In a game both teams -- Idaho and New Mexico State -- appeared to be trying to lose, Holt went for the win. Down by one point in double overtime, Idaho went for, and scored, a two-point conversion to win the game 38-37.
Instead of kicking sending the game to a third overtime, Holt left the fate of the classic Western Athletic Conference shootout in the hands of a pair of juniors who were having career nights.
Quarterback Steven Wichman (career-high 489 yards passing and four touchdowns) found Daniel Smith (school-record 269 yards receiving) across the middle of the end zone for the game-winning two-point conversion, hushing a shocked NMSU Homecoming crowd of 11,325 at Aggie Memorial Stadium. The deciding play came only after the Aggies had stopped the Vandals once, but then were penalized for lining up off sides.
"We did everything we could to give this game away," said senior Aggie linebacker Jimmy Cottrell. "The effort was there, but we have got to make plays. This was the first time that we had to play four quarters likes this and maybe the inexperience of not having to do that this year hurt us."
The two teams, who combined for 1,067 yards of offense, each had their chances to win. The two also combined for 21 penalties for 160 yards and six tunovers.
"It was a team loss," NMSU head coach Hal Mumme said. "We could have done a better job of coaching. There will be no finger pointing. It was a team loss and we gave a good effort."
In the first overtime period with the game tied at 30, Aggie cornerback Courtney Bryan dropped a would be interception, but that was followed by safety Alex Bernard's interception of a tipped pass. It appeared Bernard returned the interception 90 yards for the clinching win, but a referee determined Bernard stepped out of bounds at the Idaho 30-yard-line.
The Aggies took over possession, but couldn't move the ball effectively for three plays, setting up a 4th-and-19. Hal Mumme opted not to try a 51-yard field goal by Conor Foley, who missed one extra point, had one blocked and missed a field goal on the night. But quarterback Joey Vincent found receiver Derek Dubois streaking across the middle for a first down and more. Dubios, who had four catches for 69 yards and one touchdown, eluded several Vandal tacklers and stretched out from the 3-yard-line trying for a game-winning touchdown. He instead fumbled the ball out of bounds through the side of the endzone, giving Idaho possession and ending the first overtime scoreless.
"Derek just tried to make a play," Mumme said. "He's just got to realize the situation we're in. He has to maintain focus and just make the right play. He'll learn from this."
Idaho jumped out to a 14-point lead early before Vincent stepped in to spell an injured Royal Gill (achilles) with 21 seconds left in a first quarter which saw the Aggies gain only one first down.
In the second quarter alone, Vincent showed just how bad he wanted his starting job back. He completed 15-of-19 passes for 196 yards and three touchdowns, including a six-play, 66-yard scoring drive with 16 seconds left in the half that gave the Aggies (0-8, 0-4 in the WAC) their first lead of the season at 21-14.
Vincent ended the game completing 27-of-43 passes for 340 yards, three touchdowns, one interception and he added 46 yards rushing.
"Joey did a great job coming off the bench," Mumme said. "He made some very good decisions."
Justine Buries again reached the 100-yard plateau for the Aggies on 26 carries and one touchdown.
To open the game, Idaho (2-6, 2-3) appeared poised for a breakout performance. The Vandals moved the ball through the air with ease on the game's opening drive as Wichman connected on all three of his pass attempts for 56 yards, including a 45-yard strike to a wide open Smith on a post pattern.
The extra point made it a 7-0 Vandal lead just 1:53 into the game.
Idaho's defense was equally up to the task early, forcing a three and out on New Mexico State's first possession and stiffling Mumme's "Air Raid" offense early in the game.
Vandal linebacker Cole Snyder, second in the WAC in tackles coming into the game, finished with 17 tackles, but remains five tackles behind Cottrell who had 19 for teh Aggies and now stands at 110 for the season. He is also third all time in school history (he passed Leo Barker and Fredd Young on Saturday).
Idaho tailback Rolly Lumbala ran 21 times for 76 yards.
Vandal kicker/punter Mike Barrow had a good outing, pinning the Aggies twice inside the 10-yard-line with punts and hitting field goals of 47, 31 and a game tying 19-yarder with 1:21 left in regulation.
Aggie receiver Tim Tolbert lead the receiving charge for NMSU in his return from a shoulder injury, catching seven balls for 120 yards and one touchdown.
The Aggies play at Boise State next week.