Aggies hurt themselves with mistakes

Steven Jackson ran for 166 yards and two touchdowns as Oregon State rebounded from a slow start to beat New Mexico State 28-16 on Saturday. Jackson, the Pac-10's leading rusher, also caught three passes for 15 yards for the Beavers (2-1), who fell behind 13-0 early to the Aggies (1-2).

Momentum, that fickle mistress of athletics teams, played a cruel trick with the Aggies on Saturday.

She seduced New Mexico State's football team with an early, double-digit lead against Oregon State. She propped up the Aggies' egos with two big plays and gave them hope on a sunny September afternoon.

Then she coyly giggled and slammed the door on her suitor. The Aggies led 13-0 after one quarter of play here against their Pac-10 hosts but then watched the Beavers score 28 unanswered points on their way to a 28-16 victory. NMSU fell to 1-2 on the season while the Beavers improved to 2-1.

But before the Aggies turn misogynistic and blame Miss Momentum for all their ills, they must accept the fact that, often, she only gives back what she receives.

And NMSU gave her more than a few lumps of coal. • The Aggies fumbled the ball four times and lost one.

• Despite the fact he nailed a career-long 53-yarder late in the game, NMSU placekicker Dario Aguiniga missed one extra-point attempt and also missed a 44-yard field goal attempt.

• A pair of penalties on kickoff returns in the third quarter left the Aggie offense deep in Oregon State territory. Both times the Aggies took over possession on their own six-yard line.

• The Beavers sacked NMSU quarterbacks four times.

That all added up to a 12-point loss. "We went up and then it started slipping away," linebacker Tim Patrick admitted, who said there was no one big play — like at Texas in the season opener — that broke the Aggie engine. "It was (happening) slowly.

We made a few mistakes here and there and that cost us the game." Added quarterback Paul Dombrowski: "We had momentum but we had missed opportunities. Their defense played well and they played hard (but) they were not quite as aggressive as I thought they would be."

Oregon State head coach Mike Riley, who watched his squad squander five turnovers and a lead the previous week at Fresno State, said he players responded differently against NMSU.

"That sort of stunned everybody," he said of NMSU's early score. "We were down, but I was really proud how we reacted. We came back." The Aggies came out of the locker rooms with a plan to thump Oregon State quarterback Derek Anderson and force him into mistakes. Anderson was intercepted five times against Fresno State and had taken a lot of flak all week long from Beaver fans.

Against the Aggies, he started making mistakes on his own. On the first possession of the game, Anderson dropped back to pass but the ball slipped from his hand and took an Aggie bounce off the AstroTurf. The pigskin jumped into the hands of NMSU defense end Greg Scaffidi who rambled 22 yards for the game's first touchdown. Placekicker Dario Aguiniga added the extra point to give NMSU a 7-0 advantage.

NMSU pushed its advantage to 13-0 when I-back Eric Higgins — who led NMSU in rushing on the day with 71 yards — broke through up the middle for a 47-yard touchdown run. Aguiniga missed the extra point when he booted the ball into the left upright, but the Aggies found themselves looking down from a double-digit loft.

"That's twice now that we've quieted the home crowd in the first quarter," linebacker Jimmy Cottrell said in reference to NMSU's 7-0 lead at Texas in the second quarter of that contest. But, like against Texas, the good times did not last.

The Beavers turned an NMSU mistake into a rallying point. Aggie wide receiver Chris Duncan fumbled a pass reception to give the hosts the ball deep in NMSU territory. Anderson — who finished the game with 233 yards passing on 17 completions — threw a one-yard touchdown pass and the Beavers were on the board.

Oregon State was able to carry a 14-13 lead into the locker rooms at halftime thanks to a four-yard touchdown run by Steven Jackson. NMSU had a chance to put more points on the board in the second quarter, but could not convert a first down at the Oregon State 14-yard line into any points.

Scaffidi caused another turnover when he hit Anderson as he threw and caused a bad pass that linebacker Richard Glover intercepted and ran to the Oregon State 14. But a pair of bad pitches on option plays moved the Aggies back and Aguiniga misfired on the 44-yard field goal attempt. And with that, the Beavers slowly started to put the Aggies away.

Jackson was a major source of consistency for the Oregon State offense. He rushed for 82 yards in the first half and 84 in the second to finish with 166 total. "Is he the best back I've faced? Yeah, maybe," Patrick said of the 6-foot-3, 233-pound Jackson. "But he's just like every other back: if he gets his shoulder square to the line, he's going to find room. We didn't do a good job keeping his shoulder squad."

Jackson injured his knee with five minutes to go in the game and hobbled to the locker room with an ace bandage wrapped around the joint. Riley said he did not think the injury was serious. By that time, NMSU was down 28-16 thanks to a 50-yard and an 83-yard scoring drive by Oregon State in the third quarter. The Aggies trying to hit a big play to construct a comeback. Pierce completed a pass to Dombrowski and NMSU attempted to convert a fourth down, but to no avail.

"We still have a lot of work to do," NMSU head coach Tony Samuel said as his squad heads into a bye week. "But I saw some (good) things. We've made improvements." NMSU's next game is Sept. 27 at New Mexico

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