(Courtesy: NMSU Athletics)
LAS CRUCES, New Mexico - For just the fourth time in program history and first since the undefeated season in 1960, the Aggies will enter a game riding an eight-game win streak as they compete in the Conference USA Championship game versus No. 20 Liberty in Lynchburg, Va., on Friday night.
#RV NM State (10-3, 7-1 CUSA) vs. #20 Jax State (12-0, 8-0 CUSA)
Date: Friday, December 1, 2023
Time: 5:00 p.m. MT
TV: CBS Sports Networks
- Rich Waltz (Play-by-Play)
- Aaron Taylor (Color Analyst)
- Amanda Guerra (Sideline)
Radio: The Aggie Radio Network, Powered by LEARFIELD
- Jack Nixon (PxP)
- Cory Lucas (Color Analyst)
8 - For the second time in program history, NM State has tallied double digit wins, joining the 1960 team who finished the season 11-0 as the only other Aggie team to accomplish this feat.
4 - A win in Friday's CUSA title bout would give the Aggies their fourth conference championship in the history of the program.
19.7 - By holding opposing offenses to just 19.7 points per game, NM State finished the regular season as the number one scoring defense in CUSA and the 20th-ranked scoring defense in the country.
16 - With 186 rushing yards on Saturday versus Jax State, NM State extended its streak of games with 170 rushing yards or more to 16 games dating back to last season.
5 - With five home wins, this Aggie team is now in rare company as NM State has only won five home games in a season one other time since 1945.
18 - At 13.70 yards per completion, quarterback Diego Pavia ranks 18th in the nation in this category.
On Friday, the Aggies will take on fellow first-year CUSA member in Liberty who is currently ranked No. 20 in the AP poll and is one of just five remaining undefeated teams at the FBS level.
This marks the first time in history that the Aggie football program will play in a conference championship game and a win would give NM State its fourth conference title in program history and the first since 1978 when it was crowned champions of the Missouri Valley Conference. The Aggies also won the Border Conference in 1960 and were co-champs of the Border Conference in 1938.
The 2023 CUSA Football Championship is scheduled for Friday, Dec. 1, at 5 p.m. MT, in Lynchburg, Va., where Liberty will host inside Williams Stadium. Fans unable to make the trip to the Old Dominion can watch the game on CBS Sports Network.
LAST TIME OUT VERSUS LIBERTY
In the CUSA Championship bout, NM State will face off with Liberty for the second time this season and will be looking for revenge after falling to the Flames 33-17 in Lynchburg on Sept. 9 when the two sides collided for each program's inaugural CUSA competition.
In the first meeting, the Aggies got out to a hot start - scoring on its opening drive before coming away with a turnover on the Flames' second drive of the game. Eventually, Liberty would take a six-point lead into the break. Unfortunately, the Aggies were unable to score any points in the second half - allowing Liberty to claim its second win of the season.
In the game, the Aggies were led on offense by Diego Pavia who threw for 150 yards and one touchdown while also adding a team-high 65 rushing yards. On the opposing side, Kaidon Salter completed 15 passes for 276 yards and two touchdowns. Salter's top target was CJ Daniels who racked up 129 receiving yards which was the most by any Aggie opponent until Saturday when Jax State wide receiver Perry Carter went for 134 yards.
Friday's meeting will also mark the third time that the Aggies and Flames will collide in the span of 370 days with all three games taking place in Lynchburg. NM State also made the trip east late last year when they knocked off the Flames 49-14 thanks to a six-touchdown performance from Diego Pavia.
MONSTERS OF THE MESILLA VALLEY
In the first three games of the season, Aggie opponents averaged 31.7 points per game. Since then, Nate Dreiling and Melvin Rice have the NM State defense clicking as the last ten opposing offenses are averaging 16.1 points per game.
This includes performances against UTEP and Middle Tennessee in which they held the opposition to just seven points apiece.
This also includes a nationally resounding showing against Auburn in which the Tigers scored only 10 points - joining Texas A&M and Georgia as the only other two programs to hold the Tigers to 10 or fewer points across the last two seasons.
Against Middle Tennessee, this stout defense proved to be essential to collecting the Aggies' seventh win of the season as NM State earned its first win while scoring 13 or fewer points since Sept. 13, 1980 when it knocked off UTEP 6-3.
Even with the less-than-ideal start, the Aggie defense finished the regular season allowing just 19.7 points per game to rank first in the conference and finish the season as one of just 23 FBS teams to hold opponents to fewer than 20 points per game.
Led by Co-Defensive Coordinators Nate Dreiling and Melvin Rice, the Aggies defense against the run game has grown to become one of the most formidable in the nation - allowing just 126.4 rushing yards to rank 31st in the country and second among CUSA teams. This includes the Aggies' most recent pair of performances in which it held two teams who entered the game averaging over 200 yards rushing to fewer than 100 yards on the ground.
Saturday's performance against Jax State is also the sixth time this season and eighth time in the last 15 games that the Aggies' opponent has failed to eclipse the century mark on the ground.
For the second consecutive season, the Aggies have earned the right to go bowling. After doing so by way of a sixth win in the final game of the season in 2022, the 2023 version of the Aggies clinched a postseason berth after winning seven of their first 10 games of the season.
Like the other 81 teams that will play in a bowl game this season, the Aggies will have to wait until Sunday, Dec. 3, to learn which bowl game they will be playing in. However, until then, Aggie fans can use countless projections to potentially guess where the Crimson and White will be playing its final game of the season.
Thus far, the Aggies have been commonly associated with the bowl game just 200 miles north as CBS Sports, Fox Sports and the Action Network each predict that NM State will find its way into the Isleta New Mexico Bowl on Dec. 16 in Albuquerque, N.M.. The Aggies have also seen their name appear as participants in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, the Servpro First Responder Bowl in Dallas and the Famous Toastery Bowl Charlotte, N.C.