The Sports Inquirer attended the Sun Belt Media Day presser of New Mexico State football head coach Doug Martin in New Orleans on July 24. Topics included thoughts on the team, seeking improvement from the 2016 campaign and preparing to become an independent program in 2018.
By E. Marcel Pourtout, Editor
An 11-yard touchdown pass from Tyler Rogers to Teldrick Morgan with 15 seconds to play completed an improbable comeback victory for New Mexico State capped a wild comeback as New Mexico State rallied for a 34-31 victory against Georgia State on Saturday.
It was the Sun Belt Conference opener for both squads.
The Aggies (2-0, 1-0) scored 17 fourth-quarter points to secure the win.
Georgia State outgained New Mexico State in total yardage 456-435 but had four turnovers in the contest.
“We had too many turnovers and self-destructed,” Georgia State coach Trent Miles said. “We allowed them to get back into the game and our guys have to learn how to finish when you get up on an opponent.”
After trailing through the entire contest, New Mexico State took its first lead of the game on a five-yard touchdown pass from Rodgers to Joseph Matthews, making the score 27-24 with 8:04 left in the game. Rodgers finished the contest with 241 yards passing and three touchdowns.
The Panthers responded with a 13-play, 86-yard drive which led to a one-yard quarterback sneak for a touchdown by Nick Arbuckle, regaining the lead at 31-27 before the Aggies’ final drive.
Arbuckle finished the contest with a game-high 294 yards passing with two interceptions.
Leading 17-10 at halftime, the Panthers drove the ball down the field on their first possession of the second half culminating in a 54-yard touchdown run by Krysten Hammon. It was the fourth-longest run in program history and the third-longest touchdown rush. The score gave Georgia State a 24-10 lead early in the third quarter.
Hammon had a game-high 127 yards rushing on 25 carries.
The Aggies pulled in within seven points later in the third quarter on a 36-yard touchdown catch by Morgan, making the score 24-17 which it remained heading into the fourth quarter.
The Panthers struck first on their opening possession of the contest on a 68-yard TD pass on a slant pattern up the middle from Arbuckle to Donovan Harden.
The Aggies turned the ball over on a fumble by Rodgers which was recovered by Bryan Williams late in the first quarter.
Georgia State subsequently increased the lead on its next possession with a 38-yard field goal by Wil Lutz, making the score 10-0 with 2:01 left in the first quarter.
The Panthers forced two turnovers in the first quarter. Georgia State also held the passing yards advantage 119-18 in the first 15 minutes of the contest.
Hammon’s eight-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter increased the Panthers’ lead to 17-0.
The Aggies got on the board with 4:15 left in the first half with a 41-yard field goal by Maxwell Johnson, making the score 17-3. New Mexico State’s scoring drive went for 56 yards on 12 plays and took 3:50.
The Aggies got another score late in the second quarter on a 40-yard interception return for a touchdown by Rodney Butler, cutting the Panthers’ lead to 17-10.
In the first half, Georgia State outgained New Mexico State 258-180 in total yards.
Joseph Peterson recorded 15 tackles for the Panthers, one off his school record of 16 set last year against Troy. Williams had eight tackles, an interception — the first of his career — and a fumble recovery. Georgia State forced three turnovers on the game.
By E. Marcel Pourtout, Editor
After a thrilling 38-37 season-opening victory over Abilene Christian last week, the Georgia State football returns to face fellow Sun Belt Conference member New Mexico State this Saturday at the Georgia Dome. It will be the conference opener for both squads who won their opening week contests.
The Panthers’ victory last week snapped a 16-game losing streak that dated back to October 2012. Georgia State went winless in 12 contests last season.
“There’s a little bit more pep in their step which I think is natural when you win,” coach Trent Miles said. “But we had a pep in our step before the game. It always reinforces and helps and keeps you going in the right direction to win. Especially getting the monkey off your back of not winning for a whole season so obviously they’re bouncing around a little bit.”
Georgia State’s comeback win from nine points down in the fourth quarter was led by quarterback Nick Arbuckle who had a game-high 413 yards passing and four touchdowns.
“When we were down he came back and didn’t lose his composure and made some good decisions with the football and led the team,” Miles said. “He really did some good things with the football and did a great job from the leadership standpoint getting us in the right plays and protections and making good decisions.”
Overall, the Panthers’ offense had a school-record 556 yards of total offense against Abilene Christian.
Georgia State tight end Joel Ruiz caught seven passes for 111 yards and two touchdowns. He received the national honor of being named the John Mackey Tight End of the Week.
Panthers’ wide receivers LynQuez Blair (eight receptions for 118 yards) and Robert Davis (eight receptions for 90 yards) also had strong contests with Blair grabbing a touchdown catch as well.
Georgia State welcomes in a New Mexico State squad that also won its season-opener, a 28-10 home win over Cal Poly last week. Aggies’ freshman running back Larry Rose III ran for 149 yards on 30 carries and scored a touchdown. Quarterback Tyler Rodgers threw for 158 yards and two touchdowns.
“We’re going to be playing against a team that offensively can move the ball against anybody,” Miles said. “ Rose a very versatile back and you’ve got to give his offensive line credit as well for making the holes. We’re going to have our hands full.”
The Panthers will rely on linebackers Joseph Peterson, who collected 11 tackles and an interceptions against Abilene, and Jarrell Robinson who had four tackles for loss, including two sacks in the victory. The coaching staff would like to see improvement from the defensive unit which gave up 400 yards of passing to Abilene.
“As coaches we are always looking for more but I thought the front seven did a great job defending the run but then they were throwing it all over the field,” Miles said. We have a great bunch of coaches and players and we’re going to improve on things for New Mexico State.”
The team’s approach this week hasn’t altered due to playing last Wednesday as opposed to Saturday or having its first conference contest.
“In FBS, you get 12 games and that’s it,” Miles concluded. “Every game is important, every game is approached as the Super Bowl. Every game in college football is huge so there is none bigger than the other for us.”