Perhaps a couple of more inches to the left or right and Utah State would have been celebrating a victory. Instead, Graham Leigh's perfect pass to Germany Thompson between Aggie defenders Johndale Cary and Greg White resulted in the winning touchdown for New Mexico in a 39-36 triple-overtime thriller Saturday night.
The heart-wrenching loss was the sixth decided by a touchdown or less for the Aggies in the past two years and left them wondering what the heck they have to do to win a close game."It's so hard to swallow," said quarterback Riley Jensen, who threw for 338 yards on 28-of-54 passing. "Everyone played so hard, it's disappointing. We've got to get over the hump and learn how to win."
"It's unreal," said linebacker Tony D'Amato, who led the Ags with nine unassisted tackles. "We knew we were going to win that game. We worked so hard and practiced so hard. We did everything but win."
Indeed, the Aggies outgained the Lobos 319 yards to 300 and made 20 first downs to UNM's 14 and dominated three of the four quarters. Except for a mistake-filled third quarter and a big play in the third overtime, the Aggies would have celebrated a rare nonconference road victory.
"That darn third quarter - we lost our focus in the third quarter," said USU coach Dave Arslanian, referring to a couple of bad snaps on punts that resulted in a safety and a touchdown. "When you've got younger players, they're going to make mistakes."
The Aggies also didn't show up with any running game. Demario Brown, who had rushed for 100 yards in 10 of his last 13 games, only picked up 13 yards in 19 carries, with eight of his rushes going to negative yardage as the inexperienced Aggie line failed to open holes.
It doesn't get any easier for the Aggies, who face 15th-ranked Colorado in Boulder on Saturday. The Buffaloes hung on to beat Fresno State 29-21 Saturday after defeating Colorado State the week before.
AGNOTES: Brad Bohn's five field goals tied a USU record . . . Jensen's 28 completions went to 10 different receivers, led by Robert Scott and London McBride with six catches apiece . . . Brown scored his 20th career touchdown in the third quarter . . . Defensive tackles Walter Fiefia and Vaea Fiefia became the first brother combination to start since Brian and Jeff Hunsaker in 1988.
Score: New Mexico 39, Utah State 36 (3OT)
Record: 0-2, 0-0 BWC
Offense: The rushing game is abysmal (minus 19 yards), but Riley Jensen has a breakout day with 338 yards passing. Grade: C+
Defense: Don't look at the 39 points - remember 16 came in overtime and nine were allowed by the punting unit. The Aggie "D," led by Tony D'Amato, is terrific. Grade: B+
Special teams: Tony Walker's 101 yards in punt returns is a bright spot. Otherwise, the Aggie punt team hands over nine points on a blocked kick for a TD and a bad snap for a safety. Grade: C
Next up: at Colorado