Texas won 66-7 in what was the season-opening game for both squads. The first quarter ended in a scoreless tie and then NMSU took a 7-0 lead. But Texas pounced to the tune of 66-unanswered points, 31 of which came in the second quarter. "We took a (shit) down our leg," linebacker Tim Patrick said matter-of-factly. "Everything fell apart."
The host Longhorns were not shy about finding ways to take the pigskin across the goal line: they scored on a kick return, they scored on a punt return, they scored on two interception returns, they threw for touchdown passes and they even ran it in three times.
When all was said and done, the Longhorns - ranked fifth in the nation by the Associated Press - sent the Aggies home to southern New Mexico with sore posteriors.
NMSU committed five turnovers - three interceptions and two fumbles. All five turnovers led to Texas scores.
"That moisture was a problem," NMSU head coach Tony Samuel said of the weather. "We're not used to that. We had a tough time getting the ball snapped."
Samuel said he wasn't so much disappointed in the score as he was with how the score came about.
"Sometimes you don't look at the score," he said, "you look at the performance. We put too many balls on the ground. If we don't, we probably score a few more touchdowns and it (score) doesn't look as bad."
NMSU actually dominated the time of possession. The Aggies held the ball for 37:33 while the host Longhorns were on offense for 22:27. In fact, the Aggies and Texas had similar rushing statistics: 168 yards for the Longhorns and 150 for the Aggies. But the Longhorns took advantage of a young NMSU secondary to the tune of 216 yards while the Ags passed for just 75. "We gave them a lot of things and you can't do that with a talented team," Aggie quarterback Paul Dombrowski said. "Physically we're a strong team, I don't feel beat up right now, but we did not execute."
Buck Pierce got the call behind center but Dombrowksi took more snaps. Pierce finished 4 of 7 through the air for 34 yards and had two interceptions returned for touchdowns. He was also sacked four times.
Dombrowski went 4 of 8 through the air with one interception for 41 yards. He was also the Aggies' [Csecond leading rusher on the night with 72 yards on 19 carries. He also caught one pass as the NMSU coaching staff ran several plays with both quarterbacks on the field at the same time.
The sophomore was sacked once and fumbled the ball twice. Tony Joseph became the first freshman to start at I-back for the Aggies since Walter Taylor did so at Colorado State in 2000. Eric Higgins, NMSU's top I-back, did not dress because of a groin injury. Joseph carried the ball nine times for 26 yards while fullback Keith Mouton led MMSU with 82 yards on the ground.
Early on, NMSU appeared that it might be able to give Texas a fight. Despite the fact the Aggie offense stumbled along in the first quarter - NMSU had just four total yards at the end of the first 15-minute period - the Aggie defense kept the Longhorns in check. The home team had just 39 yards of offense itself.
And then Dombrowski came in behind center for the Ags and the 80,000 denizens in burnt orange were rendered speechless as NMSU took the lead. Dombrowski led the Aggies 51 yards on nine plays. The quarterback himself accounted for 43 of the yards, including an 18-yard touchdown scamper when he kept the ball on the option play to the left and found daylight.
NMSU kicker Dario Aguiniga split the uprights for the extra point and NMSU led 7-0. Then the roof caved in. On the ensuing kickoff, Longhorn return man Selvin Young split the Aggie white shirts near the left hashmark and then broke free down the sideline for a 97-yard return. He did not stop until he reached the end zone.
Any momentum the Aggies had gained, dissipated into the humid Austin air. "We started out really well and I thought our first quarter was pretty good," Samuel said. "Special teams are always critical and we gave them that kickoff return and things seemed to go south after that." Texas head coach Mack Brown said the return was the key play of the game.
"Selvin Young's kickoff return changed the intensity and sparked the defense," he said. "It also sent a message to New Mexico State that they would not win the game. This was important because New Mexico State was building confidence."
The rest of the second quarter was a blur of burnt orange jerseys heading toward the end zone. Texas running back Cedric Benson scored on a two-yard run, linebacker Derrick Johnson returned a Pierce pass 47 yards for a score, Dusty Mangum kicked a 28-yard field goal and quarterback Chance Mock found wide receiver Roy Williams for a touchdown pass from 15 yards out to give Texas a 31-7 halftime advantage.
The Aggies never recovered. "One play killed us," safety Matt Griebel said of Young's kickoff return. "It was just like the Georgia game last year (a 41-10 NMSU loss). We were doing well and then one play happens and threw us off the rest of the game."
Mock, who made his first start at quarterback for Texas, finished the night with a 7-of-15 performance for 156 yards and two touchdowns. Redshirt freshman signal caller Vince Young, who was a prized recruit out of Houston in 2002, mopped up in the fourth quarter and actually finished as the Longhorns' leading rusher. The 6-foot-5, 225-pound quarterback rushed for 61 yards and two touchdowns. He also completed one pass, a 60-yard strike that set up Texas' second-to-last touchdown.
Williams, a preseason All-American, snared four passes for 104 yards including a 53 yarder for a touchdown in the third quarter. NMSU plays its season opener Saturday against Western New Mexico