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By MARTY RACINE
For the Bulletin
Enduring a gut-wrenching, endless contest that neither team seemed capable of winning, New Mexico State University might have salvaged a football season with its homecoming double overtime win against the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns.
The emotionally draining 37-31 victory, hinging on a series of game-changing plays, was a testament to the Aggies’ resilience after they had blown a sure win in regulation --- on a missed field goal from PAT territory as time expired ---and keeps their heads up for the remaining schedule.
At 2-3, they’ll travel to Idaho Oct. 15, following a bye week. The Vandals are also 2-3 and 0-1 in the Sun Belt Conference after last week’s 34-13 loss to Troy. Their other defeats were routs to national powerhouse Washington and neighboring upstart Washington State. They’ve beaten UNLV and Montana State and face Louisiana Monroe Saturday.
Aaron Duckworth is Idaho’s one-man rushing attack, averaging 65 yards a game. Matt Linehan has 902 passing yards on the season, finding 10 different receivers while compiling a 105.7 quarterback rating.
Expect both teams to let it fly.
While Larry Rose III ran for 97 yards against UL-Lafayette, NMSU went airborne to dictate its scheme. Quarterback Tyler Rogers coolly spread the field to five receivers, completing 28 passes for 319 yards. The offensive tempo --- 31 first downs --- eased the pressure on the team’s beleaguered defense.
The crisp passing opened the Aggies’ final drive of regulation, with the score tied at 24. Then, moving downfield with the clock on their side, they methodically kept it on the ground, pounding to the 3, between the hashes. Timeout. Three seconds left.
What ensued made for a frantic finish that left everyone in Aggie Memorial Stadium stunned.
Kicker Parker Davidson, a sophomore who had earlier connected on a 33-yarder, shanks his 20-yard game-winner wide right as the gun sounds.
After the Aggies score a touchdown to start overtime (Rogers to Greg Hogan), The Ragin’ Cajuns match it by recovering their own fumble in the end zone.
In the second overtime, the Aggies choose to start on defense; UL-Lafayette’s normally reliable kicker Stevie Artigue, who had already hit from 47 yards, clanks a 22-yarder off the left upright.
With a shot at redemption, the Aggies fumble at the 14. Linebacker Tre’Maine Lightfoot, who was active all night for the Ragin’ Cajuns, strips Rogers, but Rogers recovers.
New Mexico State University running back Larry Rose III looks for yardage while surrounded by a host of teammates Saturday, Oct. 1 at Aggie Memorial Stadium. NMSU won its second game of the season with a doubleovertime victory against Louisiana-Lafayette.
BULLETIN PHOTO BY CHRISTOPHER BELARDE