PROVO — While BYU was enduring its worst season in 50 years last fall, New Mexico State was celebrating a Cinderella season of sorts, posting its best season in decades and reaching a bowl for the first time in 57 years.
But that was then. This is now.
The two programs meet Saturday (8:15 p.m., MST, ESPN2) with the Cougars needing a victory to secure bowl eligibility while the 3-7 Aggies won’t be going bowling this season.
New Mexico State finished 7-6 a year ago and hadn’t been to a bowl game since the 1960 Sun Bowl before a 26-20 victory over Utah State in the Arizona Bowl last December. The Aggies have struggled this season, especially on the defensive side of the ball, surrendering an average of 490 yards and 42 points per game.
New Mexico State opened the 2018 season with four consecutive, lopsided losses to Wyoming (29-7), Minnesota (48-10), Utah State (63-13) and New Mexico (42-25).
The Aggies beat UTEP and Liberty back-to-back before losing three straight to Louisiana (66-38), Georgia Southern (48-31) and Texas State (27-20).
New Mexico State beat Alcorn State, 52-42, two weeks ago, then enjoyed a bye last week.
The Cougars aren’t taking anything for granted.
“Particularly with a bye week and some extra time to (prepare) for us, I know they’ll have a great plan coming in,” said BYU offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes. “They really have nothing to lose. I expect them to come in, be aggressive and throw caution to the wind. We’re expecting their best effort.”
New Mexico State’s defensive coordinator, Frank Spaziani, was Boston College’s DC back in 2005 and 2006 when the Cougars lost to the Eagles. Grimes was BYU’s offensive line coach at the time.
“I know who he is and know of him by reputation. He’s a really good coach,” Grimes said. “You see from him a style change each week to match the offense he’s playing against.”
One thing New Mexico State does well is throw the ball. The Aggies are No. 29 nationally in passing offense.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Josh Adkins has completed 136 of 243 passes for 1,590 yards with seven touchdowns and six interceptions.
"Every week we have the mindset that we want to win the game. I think if we continue to play like we have as an offense and as a team, we could do well and score points on them,” Adkins said. "I think the biggest thing for us as an offense this week is not really try to reinvent the wheel and just go out there and get completions and yards after the catch. It’s going to be an exciting challenge for us.”
The Aggies are the latest team on BYU’s schedule that is good at passing the ball.
“They like to sling it around, take some chances,” said Cougar safety Tanner Jacobson. “As a defensive player, I’m excited. I love playing these teams that air it out and give you a chance to make plays.”
Wide receiver Johnathan Boone has caught 42 passes for 492 yards and one touchdown. Running back Christian Gibson has rushed 70 times for 449 yards and six touchdowns.
“They’re explosive,” said BYU cornerbacks coach Jernaro Gilford. “They have talented guys all over the field.”7 comments on this story
New Mexico State coach Doug Martin, who has been at the helm of the program for six years, respects BYU, a fellow independent.
"When you look at BYU and what they have done, they have national championships and Heisman Trophy winners," Martin said. "They have always been on the national stage and resources, they have everything that a power conference team has."
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Cougars on the air
New Mexico State (3-7)
at BYU (5-5)
Saturday, 8:15 MST LaVell Edwards Stadium
Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM