BOWLING GREEN, Kentucky (KVIA) -- In their first year in the league New Mexico State advance to the Conference USA Title Game with a 38-29 win over Western Kentucky.
It is the first time in program history NMSU has ever gone to a conference championship game, the win is also the Aggies sixth straight and comes the week after they secured back-to-back bowl games for the first time since 1959 and 1960. It's also their eighth of the season, something they've only achieved four times before in program history.
“I’m just kind of numb right now, I'm just kind of in shock really, but it means a whole lot me because I've coached 40 years and to do it with this group of kids and in Las Cruces and having it happen so quickly, we’re still not where we need to be and here we are playing for the conference championship," Head Coach Jerry Kill said. "We've got a lot to feel good about. I told them we have a right to celebrate but then we go onto the next one but I don't care about that right now."
The Aggies found themselves in a gigantic hole to start down 14-0 after the Hilltoppers scored on their first two drives of the game.
Thanks to a massive run form Star Thomas the Aggies would find themselves in the red zone on their second drive of the game but it would end in a 40-yard field goal from Ethan Albertson.
Only one of NMSU's last four drives in the red zone has ended in a touchdown, but that would soon change.
With 14:55 left in the second quarter, Jonathan Brady rushes in from 10 yards out for his first rushing TD of the year. Then eight minutes later Diego Pavia finds Trent Hudson on the four-yard pass for Hudson's seventh TD on the year and the Aggies first lead of the game.
After trailing by two touchdowns, the Aggies score 17 unanswered to go up 17-14.
But with six seconds left in the half the Hilltoppers regain the lead off an Austin Reed 4-yard touchdown pass to Craig Burt Jr.
WKU take a 21-17 lead at the half. The score would stay that way until 3:41 left in the third quarter when Pavia found his backup QB and really the Aggies army swiss knife in Eli Stowers for a seven-yard touchdown catch and Stowers first receiving TD of the year. NMSU go back in front 24-21.
But the Hilltoppers were threatening to start the fourth. They found themselves in the red zone but couldn't make anything happen and their field goal attempt that would have tied the game went wide.
NMSU tightened the screws as Stowers this time rushes in for the touchdown and now a 31-21 lead.
With 4:14 left in the game, the Hilltoppers would need to find two scores but Mehki Miller has other ideas he picks off Reed and runs it 57-yards all the way back to the end zone for a pick-six to seal the game and a CUSA title berth.
WKU would score another touchdown as time was running down and get a two-point conversion but it wouldn't matter.
Jerry Kill in his two seasons at the helm has taken the program to new heights, back-to-back bowl games and now a conference title game.
The Aggies will be marking their calendars for Dec. 1st where they will play No. 25 Liberty for the Conference USA Championship.
Up next the Aggies play at Auburn before finishing the regular season at home against Jacksonville State.