Offensive struggles lead to NM State upset versus FIU

David White

More stories from David White


Carlos Herrera

Aggies’ defense trying to stop FIU’s defense from scoring on Oct. 1, 2022.

The Aggies entered Saturday night’s game against the Florida International University Panthers with a fire in their eyes. Coming off of the first win of the season over Hawaii and of newly signed head coach Jerry Kill where they tacked on 357 rushing yards as a team. The Aggies looked to build a streak of momentum against the 1-3 Panthers, as they had not won back-to-back games since the 2019 season, beating Incarnate Word and UTEP in their home stadium. This would be the second game NM State and FIU have played against one another, with the Aggies leading the series 1-0, with a 56-31 victory over the Panthers in 2004 at Aggie Memorial Stadium. Unfortunately, FIU would overcome this Kill campaign 21-7 tacking on yet another loss for NMSU.

The NMSU football team runs out of the tunnel for the start of their game against FIU on Oct. 1, 2022. (Carlos Herrera)

FIU would begin the game by receiving the first half kickoff, followed by a touchback in the endzone. After two sacks on second and third down, the Panthers would be forced to punt on the three-and-out. The true freshman Gavin Frakes would make the start once again at quarterback, coming off 81 passing yards, a touchdown, and no interceptions against the University of Hawaii. After a single first down, the Aggies would also punt, leaving both teams scoreless on their first drives of the game.

Bryce Childress sprinting across midfield after a catch on Oct. 1, 2022. (Carlos Herrera)

The Panthers would put together some cohesive offense in their second drive, with a 32 yard run by running back Lexington Joseph putting FIU on the two-yard line. Immediately following, wide receiver Tyrese Chambers caught a quick touchdown strike from quarterback Grayson James, to cap off their 12-play 85-yard drive. After an extra point pushed the score to 7-0 with six minutes left in the first quarter, NMSU formulated a touchdown drive of their own. Thanks to a 10-yard reception by tight end Eric Marsh on fourth down, and a two-yard touchdown run by running back Star Thomas, NM State tied the game 7-7 early in the second quarter.

NMSU would kick the ensuing kickoff out of bounds, giving FIU a head start at the 35-yard line. This would lead to an 8 play, 65 yard drive by FIU, capped off by a 25-yard passing touchdown by quarterback Grayson James to Jalen Bracey for his first career score. NMSU would receive the next kickoff, only to quickly fall to another three-and-out, sending it back to FIU. The Panthers would get themselves on the board once again with a 60-yard touchdown pass from Grayson Jones to running back Lexington Joseph, building the FIU lead to 21-7. Both teams would exchange punts to end the half, heading to the locker rooms at 21-7 in favor of FIU.

FIU would kickoff to NMSU to open the second half of play, as quarterback Diego Pavia would take the helm for the Aggies. After trading three total punts, NMSU made a goal line stand against FIU, forcing the Panthers into a 27-yard field goal attempt that was missed, holding the score to 21-7 with 4:15 left in the third quarter. The Aggies would drive down to the FIU 34-yard line and attempt a 44 yard field goal, coming up just short in the waning seconds of the third quarter. The second half would end up being very uneventful, as neither team would find the scoreboard again. The clock would finally hit zero after several punts and a couple of missed field goals, resulting in a final score of 21-7 for Florida International University Panthers.

Aggies’ Justice Powers (left) trying to block FIU’s Hezekiah Masses (right) after a run play on Oct. 1, 2022. (Carlos Herrera)

“It is pretty easy to say that we got our butt kicked in all three phases of the game.” Coach Kill said. When asked about what the emphasis for the team was going to be heading into the bye week, Coach Kill responded, “We will never play that soft again as long as I am here… It’s really up to the kids and how you can turn the culture, and we haven’t turned the culture.”

The NMSU football team will be back in Aggie Memorial Stadium Oct. 15, as they face the University of New Mexico Lobos in the highly anticipated Rio Grande Rivalry match, often known as the “Battle of I-25.” A question remains for the Aggies in the quarterback position, as Pavia and Frakes continue to split reps throughout, if either quarterback can take complete control over the position. The UNM Lobos are 2-3 on the season with wins over the likes of UTEP and the University of Maine, and will look to reach an even .500 season record with a win over the Aggies.

An Aggie running back leaps up into the air after a play startling the referee. Oct. 1, 2022.
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