The Aggies hope to begin making amends for 2003 today when they meet Arkansas of the Southeastern Conference at Reynolds Razorback Stadium in the season opener for both teams.
"We've had a good fall camp, we had a good summer in preparation for the opener," New Mexico State junior linebacker Jimmy Cottrell said. "We have to go out there and execute and play together as a team."
The Aggies, picked by the league coaches to finish third in the Sun Belt Conference, will lean heavily on senior quarterback Buck Pierce, sophomore I-back Tony Joseph and senior right guard Steve Subia.
Pierce has completed 65 percent of his passes in his career, Subia has started 24 consecutive games and Joseph had four 100-yard plus games last season.
The Aggies also will try and reverse last year's trend, which saw them score just four fourth-quarter touchdowns, one of the key reasons -- along with turnovers -- they lost several close games.
"We want to forget about some of the things from last year, but we have to remember some of the things we did to," Pierce said. "We have to remember that we scored only four fourth-quarter touchdowns last year. We have to remember our turnover margin.
"We are going to go in knowing what we've got to do to be successful. I think that's something we've lacked a little bit in the past. That's what we've emphasized during camp."
Running backs Justin Buries and Muammar Ali also could see plenty of time against Arkansas since Joseph has missed much of fall camp with a sore right foot. Joseph is expected to play today, but how much is uncertain.
Pierce will be throwing to a new crop of receivers. Gone are Ronshay Jenkins and Chris Duncan. In are Tim Tolbert, Preston Williams and Anthony Lonon.
Pierce also will work behind a line which features veterans Subia, Nick Cole and Kyle Smith, and newcomers Mike Martinez at center and Justin Shopbell at left guard.
Arkansas returns just one full-time starter on offense, but that starter is a good one in senior quarterback Matt Jones. The 6-foot, 237-pounder threw for 1,917 yards last year and ran for 707 yards. New Mexico State knows him well as Jones accounted for four scores in a 48-20 Arkansas win last November in Fayetteville.
Last year Jones scored three touchdowns in the third quarter as Arkansas pulled away from NMSU, which had drawn within 21-17 early in the third quarter.