Editorial – Bill McCulloch
From the time I left the garage from parking my car, you could feel the excitement in the air surrounding Arizona Stadium.
Just walking to the Northeast Entrance of the Stadium with my Co-Host Jerry Beasley, throngs of Aggies fans from Las Cruces were filing into the Stadium mostly on the west side. Expressions of hope on their faces, and why not? It had been fifty seven years since this university had participated in a Bowl Game.
The year was 1960 and the location was the Sun Bowl in El Paso Texas. The opponent was the same as it was today, the Utah State Aggies. The outcome was a 20-13 win for the Las Cruces Aggies.
Fast forward back to today. Fans of all ages on both sides were hyped up for this game as if it were the National Championship.
So far this Bowl season, there have been few games worth watching, as teams were getting blown with regularity. Case in point, the PAC-12 has gone 1-7 with Utah carrying the dwindling torch.
The Chairman of the Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl, Ali Farhang and his staff have worked tirelessly to make this game not only a success on the field, but the entire Bowl experience.
From the time both teams arrived in Tucson, their transportation, hotel accommodations, event schedules, and all the intangibles went off without a hitch. A task of this magnitude takes great forethought and planning for months in order to work out the kinks and ensure that not only the Bowl Game would be successful, but the entire Tucson Metro area benefit.
The pregame festivities included both university’s marching bands performing. Members of the Air Force parachute team ascended into the stadium with flags from Utah and New Mexico, the Stars and Stripes and the black MIA flag.
With New Mexico State taking the opening kickoff, they drove the ball to the Utah State six yard line before being forced to kick a field goal and my tiny nipples went to France.
Then the fireworks started, the Aggies from Logan Utah quickly took the lead on a then Arizona Bowl record ninety six yard kickoff return for a touchdown. Their first lead lasted all of twelve seconds. Back came the players from Las Cruces New Mexico with a new Bowl record one hundred yard return to the house to make the score 10-7 and we treated to back to back returns for touchdowns. A very rare occurrence and the first time since 2009 and worth remembering.
The game then settled down in the second quarter with each team scoring only field goals to go into the locker room at halftime at sixteen apiece.
The third quarter came and went without a score, but the enthusiasm never waned on either sideline.
This was just the script the third year Bowl needed. Utah State regained the lead with a touchdown early in the fourth quarter, but with 6:30 left in regulation, New Mexico State would even up the score at twenty apiece.
Up to this point of the game the there were three missed field goals by Utah State, this alone changed matrix of the game and ultimately sent it into overtime.
New Mexico State won the coin toss and elected to go on defense first. Their drive stalled at the twelve yard line and suddenly Utah State was forced to attempt another field goal. Once again the kick sailed wide.
All New Mexico State had to do is score. They took little time as running back Larry Rose III scampered into the end zone and into history.
The Stadium exploded as it seemed the entire city of Las Cruces swarmed the field in jubilation. This was no doubt the best and most exciting Bowl game to date and with the record crowd of 39,132 looking on, the memories of the trip to Tucson will forever be etched in their minds.