New Mexico State likely headed to bowl game for first time since 1960

Dr. Saturday
New Mexico State wide receiver Anthony Muse (21) celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the first half of an NCAA college football game against South Alabama in Las Cruces, N.M., Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017. (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)
New Mexico State wide receiver Anthony Muse (21) celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the first half of an NCAA college football game against South Alabama in Las Cruces, N.M., Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017. (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)

New Mexico State will likely play in a bowl game for the first time since 1960.

With a touchdown in the final minute Saturday against South Alabama, the Aggies won their sixth game of the year to clinch bowl eligibility. With NMSU trailing 17-16, the winning score came on a seven-yard touchdown pass from Tyler Rogers to Conner Cramer with 32 seconds remaining.

(via Watch ESPN)
(via Watch ESPN)

From there, the Aggies’ defense finished it off to close out the 22-17 victory.

Fans stormed the field in celebration after the win and head coach Doug Martin was in tears during the post-game interview.

(via Watch ESPN)
(via Watch ESPN)
(via Watch ESPN)
(via Watch ESPN)

New Mexico State, which closed out the regular season by winning three of its final four games, led 13-7 at the half and increased the lead to 16-7 early in the fourth. However, the Jaguars stormed back, cutting the deficit to 16-14 with a touchdown at the 11:49 mark of the fourth and going ahead 17-16 with a 27-yard field goal with 5:24 to play.

On the ensuing drive, the Aggies offense, which threw an interception, punted twice and turned it over on downs already in the second half, put together a 15-play, 83-yard drive to pull out the win.

Rogers, who entered the game No. 16 in the country with 3,374 passing yards, finished 40-of-61 for 451 yards and two touchdowns. The touchdown catch by Cramer, a converted quarterback, was his only reception of the game.

Though New Mexico State has reached six wins eight times since 1960, the program hasn’t played in a bowl since then. Most recently, NMSU went 7-5 in 2002, but was not invited to a bowl. NMSU has the longest bowl drought in the country.

This year, the 6-6 Aggies will likely head to the Arizona Bowl. The Arizona Bowl and the New Mexico Bowl are the only bowl trips the school can afford:

According to a report from NBC 9 in El Paso, the school may be forced to be picky about bowl locations if it gets selected for a postseason appearance because of financial reasons. Lower-tier bowl games are typically costly enterprises for schools and New Mexico State isn’t in a position to absorb a financial hit.

“If you stick us too far back east, then it becomes a financial issue with our fans and if you’re obligated to buy X number of tickets and we can’t sell them to our fans, then it becomes a costly enterprise,” New Mexico State chancellor Garrey Carruthers told the station.

Martin won a combined 10 games in his first four seasons with the program, which played its final game as a member of the Sun Belt on Saturday. The Sun Belt voted to remove NMSU and Idaho in order to go with 10 teams and two divisions beginning in 2018.

For 2018, Idaho opted to drop down to the FCS level and play in the Big Sky Conference, but NMSU will carry on as an FBS independent.

– – – – – – –

Sam Cooper is a writer for the Yahoo Sports blogs. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!

What to Read Next