Pierce will likely get majority of snaps

Buck Pierce or Paul Dombrowski? The question of who should be the New Mexico State quarterback has been a popular one the last three seasons. Two years ago, both played significant roles in NMSU's 7-5 season.

Last season, the two split time before Pierce played most of the last five games due to Dombrowski's injured knee. And Pierce responded by completing 78 of 109 passes for 976 yareds in those last five games. He broke his right ankle in the season finale against North Texas and missed all of spring practice recuperating.

Currently, Pierce is the No. 1 quarterback in fall practice, with Dombrowski slated as the backup. However, Aggie coaches along with Pierce and Dombrowski said the competition is wide open for the top spot.

"Buck is playing well and he's been sharp in practice," Aggies offensive coordinator Gerry Gdowski said. "Paul has been doing some good things as well. He's healthy after battling injuries. Both Paul and Buck are very good. They give us a lot of different options. Right now Buck is No. 1 and Paul is No. 2.

But the competition for the starting job is open. Both quarterbacks will get plenty of opportunities to do things. We probably won't name a quarterback until the week before our first game. Both quarterbacks are too good to be on the sidelines next to the coaches." The Aggies begin the 2004 season Sept. 4 at Arkansas.

"I'm going to play as well as I can and be as consistent as I can in fall practice," Pierce said. "I have to be ready to play every day, every practice and prior to every game.

Both me and Paul bring something different to the quarterback position. I'm more comfortable moving around the pocket and stretching the field. The quarterbacks have to be ready to play every week because of different situations, whether it be injury or a different game plan." Dombrowski said he's eager to take his shot at earning the starting quarterback, but added that he just wants a chance to contribute in any fashion.

Last year, the Aggies used both Pierce and Dombrowski as receivers in different sets. "I just want to play and have a chance to make some plays," Dombrowski said. "Whoever is the quarterback, the main thing is winning. We'll help each other out and try to help the other get better as players. I know I'll get a chance to compete for the starting job and I think that's great. I'll give it my best shot and I know Buck will to."

New Mexico State coach Tony Samuel said this year's starting quarterback will get a majority of the snaps in the game.

"I think last year Paul and Buck tried to compete against each other too much," Samuel said. "Both will get a chance to play this year, but the starter will see more time on the field at quarterback."

Pierce agreed that whoever the starter is should get more snaps in the game. "I think one quarterback will be able to gain more consistency and the starter should be allowed to experience the ups and downs of the game," he said. "But both me and Paul are good enough to be on the field. We can contribute in many ways and whoever doesn't start, can still help the team do many things."

If Pierce can stay healthy, his numbers prove he can be a regular states. He's completed 65.6 percent of his passes in three previous years with 14 passing touchdowns and 12 rushing scores. Dombrowski has also shown he can lead an offense. He's rushed for 1,259 yards in two seasons and rushed for 18 scores, while throwing 10 touchdown passes.

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