NMSU QB anxious to take on UNM

The last time New Mexico State's football team entered the Lobo's lair, the Aggies were sent back down the interstate on the wrong side of a 53-0 score. That was in November of 2001 and it was a contest that had been postponed from its usual September berth because of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. NMSU limped into the final game of the 2001 campaign with injuries galore and never threatened their in-state rivals.

But Last year, back in the friendly confines of Aggie Memorial Stadium, NMSU rode the debut of redshirt freshman quarterback Paul Dombrowski as a starter to its third victory against UNM in five seasons, 24-13. Dombrowski rushed for 136 yards on 18 carries and one rushing touchdown.

And for Buck Pierce, the Aggies' other quarterback, both of those games have left an itch that all the Calamine lotion in the world cannot sate.

Pierce watched from the sidelines last year with an injury and he cannot wait to suit up against the team from up the road. The Ags play at the Lobos Sept. 27.

"I missed the whole game last year and didn't play too much my redshirt year," the junior signal caller said. "I'm ready to go out there and play well."

He knows the contest will be intense. "They are a good team," Pierce said of the Lobos. "They will talk and get up in your face. We look forward to going up there. It's a great atmosphere to play in. If we execute and use our heads, we'll do all right."

Pierce has split time with Dombrowski behind center this season, a situation that should continue throughout the season. Pierce has thrown for 141 yards and one touchdown on a 13-for-25 effort through the air so far this season. He has been intercepted twice and has rushed for -24 yards, thanks to multiple sacks.

Dombrowski's is the squad's second-leading rusher with 139 yards on the ground and has thrown for 225 yards on a 17-for-29 effort passing. He has also thrown two picks but has no touchdown passes. Other Notes:

NMSU didn't play this weekend. Head coach Tony Samuel altered the squad's schedule, somewhat, to account for the bye week. "We will use shorter practices and give them Saturday off and come back Sunday," he said. Wide receiver Chris Duncan said that, despite the fact the guys are anxious to take to the field against UNM, the extra practice time is welcome. "It's good to have it now," he said of the bye week. "We have a few guys banged up. UNM has a complex defense and we have a chance to watch a lot more film. I'm kind of excited to have an extra week."

100 percent? Starting I-back Eric Higgins, who missed the season opener against Texas because of a sore groin, admitted that he might not feel completely healthy the rest of the season.

"I don't think anybody playing is 100 percent these days. I'm just going to have to play like this," he said. "I'm just trying to fulfill my role. I've been trying to get back in it, trying to find where I was before. I think I will get it back."

He also said he's playing catch up. "I've only played two games and I'm a game behind," he said. "The bye week will help me a whole lot. It will give me time to heal. I can see some things I missed on film against Oregon State and get ready for New Mexico."

In NMSU's 28-16 loss at Oregon State, Higgins scored the game's second touchdown with a 47-yard run, the second-longest of his career.

"It felt all right, but a W would have been a lot better," he said. "If it didn't help us win, you've got to try harder next time." He said that the aggressive, stunting UNM defense opens itself up for some big running plays.

"We did have some success against UNM (last year)," he said. "We have two weeks to prepare. Some of our younger offensive lineman can get some extra time watching tape. They (Lobos) do play a different game out there


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