TUCSON, Ariz. — A big smile still on his face after scoring the game-winning touchdown, New Mexico State running back Larry Rose III was asked what he thought of the atmosphere at Arizona Stadium Friday night.
“I’m sure no one is back in Las Cruces right now,” Rose replied following NMSU’s 26-20 overtime victory over Utah State in the NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl.
With its campus located less than four hours away on Interstate 10, New Mexico State did have a huge advantage in the stands, lifting the attendance to an Arizona Bowl record of 39,132.
“Being a college football fan, I watch a lot of bowl games, and I’ve noticed that you very rarely see the TV pan out and see the whole stadium,” USU head coach Matt Wells said. “But that was a really, really good bowl crowd for a Dec. 29th night.
“I thought Utah State fans traveled well. Certainly New Mexico State with the distance helped. But what a really good atmosphere.”
IT WASN’T MEANT TO EBERLE: In the postgame press conference, Wells was asked if he was surprised that placekicker Dominik Eberle missed four field goals in the loss after failing to connect on just two attempts in the previous 12 games.
“Was I surprised? Yes. Am I disappointed in him? Not one bit,” Wells replied.
One of three finalists for the Lou Groza Collegiate Placekicker Award, it was probably a bad sign when the normally reliable Eberle booted the opening kickoff out of bounds to start NMSU off at the 35-yard line.
Wells certainly wasn’t the only head coach surprised by Eberle’s sudden kicking woes.
“He is automatic from just about everywhere, but unfortunately for him, he just had an off night,” NMSU head coach Doug Martin said. “You better mark it down because it won’t happen much with him. He’s an NFL kicker, and we were lucky. We dodged some bullets there.”
FOR THE LOVE: Unlike his predecessor Kent Myers, Jordan Love was unable to guide Utah State to a victory to a bowl victory as a freshman quarterback. But the native of Bakersfield, California, still performed pretty well in the desert air of Arizona, completing 25 of 44 passes for 254 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions.
“He was OK,” Wells replied when asked for his evaluation of Love’s play Friday. “I thought he did some good stuff. And did some stuff that he probably wishes he had back.”
Where Love and the Aggie offense really struggled was on third down conversions. Utah State converted just 1 of 18 attempts, and while New Mexico State was nearly as bad at 4 for 22, the southern Aggies were also 3 for 3 on fourth down conversions.
RIVALRY RENEWED: Although the longtime conference don’t see each other on a regular basis anymore, Utah State and New Mexico State will face off once again in just over than eight months. And after the southern Aggies travel to Maverik Stadium on Sept. 8, 2018, USU will return the favor and play at Las Cruces in 2021.