Arizona State will kick-off the 2017 season hosting New Mexico State Aggies on August 31st. Our Joe Healey familiarizes Sun Devil fans with this opponent from the Sun Belt Conference.
Head Coach: Doug Martin (Fifth season, 10-38 at New Mexico State)
Martin enters year five at NMSU, a tenure that began with a pair of two-win seasons followed by two three-win campaigns in 2015-16. The head coach at Kent State from 2004-10, Martin has never notched a winning season in his 11 seasons as an FBS head coach with just one .500 season (6-6 in 2006 at Kent State).
Since 1986, Martin is just the third of NMSU’s six head coaches to survive to his fifth year with the program and despite winning just 10 games in four years has exceeded the tenure of each of his two direct predecessors in DeWayne Walker (2009-12) and Hal Mumme (2005-08).
2016 Review: With a 3-9 final record, last year marked the 14th consecutive losing campaign for the Aggie football program and the eighth season out of the past nine with three or fewer wins.
After losing the season opener to UTEP, NMSU staged a fourth quarter comeback to upset in-state rival New Mexico by a 32-31 score, the first win in the Rio Grande Rivalry for the Aggies since 2011. NMSU then lost games to Kentucky and Troy before beating Louisiana-Lafayette to start October with a 2-3 record.
From there, New Mexico State lost four straight to Idaho, Georgia Southern, Texas A&M and Arkansas State before notching the third and final win of the year with a 50-10 victory over Texas State. The 2016 season ended with a pair of defeats at the hands of Appalachian State and South Alabama.
Key Number from 2016: 121 – The Aggies ranked 121st of 128 teams nationally in both scoring defense (38.8) and total defense (496.7) in 2016. Sadly, these rankings still were better than ASU’s (124th and 127th) in each respective category.
Program Overview: Realistically one of the poorest performing major football programs of all time, the Aggie football team, which began play in 1893, has only appeared in three bowl games in program history. All bowl berths occurred in the Sun Bowl, following the 1935, ’59 and ’60 seasons, and therefore New Mexico State stands in the midst of a bowl drought that has lasted nearly 60 years. NMSU also has totaled just four conference championships, two in the Border Conference (1938, ’60) and two in the Missouri Valley Conference (1976, ’78).
Since 1968, NMSU has tallied just four winning seasons – 1978, ’92, ’99 and 2002 – with a high of seven wins in 2002. Conversely, since 2005 the Aggies have lost at least eight games every year, with six of those seasons resulting in 10 or more losses including a winless 12-game effort in 2005.
In all, New Mexico State dubiously owns the longest active FBS bowl drought as no other program claims a streak anywhere near that of NMSU’s which dates back to 1960. With Eastern Michigan ending its 30-year bowl drought last season, the team with the next-longest streak of bowl-free seasons is UAB, whose streak merely dates back to 2004. To settle the trivia curiosity, four active FBS programs have never appeared in a bowl game – Charlotte, Coastal Carolina, Massachusetts and Texas State – but all have spent five or fewer seasons at the FBS level.
Also, during only one season (1960) has NMSU ever been ranked in the AP Poll. That year, the Aggies were listed in the last six voting polls of the season, including a No. 17 end of season ranking after finishing 11-0 with a Sun Bowl victory over UTEP.
NMSU received a dose of insult to injury in early 2016 when the Sun Belt Conference voted not to renew its contract with both New Mexico State and Idaho, meaning that after the 2017 season the Aggies will be without a conference to call home.
New Mexico State has not defeated a current member of a Power 5 conference since – surprise, surprise – the Aggies defeated the Sun Devils in 1999.
In that span, NMSU has lost 30 consecutive games to squads that are now in a Power 5 conference and under Martin the Aggies have been outscored by Power 5 opponents by an average of 55.1 to 17.9 in eight games from 2013-16.
Series Record vs. ASU (Most Recent Meeting): 7-21-1 (NMSU 35, ASU 7 on Sept. 18, 1999 in Tempe)
History vs. ASU: The New Mexico State football program has achieved very little overall success, but Sun Devil fans dreadfully rue one particular day the two teams met when the Aggies handed the Devils a 35-7 loss in Sun Devil Stadium in 1999, considered by many to be the most embarrassing loss in ASU football history.
The two programs were both members of the Border Intercollegiate Athletic Association from 1931-61, during which ASU notched an 18-5-1 record in the head-to-head series, including 15 straight victories from 1939-59. ASU and NMSU have not faced one another since the 1999 matchup.
Key Departures: DL Noah Brown, LB Rodney Butler, OL Anthony McMeans, QB Tyler Rogers, WR Tyrian Taylor
On offense, NMSU loses three-year starting quarterback Tyler Rogers, an Arizona native from Peoria’s Liberty High School and Arizona Western College. Last season, Rogers earned Honorable Mention All-Sun Belt Conference recognition after he threw for 2,603 yards with 16 touchdowns and 12 interceptions and ranked second on the team with 333 rushing yards with four scores.
One of Rogers’ primary targets, Tyrian Taylor, also graduates after leading the Aggies with 391 receiving yards on 22 catches with two scores, while McMeans was an Honorable Mention All-Sun Belt Conference selection last season as a senior.
Defensively, Rodney Butler is gone after leading the FBS in total tackles in 2016 with 165, adding 8.0 for loss and three forced fumbles. Butler also was NMSU’s lone First-Team All-Sun Belt Conference pick for 2016. Lineman Noah Brown also departs after tying for the team-high with 2.0 sacks among his 24 total tackles in 2016.
Top Returners: LB Terrill Hanks, LB Dalton Herrington, WR Gregory Hogan, RB Larry Rose III, DB Jaden Wright
In addition to the nation’s leading tackler in Butler, NMSU had two additional defenders surpass the 100-tackle mark in Dalton Herrington and Terril Hanks. Herrington notched 113 tackles including 6.5 for loss with three pass breakups, while Hanks tallied 103 tackles including a team-high 12.5 for loss with 2.0 sacks and two interceptions. Jaden Wright, a Second-Team All-Sun Belt Conference pick last year also stood out on defense with team-bests of five interceptions and four forced fumbles as well as 81 total tackles on the year.
Rose returns after leading NMSU with 865 rushing yards and four touchdowns, while Hogan, an Honorable Mention All-Sun Belt Conference selection last year, is the returning team leader from 2016 with 377 touchdowns and added 32 receptions and three scores last year.
2017 Signing Class Ranking: Unranked
Top Signees: ATH Jaylon Mascorro, QB Josh Adkins, QB Jeremy Hodge, TE Xander Yarberough
A one-time Houston commit, Mascorro was the clear jewel of NMSU’s 2017 class as he was the team’s only three-star signee and had competing offers from Houston, Kansas, Rice, SMU, UTSA, Texas State and Utah State. Mascorro played quarterback, running back and linebacker in high school and is the first three-star signee for NMSU since 2014. Adkins was the only other signee with any additional FBS offers reported on Rivals as Miami (Ohio) also offered the quarterback. Like Adkins, fellow QB Jeremy Hodge and TE Zander Yarberough earned a 5.4 rating, creating a three-way tie for highest on the Aggies’ signing list behind Mascorro.
NMSU did not receive an overall team ranking as Rivals only has 98 FBS teams listed for 2017.