Aggies Win 24-21 over MTSU

Las Cruces, N.M.--The New Mexico State Aggies (6-3, 4-0) completed their first undefeated home season in 35 years as they defeated the Middle Tennessee State University Blue Raiders (2-7, 1-3) 24-21 Saturday night at Aggie Memorial Stadium.

A pair of redshirt freshman led the way for the Aggies. Quarterback Paul Dombrowski rushed for 112 yards and a touchdown and linebacker Jimmy Cottrell intercepted a pass in the second quarter that led to a field goal and forced a fumble late in the game that led to the eventual game winning touchdown.

The last Aggie team to go undefeated at home was the 1967 squad, under the direction of Warren Woodson. Woodson's team went 5-0-1 at the old Aggie Memorial Stadium. The win also extended the Aggies' home winning streak to six games and the Aggies have won six of their last seven games.

A crowd of 19,562 saw history in the making and helped the Aggies set a new season home average attendance record of 22,162, breaking the old mark of 20,342 set in 1998.

Twenty-one Aggies seniors earned a Senior Day victory, something three of the last four senior classes have achieved.

The Aggie offense racked up 448 yards of total offense, including 294 rushing yards and 154 passing yards on 86 plays. NMSU had the ball for 36:28, 12:56 longer than MTSU. The MTSU offense recorded 346 total yards, including 300 yards rushing and 46 yards passing. MTSU gained 289 of their 346 yards in the second half.

The Aggie defense, although allowing a season-high 300 yards rushing, kept the MTSU air attack grounded, allowing only 46 yards passing on six attempts and had one interception. The defense also forced a fumble late in the fourth quarter that set up the eventual winning touchdown.

Leading the Aggies offensively was quarterback Paul Dombrowski (Hesperia, Calif., Sultana HS), rushing for 112 yards on 27 carries and one touchdown and passed for 154 yards and a touchdown, completing 13-of-22 passes. Dombrowski is the only Aggie quarterback to rush for more than 100 yards in multiple occasions in a season and for a career. Currently, Dombrowski has three 100-yard performances on the season.

Senior Walter Taylor (Hobbs, N.M., Hobbs HS) rushed for 92 yards on 15 carries and one touchdown. Tony Bostic (Stafford, Texas, Stafford HS) added 47 yards on 10 carries.

Senior H.B. Briscoe (Daly City, Calif., CC of San Francisco) led all Aggie receivers with 88 yards on three catches and one touchdown. P.J. Winston (Commerce, Texas, Commerce HS) added 59 yards on five catches.

Jimmy Cottrell (Castle Rock, Colo., Douglas Co. HS) led the Aggie defense, recording 14 tackles, including two tackles for a loss, half a sack, one interception and forced one fumble. Tim Patrick (Phoenix, Ariz., Glendale CC) recorded 12 tackles, one tackle for a loss and one sack.

MTSU and NMSU ended the first quarter in a scoreless tie, despite the Aggies out-gaining the Blue Raiders 135-17 and had the ball for almost seven more minutes than the Blue Raiders. The Aggie defense held strong, holding MTSU to two three-and-out possessions.

With 9:58 left in the second quarter, Dario Aguiniga (Tijuana, Mexico, Marian Catholic HS) put the Aggies on the board with a 29-yard field goal. Cottrell set up the score on an interception. The turnover was the first turnover forced by the Aggies in the last three games.

With 4:01 left in the second quarter, Dombrowski hooked up with Briscoe for 74 yards, giving the Aggies a 10-0 lead. The pass was the longest pass in Dombrowski's career and Briscoe's longest reception of his career. The pass was the first for more than 20 yards in the last two games and the longest pass play since K.C. Enzminger completed a 74-yard pass to P.J. Winston against the University of New Mexico on September 16, 2000.

The Aggies dominated the first half, taking a 10-0 lead to the locker room. The Aggie offense out-gained the Blue Raiders 258 to 57, including 116 yards passing and 142 yards rushing and held a 17:02-12:58 time of possession advantage. The Aggies had not shut out a team in the first half since shutting out the University of Louisiana-Monroe September 29, 2001.

Dombrowski led the Aggies offensively, gaining 44 yards on 12 carries and completed six-of-ten passes for 116 yards and one touchdown. Briscoe had two catches for 83 yards and a touchdown. The Aggie defense held MTSU to only two first downs in the half and forced one turnover.

The Blue Raiders made an important tactical change, moving tailback ReShard Lee to quarterback for the second half. The blue Raiders were playing without normal starter Andrico Hines and starter Andre Green was ineffective in the first half.

MTSU opened the second half by scoring on a 13-yard run by Lee, cutting the lead to 10-7 with 11:34 left in the quarter. The drive was highlighted by a 49-yard run by Dwone Hicks to set up the touchdown run by Lee.

With 3:39 left in the third quarter, Hicks gave the Blue Raiders a 14-10 lead on his three-yard touchdown run. The drive covered 70 yards on 10 plays and took 3:37 off the clock. Lee led the MTSU drive, rushing for 57 yards on four carries.

Taylor put the Aggies back on top with a two-yard touchdown run with 14:45 left in the game. The touchdown was set up by a pass interference call against MTSU on a third-and-long play, giving the Aggies a first down on the two yard line. The drive covered 80 yards on 11 plays and took 3:54 off the clock.

With 2:46 left in the game, Dombrowski extended the Aggie lead to 24-14 on a one-yard touchdown run. The Aggies got the ball at the 11 yard line after Cottrell forced a fumble that was recovered by Robert Candidate (Phoenix, Ariz., Glendale CC). The fumble came one play after the Aggies attempted a fake field goal, but came up short. On the previous drive, the Aggies successfully completed two fourth down conversions and took 7:02 off the clock.

With 1:08 left in the game, Lee scored on a 12-yard run, cutting the lead to 24-21. The drive covered 80 yards on six plays and took 1:37 off the clock. Lee completed his first pass attempt of the half on a 38-yard pass to David Youell, giving the Blue Raiders a first-and-10 at the NMSU 14 yard line.

After the score, MTSU attempted an onside kick, but wide receiver Chris Lumpkin recovered the ball and the Aggies ran out the clock to seal the victory.

For Middle Tennessee, Hicks ran for 120 yards on 20 carries and one touchdown. Lee added 116 yards on nine carries and scored two touchdowns. All of Lee's 116 yards came in the second half of the game.

The MTSU quarterbacks went three-for-six and had one interception. Lee was one-for-two for 38 yards and Andre Green was two-for-four for eight yards and one interception.

Will Martin and Sheldon Durham led the Blue Raider defense, recording 16 tackles each, with Durham recording one tackle for a loss. Randy Arnold added 10 tackles and one tackle for a loss.

The Aggies next head to Logan, Utah, to take on the Utah State Aggies Saturday, November 9, for a non-conference game. The game is set to start at 1 p.m. MST.

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