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The New Mexico State University athletic department promoted a fireworks display Wednesday, Oct. 4, after the football team’s first Conference-USA home game, as well as the Aggies’ first-ever Wednesday contest.
However, the real fireworks came during the game itself, as a handful of big plays drove NM State to a 34-17 victory over Florida International.
An evenly played first half, which ended with the teams tied at 14, featured a 49-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Diego Pavia to wide receiver Jordin Parker.
After the teams traded field goals in the third quarter, the game was tied at 17.
On the very first play from scrimmage in the fourth quarter, Pavia ran the ball, found a hole in the FIU line and broke through, going all the way for a 43-yard touchdown run. That put the Aggies up 24-17, a lead they would never relinquish.
Even a seemingly small fourth quarter Star Thomas 3-yard touchdown run was preceded by a big 32-yard run by Ahmonte Watkins and a 26-yard pass from Pavia to Bryce Childress. Thomas’ TD put the Aggies up 31-17 with 10:35 left in the game.
Maybe the most important big play took place a few minutes later, not while the Aggies were on offense, but on defense.
With the Aggies leading 31-17, and 8:52 left in the game, Florida International was knocking on the door at NMSU’s 5-yard-line. A touchdown would have put the Panthers just seven points down with plenty of time.
However, when FIU’s freshman quarterback Keyone Jenkins threw to an open receiver in the end zone, an Aggie defender tipped it up, and NMSU’s Andre Seldon came down with the interception.
Florida International did not threaten again, and the Aggies managed a game-sealing field goal from Ethan Albertson with 1:12 left to finish the scoring.
"I think we're getting closer," Aggie coach Jerry Kill said after the game. "Defense, offense helped each other out and then our special teams were solid tonight. It's not exactly where I want to be – but we're learning."
The Aggies will play again next Wednesday night, in another Conference-USA home game, kicking off at 7 p.m. against Sam Houston at Aggie Memorial Stadium. They’ll follow that with a Wednesday game in El Paso playing rival UTEP Oct. 18.