TUCSON, Ariz. — The opportunity was there, in front of Utah State as pretty as a picture but as ugly as a theft.
The USU Aggies’ 26-20 loss to New Mexico State came compliments of a host of lost opportunities. The last one came in overtime, when Dominik Eberle’s 29-yard field goal attempt hit the right upright, for his fourth miss of the night.
Overall he made two field goals that kept USU from falling behind, but he missed four others. He hit tries of 35 yards and 30, but missed two tries from 48 yards and one of 44, as well as the overtime attempt.
Lest Eberle shoulder all the blame, it should be noted USU missed plenty of chances on its own and didn’t often advance the ball into easy range. Eberle made 16 of 18 field goal tries in the regular season.
USU hurt itself early with penalties. It sustained seven penalties in the first half, totaling 54 yards, short-circuiting the effort. The biggest was with 23 seconds left in the half. The USU Aggies had third and 10 at the NMSU 18, when they drew a false start. On the next play, LaJuan Hunt rushed for 10 yards, which would have put them at the NMSU 8, with first down. Instead, it was fourth and long.
USU converted the field goal, to tie the game at 13 at the half.
The Utah Aggies had nine penalties for 74 yards on the game.
You might say Utah State started out on the wrong foot when Eberle launched the opening kick out of bounds. That sent NMSU on a drive that got as far as the USU 21 before a personal foul moved the ball to the 11. From there, NMSU booted a field goal for the first score of the game.
In the fourth quarter, with USU up 20-13, a personal foul took the Utah Aggies from NMSU’s 22 back to the 37. That played a part in Eberle missing from 49. Meanwhile, USU fumbled three times, losing two.