LAS CRUCES, NM - COURTESY: NMSU Athletics: The New Mexico State football team opened its season with a 49-19 victory over Sacramento State inside Aggie Memorial Stadium.
Sophomore quarterback Andrew Manley and sophomore wide receiver Austin Franklin led the Aggie offense with career-high performances. Manley finished with a career-high 367 passing yards and three touchdowns on a 14-of-22 showing through the air. Franklin recorded a career-high 236 receiving yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Defensively, junior linebacker Trashaun Nixon led the team with 15 tackles, his first career double-digit tackle performance. Junior linebacker Bryan Bonilla and senior safety Davis Cazares also finished with double-digit tackles. Bonilla finished with 11 tackles, his second career double-digit tackle performance, while Davis finished with 10, his first career double-figures performance.
After NM State went three-and-out on its opening drive, Sacramento State received the ball and proceeded to use the no-huddle offense to drive down deep into Aggie territory. The Hornets were also aided by a pass interference call on NM State on a fourth-and-11 play. A couple of false starts and dropped passes, however, forced Sacramento State to settle for a 38-yard field goal attempt, which junior kicker Edward Canstaneda proceeded to miss wide right.
The Aggies took advantage of the Hornet miscues capping a five play, 79-yard drive with a 52-yard Manley pass to Franklin for a touchdown.
NM State's defense stiffened up after its initial struggle, allowing only one first down during the Hornet's next three drives. The Aggies led 7-0 after the first quarter.
The Aggies started their first possession of the second quarter at their own 21 yard line. After an initial first down, Manley once again found Franklin for a big 50-yard pass that put the ball on the Hornets' 19 yard line. NM State then received the ball on the two-yard line after a pass interference call on Sacramento State's Todd Davis in the end zone. On the next play, junior running back Tiger Powell punched it in for his first career touchdown as an Aggie, which gave the Crimson and White a 14-0 lead.
After Sacramento State went three-and-out on its next possession, NM State started on its own 44 yard line and once again drove the ball down the field. Manley threw his second long touchdown of the game when he found junior wide receiver Jerrel Brown on a 50-yard pass play. The catch was Brown's longest reception of his career.
Sacramento State finally got on the board with 2:35 left in the half, when Castaneda hit a 32-yard field goal to cut into NM State's lead, 21-3. It took only two plays, however, for the Aggies to strike right back. Manley connected with Franklin once again, this time for an 84-yard touchdown pass that gave NM State a commanding 28-3 lead. Franklin finished the first half with a career-high 188 receiving yards, while Manley finished the half with 284 passing yards and three touchdowns.
Unfortunately for NM State, the Hornets also had a little bit left before halftime and mounted their own quick drive, which ended in an eight-yard touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Garret Safron to wide receiver DeAndre Carter on a fourth-and-seven play with 17 seconds left in the half. The Aggies went into the locker room with a 28-10 advantage.
Sacramento State started the second half like it finished the first, scoring on the first two drives. The Hornets' first drive of the third quarter ended with a 25-yard field goal by Castaneda. After an Aggie punt, the Hornets went on a six-play, 88-yard drive capped off by 25-yard touchdown pass from Safron to senior tight end TJ Knowles. The ensuing extra point was blocked by NM State's senior Donte Savage, keeping the Aggie lead at nine, 28-19, midway through the third quarter.
The Aggie defense, which had been solid all night, finally came up with the game's first turnover in the waning moments of the third quarter. Senior defensive lineman Desmond Anaya hit Safron on a quarterback keeper, dislodging the ball. Senior nose tackle Walton Taumoepeau quickly fell on the ball at Sacramento State's 38-yard line.
Unfortunately for Sacramento State, the fumble would be the first of three turnovers in the second half of the game. And NM State capitalized on each one of the turnovers, scoring the game's final 21 points.
After the Safron fumble, the Aggies quickly turned the turnover into points, aided by a late-hit personal foul penalty on Hornets' senior safety Ryan McMahon. Redshirt junior Germi Morrison finished off the six-play, 38-yard drive with a 12-yard touchdown run up the left side, his first career touchdown as an Aggie, extending NM State's lead to 35-19.
After the teams exchanged punts, the Hornets took the ball at their own 42-yard line. On the first play of the drive, Safron dropped back to pass, but the ball slipped out of his hands as he went into his throwing motion. Savage quickly fell on the ball for NM State at the Sacramento State 34-yard line. It was Savage's third career fumble recovery.
It took the Aggies only four plays and 1:37 to once again covert the turnover into a touchdown. Powell finished off the short drive with a two-yard run up the middle for his second touchdown of the game. NM State took a commanding 42-19 lead with 6:45 left in the game.
The Aggie defense once again came up big on the Hornets' next play from scrimmage. Senior cornerback Jeremy Harris intercepted a pass from Safron at the Sacramento State 28-yard line. NM State then finished off the game and the Hornets with a five-yard touchdown run up the middle by senior running back Robert Clay making the final score 49-19.