Aggies fall in 99th “Battle of I-10” matchup versus UTEP

David White

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David Castaneda

The Aggies gather together to strategize their game plan against the UTEP Miners Saturday night Sept. 10, 2022, in the Battle of I-10.

On Saturday evening, the New Mexico State Football team traveled to El Paso to face off in the 99th “Battle of I-10” rivalry game against the UTEP Miners. The Miners came into the game with an edge in the record books, with an all-time record of 58 wins, 38 losses, and two draws (58-38-2). The Aggies and Miners both looked to turn the tide for their seasons, as both teams entered the matchup at 0-2 on the season, and both coming off of losses of over 30 points each against Minnesota and Oklahoma. Unfortunately for this fresh Coach Kill Aggie team, the Miners added another to their now 0-3 record with a final score of 13-20. 

UTEP would receive the opening kickoff, with the opportunity to start the rivalry game on their own terms. The Miners running attack quickly proved to be effective, as they racked up 31 yards on the ground on their first drive. With a gutsy fourth-down conversion near the red zone, the UTEP offense finally sputtered out after a huge 17-play drive, concluding by kicking a 29-yard field goal from kicker Gavin Baechle. The kick gave the Miners a bit of a comfortable situation with a 3-0 lead over the Aggies early in the first quarter.

The NMSU coaching staff chose to start true freshman quarterback Gavin Frakes against the Miners as they entered their first drive on offense. Both redshirt freshman Diego Pavia and true freshman Gavin Frakes have seen action in the previous two Aggie football games, but the elder Pavia would have to ride the pine early as Frakes would take the helm of the offense against the Miners. This Aggie offense came out firing, completing an 11-yard pass and catch to running back Ahmonte Watkins, a 36-yard run from running back Jonathan Brady, and a 14-yard run play by running back Jamoni Jones, all within the first 5 plays of the drive. This drive would come to an abrupt end however, after UTEP defensive tackle Blake Thompson batted a Frakes pass at the line, which then led to an interception by linebacker Tyrice Knight.

NMSU wide receiver Kordell David prevents UTEP player from getting to the ball Sept.10, 2022. (David Castaneda)

Following their forced turnover, the Miners would quickly pick up where they had left off on the previous drive. UTEP would drive 72 yards down the field, carried by their 47 yards on the ground and a 15-yard roughing the passer penalty during the drive. However, running back Deion Hankins would fumble the ball on the NMSU 10-yard line, which would be recovered by Aggies defensive tackle Lama Lavea. As the first quarter came to a close, the period would be defined by long runs and turnovers, concluding still with a score of 3-0 in favor of the Miners. 

UTEP and NMSU would both punt on their first drives of the second quarter, neither of which able to find much offensive rhythm. UTEP would then orchestrate a 65-yard touchdown drive, thanks to a defensive pass-interference call in the endzone and a 12-yard pass to Tyrin Smith for the touchdown. The Miners would push the lead to 10-0 with seven minutes left in the first half. NMSU would receive the ball after the UTEP kickoff, only to fumble the ball twice in the drive, with the second recovered by the defense. On the first play of the drive following the turnover, UTEP running back Ronald Awatt would run it 22-yards into the end zone for the touchdown, pushing the Miners further ahead into a comfortable 17-0 lead entering halftime. 

Redshirt freshman and New Mexico Military Institution transfer quarterback Diego Pavia would see playing time for the Aggies near the end of the second quarter and throughout the second half. During the first drive of the second half, the Aggies were forced to punt, but the Miners punt-returner fumbled the catch and the Aggies would recover on the UTEP 15-yard line, leading to a 14-yard Diego Pavia touchdown run for the first NMSU points of the game. The score would jump to 17-6, after UTEP blocked NMSU kicker Ethan Albertson’s extra point attempt. After a missed 37-yard field goal by the Aggies, the Miners added three more points to their lead with a 46-yard field goal at the end of the third quarter, extending their lead to 20-6 entering the fourth and final quarter.

NMSU refused to go down without a fight, as the Aggies would respond to the UTEP field goal with a 16-play, methodical drive capped off by an 11-yard Diego Pavia touchdown run, his second of the game. With 5:43 left in the game, the Aggies looked to stay alive a bit longer with the score now within a touchdown at 20-13 in favor of UTEP. After forcing a UTEP punt, the Aggies put together a long, punishing drive in an attempt to run out the clock and tie the game, heading into overtime or possibly winning on a two-point conversion. On third down with 10 seconds left, quarterback Diego Pavia stepped up in the pocket and fumbled the ball, recovered by UTEP, ending their 13-play drive and possible 17-point come-from-behind victory.  

NMSU Defensive Line Coach Chuka Ndulue motivates players during Saturday’s game against the UTEP Miners on Sept.10, 2022. (David Castaneda)

The Aggies now travel to Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wisconsin, on September 17 to face the University of Wisconsin Badgers, who are currently 19 out of the top 25 college football teams in the country. This will be the first time in 60 years, and only the second time ever, that these two teams will play one another. Their last game came in 1962, with the Badgers winning the contest by 56 points following a final score of 69-13. The Aggies will look for a major upset on Saturday, as Coach Kill continues to search for his first win with NMSU.

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