By Dave Burge
“Words can’t explain how excited I am, honestly.”
With that, New Mexico State University quarterback Weston Eget summed up what the school’s players and fans are thinking after nearly two years without meaningful games.
The Aggies began their fall training on July 30 and open their home season on August 28 against rival UTEP.
The state of New Mexico was one of only two FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) teams to have their entire season canceled last year due to the pandemic. The other was Connecticut.
The Aggies played a shortened two-game spring season in an empty Sun Bowl at rival UTEP’s El Paso campus. The games were treated more like scrimmages, but gave the team a huge head start going into the 2021 season.
By playing a few games, they were able to train more under NCAA rules — 15 for a normal spring versus almost 40 with games.
“These are really uncharted waters for any program,” NMSU coach Doug Martin said in an interview ahead of the start of fall practice.
“I’m really proud of our players, the way they handled things, the coaching staff for the way they were deployed and recruited to help us,” continued Martin. “We are delighted to be back on the pitch. “
Martin is also excited about the collection of talented players he has on offense and improving team speed on both sides of the ball.
He even said that a bowl berth is not unrealistic. In 2017, the Aggies enjoyed one of their most memorable seasons in school history – beating Utah State 26-20 in the Arizona Bowl. It was their first bowling spot and their first bowling victory in 57 years.
“Our offense can carry us and put us in a position to win games,” said Martin. “I think we’ve made a lot of progress defensively. We will be a much faster team in defense. The Dixie State game (win 36-29 last March) is a good model of what we can look like. Our attack played well. We put a lot of points on the board and our defense woke up and neutralized them. It was a great team victory. This is what it will take for us. We have to be a good team.
To get back to a bowl game, they’ll need an improved quarterback game, and Martin said they have two “really good” candidates to play the role Tyler Rogers played on that bowl team. .
Eget is a redshirt freshman from California. The other lead nominee is Jonah Johnson, a junior transfer from Fresno City College.
“I am super excited; the whole team are super excited, ”said Eget during the team media day. “We’ll be ready to rock and roll on August 28” when the season opens.
Eget says he and Johnson both have a host of talented teammates to hand the ball to and “let them do their thing.”
“I talk to the players every day, and they say they would love to be able to jump every day and go straight to game day,” he said.
In July, the state of New Mexico announced it would allow 100% capacity for all home sporting events. Keeping Our Fingers Crossed Covid doesn’t change that, but the prospect of a full Aggie Memorial Stadium is enticing for fans and players alike.
“I think it will be electric,” he said. “Last time, of course, there was no one in the crowd (last spring), so it was a little weird.”
Johnson, the other quarterback candidate, said he arrived on campus just before the pandemic hit.
“I barely had the opportunity to find out what it was like to go to class and interact with other people,” he said. “I’m delighted to come back and have 100% game capacity, and really feel what it’s like to play real college football.”
Johnson said he was ready to jump in and see what anyone can do.
“We look good,” he said. “We have a lot of talent, but we have to get the guys to acclimatize and get started. “
One of those teammates who will definitely bring a ton of skill and speed to the field is junior O’Maury Samuels, a transfer from Michigan who grew up about a three-hour drive to Los Lunas.
Samuels has not played football for three years. He missed 2019 due to NCAA transfer rules and last year the Aggies season was cut short by the pandemic.
Now Samuels says he’s back home with the Aggies and ready to play football.
“I’m happy to be able to represent this state and represent New Mexico state football and move this thing forward,” Samuels said. “I’ve been waiting a long time.
It’s an expectation that is coming to an end for players and fans alike. Two weeks and counting until the UTEP match.