the Aggies back a yard, but Mike Ross answered with a 42-yard field goal, the longest of his career, for New Mexico.
In the second overtime, the Aggies were called with pass interference on the first Lobo play, giving them the ball at the 10. On third and 13, Leigh passed to Brian Johnson for a touchdown and Ross' PAT made it 33-26.
However, the Aggies came right back with an 11-yard touchdown pass from Jensen to Robert Scott to tie it at 33 with Bohn's kick.
In the third OT, USU got the ball first and had to settle for a 33-yard field goal by Bohn. But on second down on the Lobos' possession, Leigh scrambled to his left and found Thompson for the winning TD.
After taking a 6-0 first half lead, the Aggies gave up 16 straight points and their hopes of an upset looked dim, as they trailed 23-13 in the fourth quarter.
Then Johndale Carty broke through to block Jason Bloom's punt at the 23-yard line and on the very next play, Jensen hit Adam Colbert deep in the end zone for a touchdown with 11:09 left.
After a UNM punt, the Aggies drove 57 yards in 10 plays before stalling at the 5-yard line, where Bohn converted a 22-yard field goal with 1:22 left.
The Aggies had taken a 6-0 halftime lead on a pair of Bohn field goals, but two mistakes by the punting team gave UNM the lead. First Shawn Foster's snap went over Jerry Arguello's head for a safety. Then on the next Aggie punt try, Foster's snap was low and Arguello's punt was blocked by Daniel Reyes and recovered by K.J. Friday in the end zone.
GAME NOTES: Tony D'Amato led the Aggie defense with nine tackles, including three for losses . . . The Aggies hit the road again next week, playing 16th-ranked Colorado at Boulder. New Mexico plays the Aggies again when they meet in-state rival New Mexico State at Las Cruces . . . Arslanian coached one overtime game during his career at Weber State, defeating Idaho State 45-38 in two overtimes in 1990.