2022 New Mexico vs New Mexico State

New Mexico vs. New Mexico State Preview: Rivalry Renews For 112th Time

New Mexico vs. New Mexico State Preview: Rivalry Renews For 112th Time

For the 112th time since 1894, New Mexico and New Mexico State football square off.

Oct 15, 2022 by Kyle Kensing
New Mexico vs. New Mexico State Preview: Rivalry Renews For 112th Time

Rivals New Mexico and New Mexico State first met on the gridiron in 1894. Saturday marks the 112th contest in this historic, heated series. 

The 2022 edition sees both the Lobos and Aggies looking to rebound from recent disappointment. New Mexico began the campaign with a promising 2-1 mark, but has since dropped three straight by an average of 20.7 points per game. 

New Mexico State, meanwhile, followed its most complete performance of head coach Jerry Kill's first season in a 45-26 romp over Hawaii with an offensively anemic showing in a 21-7 loss to FIU. 

Replay: Hawaii Vs. New Mexico State

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The Aggies had an extra week for the sting of dropping a winnable matchup to linger. A victory would have sent New Mexico State into its bye with a winning streak and a not-unrealistic path to a bowl game. At 1-5, the Aggies need a remarkable back-half of the schedule to get back to the postseason. 

New Mexico Lobos (2-4) 

UNM bookended a Week 2 loss to Mountain West Conference counterpart Boise State with a 41-0 deconstruction of Maine in the opener, and an impressive 27-10 showing against UTEP. 

With a strong start, the Lobos looked capable of contending in a much more open MW Mountain Division than it's been in recent years. And the defense, under the guidance of Lobos legend Rocky Long, maintains the look of a contender. 

Offensive inconsistency has vexed New Mexico, however — so much so, that head coach Danny Gonzales parted ways with coordinator Derek Warehime following last week's 27-14 loss to Wyoming. 

Heath Ridenour steps in, a considerable step up in responsibilities for a coach who was heading up Albuquerque-based Cleveland High School a year ago at this time. Ridenour's not unfamiliar with New Mexico's offensive personnel, including wide receiver Luke Wysong — a standout for Ridenour at Cleveland. 

How much more effective the Lobos will be is a mystery, but there's hardly anywhere to go but up. New Mexico is averaging just 3.6 yards per rush, while quarterback Miles Kendrick has thrown twice as many interceptions (6) as touchdowns. 

If the Lobos offense starts clicking, though, this is a dangerous bunch thanks to the defense. New Mexico is holding opponents to 116 rushing yards per game operating out of Rocky Long's odd 3-3-5 stack, a scheme he innovated at UNM at the turn of the millennium to counter skill-position speed and athleticism. 

Long helped transform a long-dismal San Diego State program into a perennial Mountain West contender with his defense, and he's improved New Mexico's defense tremendously in short order. The Lobos have picked off more passes (7) than they have allowed passing touchdowns (6), led by Ronald Wilson's two. 

Cody Moon, Reco Hannah and Justin Harris each have 3+ sacks, a stat reflective of Long's philosophy with the 3-3-5. The front six generates consistent pressure through aggressive blitzing to create turnover opportunities in the secondary. 

New Mexico State Aggies (1-5) 

The Aggies seek their first win in the Battle of I-25 since 2017, having dropped the last three installments. The 2019 edition was a 55-52 shootout; don't expect a repeat. 

New Mexico and New Mexico State rank No. 117 and No. 128 in FBS for scoring offense. The Aggies appeared to have turned a corner on that side of the ball against Hawaii, but managing a single score against FIU was a concerning development. 

NMSU managed just 14 first downs, three of which were the result of FIU penalties, and gained only 221 total yards. The Aggies' 82 rushing yards were their second-fewest of the season (38 at Minnesota); so too were the 2.65 yards per carry NMSU rushers averaged. 

New Mexico's defensive capability presents another stiff challenge for offensive coordinator Tim Beck. The passing game has been virtually nonexistent with New Mexico State totaling 10 interceptions and just two passing scores. 

Turning defensive stops and takeaways into opportunities for the offense may be New Mexico State's best course for generating points. But the Aggies defense comes into Saturday's matchup ranked No. 129 nationally in turnover margin at -10, and No. 124 with three total takeaways. 

In contrast, New Mexico ranks eighth nationally with 13 takeaways.