A few weeks ago I wrote about a drought of epic proportions that did not have to do with the state of California. No, it was about a 57 year bowl drought that my alma mater, New Mexico State University, was in the midst of. I wrote that this could be the year if the team could get a win against UTEP.
Well, they did, and they did.
This team finally did it. This team did something that I thought might never happen. It felt like a dark storm cloud was hovering over Las Cruces, NM and was destined to stay there forever. This team did things that have not been done in decades starting with a game against the University of Idaho.
The Aggies were 4-6 and staring another season without a bowl appearance dead in the face with home games against Idaho and South Alabama. Both winnable games, but storm clouds don’t seem to care if you are favored to win.
And this storm cloud decided to rear its ugly head.
During the previous game against Louisiana Lafayette, quarterback Tyler Rogers injured a shoulder and was unable to play against Idaho. In a must win game the Aggies had to turn to their backup quarterback and hope he could get the job done.
He played well, but the shining star was the defense. The Aggie defense held Idaho to 10 points while registering 11 sacks as a team. Tack on a couple interceptions and the unit that led the Aggies to win in a win or go home game was the defense. Not the offense, the defense. Again, things that have not been done in decades.
The following week, in the last week of the season and needing one win for bowl eligibility, the Aggies faced South Alabama at home. The Aggies got their starting quarterback and were favored to win. All signs pointed to an “easy” victory and a clear path to bowl eligibility. But again, storm clouds.
This team struggled, and with damn good reason. They felt the pressure of a two ton gorilla on their backs and the expectations of 60 years’ worth of Aggies on them. Myself included. Every week that led to every losing season added to the weight. These kids heard it all week about how they had to win this game. Saw the t-shirts of “Make History” being passed out and the pressure understandably got to them.
In a game where most believed the Aggies were the superior team, here they were. Down by 1 point with time ticking away in the fourth quarter. The storm clouds hovered and threatened to open up on Aggie Memorial Stadium (figuratively of course).
The thoughts began to creep back into my mind. This is NMSU were talking about. They are destined to be the college football punch line for the rest of time. They can’t win. I legitimately wanted to cry because of all the people that wanted this to happen and all the hard work these kids put in. I did not want them to let this golden opportunity slip away.
On the final drive, it seemed that for the first time in what seems like forever, dominoes started to fall the way of the Aggies. Just when it looked like the fate of a NMSU bowl game was going to be left to a field goal, it happened.
A phenomenal job of extending the play and rolling out of the pocket, with a phenomenal scramble drill by the wide receiver coupled with a great catch and, pandemonium. The Aggies scored a touchdown. The Aggies took the lead. I screamed like a girl. Seriously ask my family.
Still, with 45 seconds left I felt a sinking feeling that a punch in the gut was coming. Somehow South Alabama would score and Las Cruces would be crushed. Decades of Aggies would be crushed. The defense bowed their backs and after a deflected pass the last seconds ticked off the clock. The clouds parted. The sun shined through. The two ton gorilla let go and jumped off the back of this program.
I am not sure there is another school in the country that would be justified in rushing the field after beating a 4-7 team to achieve their sixth win of the season to finish 6-6. But the Aggies deserved it. For all of us alumni that poured our hearts, souls, and body parts into it, they deserved it.
This senior class achieved things that their
predecessors could only dream of. They won more games in one year than I won in two years playing football in Las Cruces, and I could not be happier for them.
The greatest thing I saw was the outpouring of support from former players and classmates of mine on social media. Seeing guys like Julian Edelman congratulate the man that gave him the chance to play college football in Doug Martin. It felt like a dream, it still does.
And do not discount this opinion as an overreaction from someone too close to the situation, this team and head coach has cemented itself in NMSU football history. Doug Martin should have his name honored on top of the Fulton Center along with other “Aggie Legends”. Larry Rose, Jaleel Scott, and Terrill Hanks along with so many more should have their names immortalized in that stadium.
It has only been a few days since history was made but I have already seen dozens of former players who say they will be at this bowl game. The game is only a few hours from me so of course I will be there. I cannot wait to celebrate with all of my former teammates and celebrate this team that had us wobbling in our shoes all year.
I still get goose bumps thinking and writing about this. This will be one of those things I will remember for the rest of my life. Where I was, how it happened, all of it.
More than anything, I am so glad that NMSU got rid of that two ton gorilla that seemed to have a death grip on this program for so long. We can breathe a little easier. And win or lose, we will all be proud of this team and the things they have accomplished.
But when we win, we’ll buy a keg of booze, and we’ll drink it to the Aggies till we wobble in our shoes.