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.
Since retiring from the NFL, Charles Woodson has become increasingly vocal about his alma mater. Not only has the Michigan alum shouted out his love for the Wolverines, he’s also not shy in calling out the team after a few years of sub-par results — particularly when it comes to the game against their heated rival Ohio State.
You can add another chapter for Woodson in that matter over the weekend as the Heisman Trophy winner did not mince words in calling out how ‘The Game’ is being treated by some in Ann Arbor.
“You know what, to be quite honest, I really feel like in recent years there hasn’t been the emphasis I’m used to being put on that game,” Woodson told the Detroit Free Press on Saturday. “Every game has been put on the same level as that game. That’s not the way we were brought up. Not the way we were raised around here.
“We had no shame in saying (we were going to beat Ohio State). And every time I watch our teams in recent years, it’s ‘oh, it’s another game.’ It’s not.”
Woodson has already guaranteed a victory over the Buckeyes this spring at a commencement speech he gave to UM graduates and has been vocal about the program getting back to the position he had it in back in the late 1990’s when they were winning titles and — most importantly — beating Ohio State. The Wolverines have never beaten Urban Meyer since he arrived in Columbus and have just two wins in the series in the past 15 tries. Jim Harbaugh, who is certainly familiar with beating OSU as a player, is 0-3 against the Buckeyes as head coach.
It goes without saying that the team is very much aware of the current six-game losing streak they have against their chief rival and, given everything that has gone on this offseason, could be in their best position in years to get a win when the two meet in Columbus this November. However, Woodson might be getting a text message or phone call from Harbaugh to tone down the rhetoric just a tad given that he’s writing a check the players will have to cash.
Certainly everybody in Ann Arbor knows how big ‘The Game’ is to the school and will be emphasizing a win this year more than ever even without the extra push from one of the all-time greats in maize and blue.
You probably have never heard of TY Williams the football player but what the former Georgetown linebacker did this weekend at the school will surely bring a tear to your eyes.
Williams injured his spinal cord in a game back in September 2015 and suffered a fractured vertebra that left him partially paralyzed. Despite that, he followed up years of rehab on the injury to walk across the stage at the Hoyas’ graduation ceremony on Saturday to receive his degree from the university.
Boy, it sure is a little dusty up in here after watching that. Congrats to Williams and his family on an incredible achievement.
In some not exactly breaking news, there are a lot of Ohio State fans out there. Not to be left out, their rivals to the North have quite a few people following the team in maize and blue too.
The National Football Foundation released an interesting set of facts and figures last week that was designed to call attention to just how popular the sport of college football is across the country. The whole list is worth a look if you’re interested in all the little details about the 2017 season but a few of the big highlights are:
- Ohio State led the nation for total fan attendance, attracting 1,254,160 spectators to all of their games in 2017, including home, away, neutral and postseason tilts. Eleven other teams eclipsed the million mark in 2017: Georgia (1,246,201), Alabama (1,228,376), Auburn, Penn State, Michigan, LSU, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Clemson and Texas.
- Michigan led all FBS schools again with an average attendance of 111,589 fans per home game in 2017. Three other schools also averaged more than 100,000 fans per game: Ohio State (107,495), Penn State (106,707) and Alabama (101,722). The Wolverines have led the nation in home attendance for 41 of the past 43 seasons.
- The SEC led all FBS conferences in attendance for the 20th straight year, averaging 75,074 fans per game or a total of 7,357,228 in 2017, followed by the Big Ten (66,227), Big 12 (56,852), Pac-12 (49,601) and the ACC (48,442).
- The overall attendance for NCAA football games across all divisions (FBS, FCS, Division II and Division III) drew 47,622,196 fans at home games, neutral-site games and postseason games in 2017. The number represents a 3.3 percent drop from the 2016 season.
There’s a bunch more in there from the NFF on everything from TV ratings to fan interest and a bunch of other nuggets. Needless to say, college football is pretty popular around the country and we at CFTalk certainly wouldn’t have it any other way.
Everybody figured that Scott Frost’s arrival with a new way of doing things in Lincoln would prompt a few transfers out of the program but the latest name to leave Nebraska is on the defensive side of the ball as linebacker Andrew Ward became the latest name to announce a transfer after just a year with the Cornhuskers.
As Ward mentions in his post, he was originally recruited to the school by the prior coaching staff under Mike Riley. He redshirted as a freshman in 2017 and seemed to fall down the pecking order at his position during spring practice. Originally from Michigan, the linebacker was rated as a three-star coming out of high school according to 247Sports and held offers from Penn State and Virginia Tech among others.
Ward adds to the growing list of roster turnover this offseason for the Cornhuskers. Also on Saturday it was confirmed that center Michael Decker was retiring from football, while wideout Kenyan Williams, fullback Ben Miles, quarterback Patrick O’Brien, and receiver Zack Darlington all announced intentions to leave the program.