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For nearly three quarters, the New Mexico State University football team played like it wanted to shock the world.
The Aggies led heavily favored San Diego State 10-0 at halftime and 10-7 late in the third quarter before falling 28-10 on Sept. 4 in Carson, Calif. The host Aztecs were 31-point favorites coming into the game.
NMSU is now a somewhat disappointing 0-2 after the high hopes of summer workouts and fall camp.
But the season can quickly turn around this weekend.
The Aggies take on the University of New Mexico Lobos at 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 11 in Albuquerque. The Lobos are coming off a 27-17 win over Houston Baptist in their season opener on Sept. 2.
But like any good rivalry, you can throw the records out the window when it comes to this annual grudge match.
NMSU coach Doug Martin says the Aggies are in the unique position of having two natural rivals – UTEP about 40 miles down the road in El Paso and UNM, about 200 miles to the north.
The Aggies played much better at times against San Diego State after losing 30-3 to UTEP on Aug. 28. The Aggies dug themselves a 17-0 hole and were never really in the game against their Battle of I-10 rivals.
Now, the Aggies can turn their attention up north to their in-state rivals. The Aggies and Lobos first started playing back in 1894, when Grover Cleveland was president. That’s 18 years before New Mexico even became a state.
The Lobos lead the all-time series 72-33-5 and have won the last two meetings. The Aggies last beat UNM 30-28 in 2017 en route to the school’s first bowl berth and bowl victory since 1960.
The win over UNM helped to propel NMSU to a magical season, culminating with a 26-20 overtime win over Utah State in the Arizona Bowl.
During the last rendition of the Rio Grande Rivalry, the Lobos beat the Aggies 55-52 in a wild game in 2019. Last year’s game was canceled because of the pandemic. It was the first time since 1945 that the in-state rivals did not meet on the football field. Think about that – 75 years.
So a win this weekend would go a long way to helping to turn around the Aggies’ 2021 campaign.
One of the great things about the NMSU-UNM rivalry is it’s just a quick three-hour drive between the schools. That means fans from both schools have a history of hitting I-25 and cheering on their team when they are on the road facing their in-state rival.
It’s not too late to make some last-minute plans and go and visit Albuquerque for the weekend and cheer on the Aggies. And of course, there are plenty of NMSU graduates living in Albuquerque, the metro area around the Duke City and in northern New Mexico.
After the first two weeks of the season, it would be nice to see a strong contingent of Aggie fans show up at the UNM game. They could sure use the support.