The New Mexico State football team kicked off the 2012 season with a wire-to-wire victory over Sacramento State on Thursday night at Aggie Memorial Stadium. Aggie quarterback Andrew Manley's return from a season-ending ACL injury a year ago was hugely successful as the redshirt sophomore quarterback threw for a career-high 367 yards and three touchdowns while completing 14-of-22 passes. Sophomore wide receiver Austin Franklin shined in his new role as the Aggies' go-to receiver catching eight passes for a career-high 236 yards and two touchdowns including an 84-yard catch-and-run with just over two minutes left in the second quarter. His other touchdown reception was 52 yards on the Aggies' second drive of the game.
"It's a good win for us," said head coach DeWayne Walker in the postgame press conference. "There's still some things we have to fix on offense and defense for sure, but we can look at the tape because it's always easier to clean up your mistakes after wins."
The Aggie defense rose to the occasion in the late stages of the game after Sacramento State had seized momentum and drawn to within nine points with just under seven minutes remaining in the third quarter. Following an Aggie punt the Hornets took over with 3:19 left to play in the quarter but Desmond Anaya forced a fumble by quarterback Garrett Safron which was recovered by Walton Taumoepeau. The Aggies would take over on Sacramento State 38 yard line and seven plays later the Aggies found the end zone to go ahead 35-19 with 13:45 left to play in the game.
The two teams traded punts on their ensuing possessions and Sacramento State took possession with 8:51 left to play on their own 42. Donte Savage sacked Safron, forced a fumble and recovered the ball giving the Aggies great field position at the Hornets' 34 yard line. It only took the Aggies four plays to find the end zone putting them ahead 42-19 putting the game out of reach. The defense capped off their strong play late on the ensuing Hornet drive a pass by Safron was intercepted by Jeremy Harris giving the Aggies the ball at the Hornets' 28 yard line with 6:40 left to play in the game. The Aggies ran ten straight times covering the distance as Robert Clay capped off the drive and the night scoring from five yards out to put the Aggies ahead 49-19 after the Tyler Stampler extra point.
"You have to have some confidence to turn it around, you know with good teams that's what they do, they know how to weather the storm," said Walker.
The Aggies' 49 points was the most scored since a 50-24 victory over Louisiana Tech in 2007 and the 30 point margin of victory was the most since a 35-point victory over Alcorn State in 2008.
The Aggies finished the game with 468 total yards of offense as the Aggies rushed for 101 yards and four touchdowns including two by Tiger Powell in his Aggie debut. Robert Clay led all Aggies with 33 yards and a touchdown while Germi Morrison rushed for 32 yards and a touchdown scoring untouched from 12 yards out in the fourth quarter.
Sacramento State finished with 397 total yards of offense throwing for 308 yards and rushing for 89. Safron completed 23-of-35 attempts for 308 yards and two touchdowns.