LAS CRUCES — New Mexico State improved to 3-5 this season with a 23-13 win at Massachusetts on Saturday to end a 21-game losing streak on the road.
The Aggies trailed 10-0 early and 13-10 at halftime, but as has been the case this season, the Aggies defense stiffened in the second half, keeping UMass off the scoreboard and now UMass to 85 total yards in the second half with 27 rushing yards and UMass finished the game 3 for 15 on third down.
It was a complete team performance, especially in the second half as quarterback Diego Pavia led the return from the bench and kicker Ethan Albertson was 3 for 3 on field goals with two marks from over 40 yards out.
Here are three takeaways from NM State’s win on Saturday:
Aggies Generate Explosion Games
Aggies head coach Jerry Kill compared the UMass defense to New Mexico’s aggressive and cheerful defense, and freshman quarterback Gavin Frakes struggled, completing 7 of 13 for 29 yards before Pavie entered the game in the second quarter.
With UMass focused on stopping the run (NM State averages 3.5 yards per carry), Pavie finished Game 7 for 12 passes for 194 yards and two touchdowns and made plays on the field that the Aggies n haven’t connected consistently this season.
NM State averaged 15.9 yards per completion in the passing game with five passing plays over 15 yards and Frakes and Pavia had rushes over 20 yards.
Pavia connected for 30 yards to Justice Powers, who had three receptions for 81 yards with two plays over 30 yards, as well as a pass interference penalty in the third quarter.
Pavia’s first touchdown pass of the season was a 39-yard strike off running back Jamoni Jones and Pavia completed an unmissable 88-yard drive with a 27-yard touchdown pass to Terrell Warner that extended the lead to 10 points in the fourth quarter.
“We worked on the deep shot last week and this week,” Pavia said. “If it comes down to that, I’ll take a 50-50 ball with our receivers every time.”
The Aggies receivers won their matchups on Saturday and Pavia was able to deliver the ball for his best game of the season.
The Aggies enter the Top 50 in total defense
New Mexico State has faced some of the worst offensive teams in the nation this season, but similarly the Aggies have struggled offensively, forcing the defense to play well every week.
After holding UMass to 259 yards, the Aggies are No. 48 in total defense, giving up 360 yards per game. The Aggies are No. 17 in pass defense, giving up 182 yards per game and in five games against Pool 5 opponents this season, the Aggies are allowing just 18.2 points per game.
Ethan Albertson is back
Albertson struggled early in the season, connecting on 1 of 4 on field goals.
Kill said Saturday that Alberson’s confidence was not only low, but he was hurt as well.
In his first action in several weeks, Albertson was 3-for-3 on field goals Saturday with marks of 41, 30 and 43 yards and all of them critical.
Jason Groves can be reached at 575-541-5459 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @jproves.