Aggies run away with win

Eric Higgins ran for 218 yards, while Buck Pierce added 85 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns to lead New Mexico State to a 21-14 college football victory over Louisiana-Monroe on Saturday night.

Eric Higgins went nuts, the offensive line had the momentum of a Panzer blitzkrieg, a record fell and the Aggies snapped a losing streak.

All of that happened despite an attempt by Mother Nature to stifle the whole thing. The New Mexico State football picked up its first victory against a Division I-A opponent in nearly 12 months — a streak of seven games - with a 21-14 win against Louisiana-Monroe.

Placekicker Dario Aguiniga became the all-time leader in at NMSU when his two field goals gave him 41 for his career — the most in Aggie history.

Higgins carried the ball 43 times for 218 yards. That's the second-most carries by any Aggie in the more than 100-year history of the school and the ninth best rushing yard total.

Sore and moving slow in the locker room after the contest, Higgins nonetheless could not contain the large smile on his face. And, he was quick to explain, the smile was for his offensive line.

"You could write a whole page just about the offensive line," the senior back said. "I had it easy, all I had to do was stand behind those guys."

Starting tackle Trevor Kine, though, was not about to let Higgins win the Mr. Humble Award without a fight.

"We played a good game, Eric played a great game," the 6-foot-5, 285-pound senior said. "It was fun watching him run."

But the game did not belong to the offense alone. The Aggie defense never allowed the UL-Monroe offense to find any sort of rhythm. And, even after the host Indians turned a 15-0 Aggie lead into a tight, 15-14 contest, the NMSU defenders refused to allow the game to slip away.

"Not this time, we weren't going to let that happen to us again," linebacker Richard Glover said. "We shouldn't have lost all the games we have this year."

NMSU, which has surrendered second-half leads in losses to New Mexico, Idaho and Lousiana-Lafayette, refused to give in Saturday.

After starting quarterback Buck Pierce returned from an injury to lead NMSU on a fourth-quarter touchdown drive, the Aggie defense twice stopped UL-Monroe drives on the NMSU side of the field. After the defense got the ball back to the offense, Higgins, Pierce and company ground out several first downs to run out the clock.

"This feels so good," linebacker Tim Patrick said outside the team's locker room. "It's about time," said head coach Tony Samuel, who was standing near by.

The win also broke the Ags' six-game losing streak the dated back to a victory against Division II Western New Mexico in September. As they have in most of their games this year, the Aggies controlled the statistic sheet. And, finally, they were able to turn the numbers into an advantage on the scoreboard as well. The numbers tell the story.

• NMSU finished with 444 total yards while UL-Monroe walked off the field with just 148.

• NMSU had 25 first downs while UL-Monroe had just 9.

• The Aggies held the ball for 38:44 while their hosts had possession of the pigskin for 21:16. NMSU came out of the locker room at halftime ahead 15-0 but the Indians struck back right away.

Charles Estes returned the opening kickoff of the second half 82 yards for a touchdown. Then the Indians ground out a 10-play, 80-yard drive for another touchdown and, with the extra point, pulled within one of the lead at 15-14.

But after a ULM punt pinned the Aggies on their own 1-yard line, NMSU drove the ball the length of the field to secure the win. In the first half, the Aggies took early control of the contest but also took their time lighting up the scoreboard.

After the two teams punted the ball back and forth three times, NMSU struck with a big play. On the fourth play of the Aggies' third possession, quarterback Buck Pierce ran to the right on an option play, found a seem that took him to the sideline and he was gone. Sixty-eight yards later Pierce crossed the goal line and NMSU never looked back.

Aguiniga, who has been bothered for weeks by several injuries, capped a pair of second-half drives with 42-yard and 23-yard field goals and Tim Patrick and Abrey Dorisme covered UL-Monroe quarter Steven Jyles when he covered a fumble in the end zone to give NMSU a safety.

The Aggies led 15-0 at halftime. "It's about time we won one of these," Samuel said. "We knew we could win." NOTES:

The 68-yard touchdown run by New Mexico State quarterback Buck Pierce in the first quarter was the longest of his career. It was not the longest run from scrimmage for the Aggie junior, though. As a freshman, he had a 75-yard run in the 2001 season opener at Louisville. He did not score on that run and, soon thereafter he made a bad pitch that a Louisville defender returned more than 80 yards for a touchdown.

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When Pierce again crossed the goal line in the final stanza, it marked just the second fourth-quarter touchdown of the year for NMSU.

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Pierce got the start a week after he sat out due to injury. Paul Dombrowksi started behind center against Louisiana-Lafayette on Oct. 16, but suffered a kneecap injury and did not play Saturday.

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Also out, defensive end Greg Scaffidi sat for the second-straight week with an ankle sprain and tight end Travis Samuel was out due to knee surgery.

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NMSU kicker Dario Aguiniga nailed a 42-yard field goal on the first play of the second quarter to tie the all-time record for field goals made in school history at 40. Later that same quarter he split the uprights from 23 yards out to break the record.

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With a 7-0 lead after the first 15 minutes of play, NMSU has now shut out its opponents in the first quarter for the fifth time this season. The Aggies also held Texas, Western New Mexico, Oregon State and Idaho scoreless in the first quarter this season.


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