ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico - Walk-on quarterback Dino Maldonado was never mentioned by New Mexico State Head Coach Doug Martin as candidate to be the Aggies' quarterback heading into the season.
But after leading the Aggies to their most points all season at their in-state rival Saturday, albeit in a 34-25 loss to the New Mexico Lobos, Maldonado may have won over a few fans if not his head coach.
The Aggies, 19-point underdogs at their I-25 rivals, trailed by just four at halftime behind Maldonado's spirited play. But the offense sputtered in the 2nd Half, and New Mexico retained the Rio Grande Rivalry trophy.
Playing with a third-string quarterback on the road at their in-state rival wouldn't sound ideal to any New Mexico State football fans. But when starter Jonah Johnson left the game in the first quarter with injury, Maldonado entered for his first collegiate action.
A sophomore walk-on from Santa Maria California, Maldonado hit Isaiah Garcia-Castaneda for a 75-yard TD pass right before halftime to cut the Lobos lead to 24-20.
New Mexico State had a chance two chances to take the lead in the third quarter, including after a 4th down stop by linebacker Eric Marsh in the red zone to force a turnover.
But Maldonado's magic ran out in the 2nd half as NMSU was kept out of the end zone.
New Mexico QB Terry Wilson, a Kentucky transfer, hit a wide open Mannie Logan-Greene for a 58-yard TD in the 4th quarter to put the game out of reach.
The Aggies stay winless on the season (0-3), and return home next week to host FCS opponent South Carolina State.
For the Lobos, they move to 2-0 for the first time 2005. They travel to nationally Texas A&M next week before a trip to the Sun Bowl to square off with the UTEP Miners.