It was supposed to be the culmination of a historical season for New Mexico State. Fresno State had sputtered down the last month of the season. The Aggies were playing a sudo-home game. Instead, Fresno State looked like the team that raced out to a 5-0 start to the season. The game was never really in doubt as Fresno State won the New Mexico Bowl by scoring 37-10.
Reversal Of Momentum
Coming into the New Mexico Bowl, these teams were trending in the opposite direction. New Mexico State had all the momentum while Fresno State had stumbled into bowl season. Jerry Kill was preparing his team to play their 15th game (see Hawaii Exemption). An 11th victory would have been a feat only achieved one other time in program history. Meanwhile, Fresno State’s head coach Jeff Tedford had to step away from the program due to health reasons. So it was up to Tim Skipper to get Fresno State ready for the bowl game. Whatever he had told the team during the week clearly worked. The Aggies’ rushing attack seemingly had a matchup that they could exploit. In the last three games, Fresno State had allowed 313, 345, and 226 yards rushing. New Mexico State was averaging 204.14 yards on the ground per game. But tonight, the Bulldogs were bitting down hard on the Aggies’ offense.
Aggies’ Offense Stimeied By Bulldogs
New Mexico State was only able to muster 200 total yards of offense. In their first six drives of the game, the Aggies only had 13 yards total yards. For a team that wants to establish the run, falling behind early forced them to get away from what they want to do and become more reliant on the pass. New Mexico State quarterback Diego Pavia, who still wasn’t playing at 100%, finished the game 11-for-25 passing for only 58 yards and one interception. Nearly half of their offense came on their lone touchdown drive of the game that covered 75 yards on 14 plays in the third quarter.
Because New Mexico State was forced into so many obvious passing situations, the Fresno State defense pinned its ears back and got after Pavia. They finished the game with four sacks and seven tackles for loss. While the Aggie offense struggled to do anything, the defense did nothing to help the cause.
Fresno State Wins Thanks To Accurate Passing Attack
Much like how the defense had struggled down the stretch of the season, Fresno State quarterback Mikey Keene had battled injuries and couldn’t operate the offense efficiently. However, Keene looked crisp and healthy from the opening drive. Keene connected on his first 15 passes of the game, with his first miss coming as an interception in the second quarter. But that mistake did not slow his production down at all. Keene would finish the game 31-for-39 for 380 yards and three touchdowns. They had 10 different receptions that went for at least 15 yards.
Seven different receivers had at least three catches. On top of spreading the ball around, Keene spent much of the game in a clean pocket. New Mexico State did not ever have a single quarterback hurry recorded in the game, much less a sack. When combining the efficient night of Keene with an effective rushing attack, the Bulldogs simply could not be denied a New Mexico Bowl victory. Fresno State wins their final game of the season and saves a season that started with such promise. Meanwhile, New Mexico State may not have set school history, but still has plenty to feel good about from the 2023 season.