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New Mexico State defends signing of ex-Minnesota player accused of sexual assault

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New Mexico State last month announced the addition of a junior college transfer, but this one isn’t like most others.

As a redshirt freshman at Minnesota in 2016, Ray Buford, Jr., was allegedly involved in a sexual assault that would eventually engulf the program in result in head coach Tracy Claeys being pushed out. Though he was never charged by two separate investigations, Buford was suspended and later recommended for expulsion, along with three others, but instead announced he would leave the school before the school could kick him out.

He wound up at Independence Community College in Kansas and, now, New Mexico State.

New Mexico State’s transfer protocols require that a student be eligible for return at his or her original school in order to gain admittance to NMSU, which is under question since Buford was recommended for expulsion at Minnesota.

“Sexual assault, sexual misconduct and sexual harassment is front and center right now everywhere,” NMSU Title IX coordinator Lauri Millot told the Las Cruces Sun-News. “NMSU’s obligation is to protect our campus community, students and our staff and do it in a way that incorporates prevention, education and an appropriate response so we don’t put students or staff in a hostile environment.”

Aggies head coach Doug Martin told the paper that Buford was admitted after a multi-month investigation. In fact, Buford committed in December but was not announced until a month later.

“It started in October when we handed all of the information we had to the administration and everyone involved in making that decision,” Martin. “Football did not make the decision. We just brought it to them and said (Buford) is a young man who we believe deserves a second chance and you guys (NMSU administrators) tell us what you want us to do. I don’t think we have chased guys like that like some programs do. We have been selective and wouldn’t bring in anyone who we didn’t think deserved to be here.”

New Mexico State will compete as an FBS Independent in 2018. The Aggies went 7-6 in 2017, ending the year with a win over Utah State in the Arizona Bowl, the program’s first bowl trip in six decades.

Five decades in the making, New Mexico State pulls out overtime win in the Arizona Bowl to beat Utah State

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It was a rematch 57 years in the making and both sides wanted to soak up every extra moment. New Mexico State ended the NCAA’s longest bowl drought in dramatic fashion to beat Utah State 26-20 in overtime on Friday night in an Arizona Bowl full of the highs and lows of college football.

In front of what seemed like half of Las Cruces at the home stadium of the Arizona Wildcats in Tucson, the Aggies put behind several quarters of offensive malaise by marching 69 yards midway through the fourth quarter to tie the game on an incredible Jaleel Scott catch in the end zone. The NMSU defense came up with a stop in the extra period not long after and a missed field goal by USU was just the opening the team needed before running back Larry Rose III burst up the middle for a 21 yard touchdown that set off pandemonium in the stands.

The victory not only gave the Aggies of New Mexico State their first win in the postseason since 1960 — which happened to be a 20-13 defeat of Utah State in the Sun Bowl — but capped off a pretty incredible story for one of the smallest programs in all of FBS. Rose finished the game with 142 yards on the ground and was the team’s leading receiver in the game as well. His running made up for a rather lackluster offensive day for quarterback Tyler Rogers (191 yards, one TD, two INTs) and company as the group had eight 3-and-outs against one of the better secondaries at the Group of Five level.

While those long stretches without points or any kind of offensive production made things hard to watch at times in this one, there was at least plenty of excitement early in the first quarter when Utah State’s Savon Scarver (96 yards) and NMSU’s Jason Huntley ran back-to-back kickoffs for touchdowns not five minutes in.

The loss caps off another tough season for Matt Wells’ Aggies after they led in just about every statistical category but saw kicker Dominik Eberle make only two of his six field goal attempts to let a win slip through their fingers. QB Jordan Love (254 yards passing) and RB LaJuan Hunt (133 yards rushing, 1 TD) both had decent outings but it wasn’t enough as points came at a premium for both sides.

The game also marks the end of an era for New Mexico State as it was their final contest as a member of a conference — in this case the Sun Belt. The program will operate as a football independent in 2018 and, funny enough, will play Utah State again next September up in Logan. Something says both sets of Aggies will have plenty to play for when that one rolls around in what should be a fun footnote to a long, long drought being emphatically ended on Friday.

New Mexico State tied with Utah State at halftime of the Arizona Bowl

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New Mexico State waited 57 years to return to the postseason and it’s pretty clear the team were fired up to play in the Arizona Bowl as they took a 13-all tie into halftime with their fellow Aggies of Utah State on Friday evening in Tucson.

It didn’t take long at all for NMSU to get on the board, as they marched right down the field for 91 yards on their first drive in the postseason over five decades before eventually settling for a short field goal.

Utah State responded however, needing just 14 seconds to take the lead back after Savon Scarver returned the kickoff 96 yards to the house. Not to be outdone, the other Aggies decided to play a little ‘Anything you can do, I can do better’ apparently. That’s because Jason Huntley followed the play up with a full 100 yd kickoff return touchdown to make it back-to-back and put his team back in the lead.

Things settled down in the game after that brief bit of excitement as both sides exchanged field goals down the stretch and both defenses appears to find their legs.

USU signal-caller Jordan Love found some success through the air with 136 yards on 24 attempts through two quarters but it was mostly the result of the Aggies ground game unable to find much after five different players recorded a carry but could only muster 45 yards.

New Mexico State was much better in that department as tailback Larry Rose III averaged just over eight yards a carry and had 66 total yards going into the break. He formed a nice balanced attack with quarterback Tyler Rogers, who had 82 yards in the air but did toss an interception.

Given some of the skill position players involved in this game you probably could have expected a few more points in the first half but there’s still plenty of time left in one of the few remaining non-New Year’s bowls left on the docket between a pair of Aggies hoping to grab one more win in 2017.

CFT Previews: Your Dec. 29 Bowl Viewer’s Guide

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Taking a quick-hit look at the Dec. 29 bowl menu, which today features a Texas-style Rose Bowl as Big Ten champ Ohio State faces Pac-12 champ USC in the Cotton Bowl.

WHO: Wake Forest (7-5) vs. Texas A&M (7-5)
WHAT: The 16th Belk Bowl
WHEN: 1 p.m. ET on ESPN
WHERE: Bank of American Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina
THE LINE: Texas A&M, +3
For the remainder of an extended preview, click HERE.

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WHO: North Carolina State (7-5) vs. Arizona State (7-5)
WHAT: The 84th Hyundai Sun Bowl
WHEN: 3 p.m. ET on CBS
WHERE: Sun Bowl Stadium in El Paso, Texas
THE LINE: Arizona State, +7
For the remainder of an extended preview, click HERE.

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WHO: No. 21 Northwestern (9-3) vs. Kentucky (7-5)
WHAT:
The 20th Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
WHEN:
4:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
WHERE: 
Nissan Stadium, Nashville, Tennessee
THE LINE
: Kentucky, +7½
For the remainder of an extended preview, click HERE.

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WHO: Utah State (6-6) vs. New Mexico State (6-6)
WHAT: 
The 3rd Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl
WHEN: 
5:30 p.m. ET on CBS Sports Network
WHERE: 
Arizona Stadium, Tucson, Arizona
THE LINE
: New Mexico State, +4
For the remainder of an extended preview, click HERE.

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WHO: No. 5 Ohio State (11-2) vs. No. 8 USC (11-2)
WHAT: 
The 82nd Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic
WHEN: 
8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
WHERE: 
AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas
THE LINE
: USC, +7½
For the remainder of an extended preview, click HERE.

CFT Previews: Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl

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WHO: Utah State (6-6) vs. New Mexico State (6-6)
WHAT: The third Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl
WHEN: 5:30 p.m. ET on CBS Sports Network
WHERE: Arizona Stadium, Tucson, Arizona
THE SKINNY: New Mexico State has not played in a bowl game since 1960, but winning their final two games of the regular season allowed the Aggies that elusive opportunity to play in a bowl game in their final game representing the Sun Belt Conference. So, how did they get here?

It began by giving Arizona State a serious run in the opener and building confidence the following week against New Mexico. With wins in three of their final four games, quarterback Tyler Rogers and 1,000-yard receiver Jaleel Scott helped achieve the long-thought impossible by reaching six wins. It has been a long work in progress for head coach Doug Martin, who has guided New Mexico State into the Sun Belt Conference after a year left astray following conference realignment and the implosion of the old WAC. Now, with the future seeing New Mexico State return to independence, the Aggies hope their improving offense can keep up the momentum against Utah State.

Utah State had a bumpy season with a good handful of lopsided losses, but Matt Wells has managed to keep these Aggies chugging forward. The past few seasons have been rough at times for Utah State, but a chance to hit seven wins and build some momentum for the offseason is one Utah State can take advantage of. It will start up front with the offensive line providing some good blocking. Linemen Roman Andrus and Quin Ficklin received honorable mentions from the MWC this season, but they will need a good showing from redshirt freshman quarterback Jordan Love (1,377 passing yards, 8 TDs) and running back LaJuan Hunt to end the season on a high note. Love has been building confidence this season, and the extra time to prepare for this game may bode well for him and Utah State.

THE PICK: Utah State 24, New Mexico State 17