It will be the final home game for 18 Aggie seniors, 10 of whom are starters.
NMSU has been successful on senior day, winning three of the last four including two in a row.
National Television Closes Curtain On 25th Season Of Aggie Football At AMS
The final game of the Aggies' 25th season at the "new" Aggie Memorial Stadium will feature a first in the history of Aggie football, a home game on national television.
Although the Aggie men's basketball team has been a regular on national television, this will be the first nationally televised football game from Las Cruces. The football team has enjoyed the national spotlight of late, but it's been on the road. NMSU has been nationally televised by Fox Sports two of the last three years when it has opened the season at Texas.
The recent series between the Aggies and the Mean Green has featured a trio of fourth quarter cliffhangers.
Last year the two teams both came into the game undefeated in league play and the Aggies led 27-24 after scoring a touchdown with 12:34 left in the fourth quarter. But NMSU committed turnovers on its final four possessions and lost 38-27.
Two years ago in Las Cruces, each team was 2-1 in league play heading into the game. North Texas led 16-7 heading into the fourth quarter, but Kenton Keith scored a pair of touchdowns to give NMSU a 20-16 lead. The Aggies had the ball at the North Texas 32-yard line with 1:54 left in the game, but fumbled and North Texas recovered. The Aggies seemed to seal the game with an interception, but were flagged for a personal foul, giving the ball back to North Texas. The Mean Green scored the game-winning touchdown with 18 seconds left in the game.
In 2000, the Aggies trailed 21-3 at the half and 30-16 in the fourth quarter. NMSU cut it to 30-23 and had the ball on the North Texas 46-yard line, but turned the ball over to end the threat.
North Texas has won 16 of the last 18 games, but both NMSU wins have come in Las Cruces.
In 1999, the Aggies clinched its winning season (6-5) since 1992 by beating the Mean Green 22-9. K.C. Enzminger threw for 245 yards and two scores and ran for another touchdown.
In 1982, the Aggies beat the Mean Green 28-9 at Aggie Memorial Stadium. Jamie McAlister became the school's all-time career yardage leader in that game, moving past Charley Johnson. McAlister threw for 300 yards and a pair of scores while fullback James Herbert rushed for 100 yards on 20 carries and Kim Locklin added 89 yards on 21 carries and a score.
Pierce Has Another Great Game, Continuing Great Season:
Aggie junior quarterback Buck Pierce celebrated his 22nd birthday against Arkansas by completing 19 of 26 passes with no interceptions, 214 yards and two scores.
He finished the first half by driving the Aggies for a touchdown to cut the lead to 14-10. On that drive he was a perfect 6-of-6 passing for 73 yards, including 4-of-4 on third down for 44 yards including a third down, 12-yard touchdown pass to Chris Duncan. Pierce finished the first half 10 of 13 for 98 yards and a touchdown.
He opened the second half by driving the NMSU offense 83 yards in seven plays for a touchdown to cut the lead to 21-17. Pierce completed all four passes for 39 yards including a 13-yard touchdown pass to Ronshay Jenkins.
He completed 12 consecutive passes for 133 yards before throwing an incomplete pass with 1:24 left in the third quarter.
Pierce accomplished all of this against an Arkansas defense that came into the game ranked 32nd in the nation and 24th in the nation in pass defense.
In his last six games, Pierce has completed 81 of 110 passes (73 %) for 916 yards, one interception and four touchdowns. For the season he has now completed just over 68 percent of his passes for 1,330 yards and seven touchdowns.
Pierce has thrown for at least 200 yards in three consecutive games including 314 yards against Arkansas State and 208 yards against Utah State.
He has compiled 809 yards of total offense in those three games and his 736 yards of passing in those last three games are the most for an Aggie quarterback since Chad Salisbury threw for 921 yards in the final three games of the 1996 season.
He is the first Aggie quarterback since 1997 to have three consecutive 200-yard or better passing games. Ty Houghtaling had three consecutive such games that season. No Aggie quarterback since Salisbury (final four games of 1996 season) has thrown for at least 200 yards in four consecutive games.
Pierce's season completion percentage of 68.2 percent is well ahead of the school record of 63.6 percent that he set last year. His 150.87 passing efficiency rating is just behind his school record of 154.6 he set last season.
He has enjoyed great success against Sun Belt Conference teams this year. Buck has completed 73.8% of his passes in six league games for 802 yards. He has also run for 265 yards and six scores and is averaging 6.8 yards per carry.
Aggie Passing Game Has Been Lights Out At Home:
New Mexico State is looking to secure its third consecutive non-losing season at Aggie Memorial Stadium. NMSU was 5-0 last year at home and 2-2 in 2001.
To do that, the Aggies must continue its success through the air at home.
The Aggies have completed 72 percent of their passes at home and averaged 245 yards per game through the air. Buck Pierce has completed 50 of 70 passes (71.4%) at home with three touchdowns and one interception.
Joseph Continues Breakout Freshman Season:
New Mexico State has had its fair share of standout running backs the past few seasons. Kenton Keith was a star this year for the Saskatchewan Roughriders, Chris Barnes was a fifth round draft pick of the Baltimore Ravens in 2001 and Denvis Manns (1995-98) is one of only four players in NCAA Division I history to rush for 1,000 or more yards in four consecutive seasons.
Now the Aggies hope they have another star in redshirt freshman Tony Joseph. Joseph ran for 112 yards on 17 carries against the Razorbacks Saturday. He averaged 6.6 yards per carry and had a 46-yard run in the third quarter that was the key play in the Aggies' third quarter touchdown.
It was Joseph's second longest run of the season and his career. His longest is a 51-yard run against Middle Tennessee. It was his fourth run of 30 yards or more this season.
Joseph was just the third player to rush for 100 yards against Arkansas this year.
Joseph also posted his fourth 100-yard yard game of the season and it marked his fourth consecutive start with at least 100 yards rushing. It was also his second consecutive game with at least 100 yards. He had 116 yards against Utah State. The only start in which he did not rush for 100 yards was in the season opener against Texas.
Joseph now leads the Aggies in rushing this year with 707 yards and a 5.6 yards per rush average on the season. He is bidding to become the second consecutive freshman to lead the team in rushing. Last year redshirt freshman quarterback Paul Dombrowski led the team with 868 yards. Joseph also had a big game receiving against the Razorbacks. He came into the game having caught only two passes for 15 yards all season, but had three catches for 18 yards that afternoon, all in the first half.
Jenkins Closing In On Top Three Single Season Performances:
Senior wide receiver Ronshay Jenkins nearly posted his fifth 100 yard game of the season by catching eight passes, tying a career high, for 94 yards and a touchdown. He has six games this year with at least 90 yards receiving. He had 94 yards against UL Lafayette. Jenkins now has 53 catches for 891 yards and four touchdowns on the season. His 891 receiving yards now rank as the fifth best single season total in NMSU history. His 53 catches are now the sixth best in school history. His 891 yards are the most for any Aggie receiver since Lucious Davis had 985 yards in 1994.
Jenkins needs 109 yards against North Texas to become just the third player in NMSU history to reach 1,000 for a single season. The other two are Lucious Davis (1,018, 1995) and school record holder Hank Cook (1,111, 1973). Jenkins needs at least five catches to move into third place for most receptions at NMSU in a single season. If he can do that, he will surpass Lucious Davis on two occasions (54, 1994 and 57, 1995) and Joe Rowley (57, 1985).
Ronshay has done most of his damage the last eight games, accounting for 50 receptions for 827 yards and four touchdowns.
Jenkins enters his final game with 2,304 all-purpose yards, 82 receptions and 1,140 career reception yards. He would need 12 catches against North Texas to move into the top 10 in career pass receptions.
His 17.2 career yards per reception average currently ranks sixth in NMSU history.
Aguiniga Wrapping Up His Career With A Bang:
It was shaping up as a tough senior season for NMSU record kicker Dario Aguiniga
He has played most of the season with a torn cartilage and a torn quadriceps in his kicking leg.
He made just five of his first 11 field goal attempts, but in the last four games, he has made seven of his last nine and his kickoffs have been longer than they have been all season.
Aguiniga booted a 43-yard field goal in the fourth quarter and a 39-yard field goal in the first quarter against Arkansas. It marked the third time in four games that he has booted a field goal of at least 40 yards.
He now has 46 made field goals made and 258 points for his career, both NMSU records.
Aggie Defense Shows Improvement In Key Statistics:
Redshirt freshman defensive end Chris Sneed recorded his third sack of the season on Arkansas' first possession of the game. The sack was a major play because it resulted in a loss of 12 yards and helped lead the Aggies to a fourth down stop later in the drive. Arkansas had recovered an NMSU fumble at the Aggie 47 yard line to start the drive and had moved to the NMSU 23-yard line before Sneed's sack.
Sophomore linebacker Jimmy Cottrell added a sack in the fourth quarter to give NMSU's 18 sacks on the year. The Aggies had just 13 all of last season.
NMSU has also recorded 12 interceptions this year after only picking off seven interceptions last year.
Duncan Another Senior Having Breakout Year:
Senior wide receiver Chris Duncan (Graham, Texas) caught his third touchdown pass of the season with his 12-yard grab just before the end of the first half at Arkansas. He ranks second on the team in touchdown catches with three and finished the game with three catches for 43 yards. Duncan had not caught a touchdown pass in his first two years with the Aggies after transferring from Texas Tech.
Duncan had just four catches for 38 yards in his previous two years at NMSU, but this year he has 20 receptions for 286 yards and three scores.
Glover And Cottrell Having Solid Seasons:
Two of the reasons for optimism for the 2004 season will be returning linebackers Jimmy Cottrell and Richard Glover. The duo, both in their second seasons as starters, are ranked #1 and #2 in tackles this season.
Cottrell, who led the team in tackles last year with 102, is tops on the team with 72. He recorded his first quarterback sack of the season last week against Arkansas.
Glover is ranked second on the team in tackles with 63. He also has four tackles for loss and two interceptions.
Pierce Gets In On Punting Action:
Now both Aggie quarterbacks have punted in a game this year. Last Saturday against Arkansas, Buck Pierce unloaded a 34-yard punt to the Arkansas 14-yard line in the first quarter. Paul Dombrowski had a 37-yard punt against Middle Tennessee that pinned the Blue Raiders back at their own five yard line in the third quarter.
Aggies Pitch Another Early Shutout
NMSU held the Razorbacks without a point in the first quarter of last Saturday's game in Fayetteville. It marked the seventh time in 11 games that NMSU has shutout an opponent in the first quarter.
NMSU has outscored its opponents 65-31 in the first quarter this season.
Aggies Hope Time Off Heals Wounds:
Several Aggie players have missed significant time late in the year, but with its final two games being played over an extended period of time, NMSU has had several players return from injury and hopes for more for the North Texas game.
Senior running back Eric Higgins did not play against Arkansas, but had 139 yards against UL and 238 yards the follwing week against ULM back in late October and is second on the team in rushing with 622 yards despite missing nearly all of five games this year. He leads the team in rushing yards per game at 88.9. He has 1,121 career yards in 13 games that he has played full time. He has missed nearly all of 10 games in two seasons due to injury, but has rushed for at least 100 yards in a game five times in two seasons.
Aggie sophomore quarterback Paul Dombrowski who accumulated 1,191 yards of total offense in the first seven games, has played just two plays in the last four games, but could be available for more action against North Texas.
Defensive end Greg Scaffidi, who was having his best year as an Aggie with a fumble return for a score, two quarterback sacks, a forced fumble and four tackles for loss through the first six games, has missed the last five games with a leg injury and could possibly see some game action next Tuesday.
Last Saturday the Aggies saw cornerback Cameron Wright and safety Matt Griebel return from injuries the previous week to start.