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NMSU football wants to make statement in final year in Sun Belt

NMSU football players were all smiles at the team’s media day Sunday afternoon, laughing and taking photos with one another.

But they don’t expect to be as jovial once the season begins.

New Mexico State football will no longer be a member of the Sun Belt Conference after the 2017 season. And that wasn’t by choice.

The Aggies were also picked to finish 10th out of 12 teams in the conference’s preseason coaches poll.

Needless to say, they have a few reasons to play a bit angry this season.

“Man, I hope they do. That’s all I talk to them about, is playing with a chip on your shoulder,” said head coach Doug Martin. “And not only that, but they need to understand that when people talk negatively about New Mexico State football, they’re not talking about New Mexico State, they’re talking about you as an individual player.”

Martin has a vote in the preseason poll and voted NMSU number one in the conference. That unwavering belief has trickled down to his players.

“The Sun Belt Conference is pretty wide open. It’s there for the taking,” said running back Larry Rose III. “So, whoever comes out on Saturday and wants it, they can have it. So, we feel like we can be number one in the Sun Belt.”

Jaden Wright, a defensive back who was named to the Bronko Nagurski Trophy watch list earlier this offseason, shares that sentiment.

“We want to go out with a bang. We think we are the best team in the conference, so we’re gonna go out and try to show it,” he said.

The Aggies open their season on the road at Arizona State on Aug. 31. While they say they aren’t looking too far beyond that game, they do have their eyes on a Sept. 23 matchup with UTEP – a team they haven’t beaten in the last eight contests.

“We have two rivals here. We have the University of New Mexico, who we did beat last year. Then we have UTEP, who we haven’t beaten in probably eight or nine years now,” said Martin. “So, those two games are going to always be important for all of our fans in this area. It’s important for our players, our coaches, and everybody.”

The Aggies will play rival UNM in Albuquerque on Sept. 9. The team will also travel to play Arkansas on Sept. 30.

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