One Aggie Fan’s Observation and Perspective on the Decline and Rebound of NMSU Football (Part 2)
The rebound of Aggie football came under the direction of two coaches, Jim Hess and Tony Samuel. Under their tenure, the Aggies had three winning seasons and were very competitive in the Big West and Sun Bowl Conferences. The program took some setbacks during the ten years of Hal Mumme and Walker eras.
After the 2012 season, Coach Walker hired Doug Martin to be the Offensive Coordinator. Within days after hiring Martin, Walker tendered his resignation and accepted a position as a defensive coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars in the NFL. Due to unusual circumstances Martin was promoted to the head coach position. Under Coach Martin’s direction, there is much optimism as the Aggies begin the 2014 season.
Jim Hess Era 1990-1996
Jim Hess came to New Mexico State as athletic director of Sam Houston State and former football coach. However, he had some demands to be added to his contract which included yearly increases in the football and recruiting budget. Hess came to Las Cruces not only with head coaching experience, but also experience as an athletic director.
After the 1990 season, Coach Hess and Aggie fans saw just how far football had dropped with talent. The first game under Coach Hess was against University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. Hess was using this game as a litmus test to see where the Aggies were. The Lobos won 29-12. After the game, Hess tried to downplay the Aggie Lobo rivalry. He quickly found out how important it is for the Aggies to beat the Lobos. The Aggies lost the first ten games of the season. Finally Aggie Memorial Stadium celebrated a 43-9 victory over Cal State Fullerton. The Aggies not only ended a 27-game losing streak, the longest in the nation at the time, but also won their first Conference game since joining the Big West/PCAA in 1985.
The following seasons where not much better. NM State finished the 1991 season with a 2-9 record but did win back to back Conference games defeating Cal State Fullerton and Long Beach State. The 1992 season began with a Sports Illustrated story depicting the Aggies as the worst team in Division I football. However, the Aggies started the season by winning their first three games; beating Weber State at home 37-21, UNM in a shootout 42-39 in Las Cruces, and coming from behind to win in the Sun Bowl 30-24. NM State fans that attended the Miner game were chanting: “3-0, 3-0, 3-0!” The undefeated bubble burst when the Aggies traveled to Logan, Utah and were overwhelmed by Utah State 48-21. This was the first winning 6-5 season in 14 years and only the second 6-5 season since 1967.
Enthusiasm for Aggie football increased in 1993. Could there be back to back winning seasons? The Aggies were 1-1 losing to Kansas State and beating Arkansas State, both games on the road. The UTEP Miners came to Las Cruces and the Aggies won convincingly 31-14. The 2-1 Aggies traveled to Albuquerque where UNM took a 42-7 win. With three games remaining, NM State’s record was 5-3. Auburn spanked the Aggies 55-14, UNR won 34-14 in Las Cruces and Utah State beat the Aggies 20-17. This was yet another 5-6 season.
The 1994 season was a typical Aggie season going 3-8. This season was the beginning of the end for Coach Jim Hess. However, the 1995 season was a little better as running back Denvis Manns made his presence in Las Cruces. He rushed for over 1,000 yards the four years he competed at New Mexico State. Denvis played from 1995-1998. In 1995 the Aggies had another lackluster season going 4-7.
In the final year with Jim Hess, NMSU went 1-10 beating Southern Utah University 52-21 in Las Cruces. The low point of the season was the Cal State Northridge game when the Aggies lost 32-0. Denvis Manns did not play a down in this game. When asked, Coach Hess said he was of the understanding Manns was injured and could not play. Denvis was suited on the sidelines and ready to play. Either there was a miscommunication problem or something happened between the two of them that was never disclosed. During the season, Coach Hess had some health issues as did his wife. His contract was not renewed but he did coach for seven seasons, longer than any coach since Warren Woodson. Hess’ seven year record ended at 22-55.
Tony Samuel Era 1997-2004
Tony Samuel was hired in 1997 to rebuild the program. His first year was 2-9 with victories over Northridge and Arkansas State. The next season the Aggies went 3-8 beating UNM 28-27 in Las Cruces.
The 1999 season brought excitement to Las Cruces. The Aggies started out 3-0, whipping NM Highlands 73-7, beating UNM in Albuquerque 35-28 and upsetting Arizona State in Tempe 35-7. The following week the Aggies played UTEP at the Sun Bowl. Over 10,000 New Mexico State fans traveled to the Sun Bowl to see if another victory over the Miners would make their record 4-0. A combination of an Aggie letdown and a UTEP team that played a near perfect game resulted in a 54-23 loss. This was the first of four losses in a row, but NM State rebounded and won three out of their last four games with wins over Idaho, Utah State, and North Texas. The Aggies finished 6-5 and the 3rd winning season since 1967.
The 2000 season brought a heavy dose of reality to Las Cruces. UNM squeaked by with a 16-13 victory in Las Cruces. The Aggies lost their first four games, then won the next three with victories over Army, Tulsa, and Arkansas State, then lost their final four games. The 2000 Aggies went 3-8.
The 2001 season was very unique. UNM and New Mexico State were scheduled to play in Albuquerque on September 15th. Due to the events of September 11th, this game was rescheduled for November 24th, the final game of the season for NM State. The Aggies sported a 5-6 record going into the final game. Despite a plethora of injuries, the Aggies had a shot at going 6-6 with a victory over UNM. This game was no contest from the beginning as UNM pounded the Aggies for a 58-0 win.
The 2002 season was the most successful for Tony Samuel. The Aggies started the season 0-2 with losses to Georgia and California. Both games were money games to help the athletic coffers. The next ten games, NM State went 7-3 including a 24-13 win over the Lobos. It was a very sweet victory as Coach Samuel and the Aggies went 7-5 for the 4th winning season since 1967 and the most wins in the post Woodson era.
In 2003, NM State went 3-9, losing to UNM in Albuquerque, 24-17. 2004 was the 8th and final season for Coach Tony Samuel. The Aggies went 5-6 losing to the Lobos in Las Cruces 38-3. Samuel’s record in 8 years was 34-57.
Hal Mumme Era 2005-2008
In 2005, Hal Mumme was named Coach of the New Mexico State Aggies. That year, NM State went 0-12. Mumme was a pass oriented offense. He would pass to the running back for 2 yards rather than run the ball. UNM whipped the Aggies 38-21 in Albuquerque. In 2006, the Aggies went 4-8, winning their final two games over Utah State and Louisiana Tech. The Lobos won in Las Cruces 34-28. In 2007 Chas Holbrook was a sophomore quarterback and led the Aggies to a 4-9 season. Holbrook started setting records at New Mexico State. UNM again beat the Aggies in Albuquerque 44-34.
In 2008, the Aggies had another up and down season. They lost to UNM at home, 35-24, but beat the UNR Wolfpack in Reno, 48-45. The Aggies sported a 3-2 record after the Wolfpack game and 1-0 in the WAC. The wheels came off the team losing the remaining seven games after showing some promise earlier in the season. Coach Hal Mumme was fired following 2008. Coach Mumme played a vital role in starting the “Tough Enough to Wear Pink” tradition that helps benefit those afflicted with cancer. This tradition continues today.
DeWayne Walker Era 2009-2012
DeWayne Walker succeeded Mumme for the 2009 season going 3-9. Considering the Aggies went from a passing offense to a more balanced one, 2009 showed some promise. The Aggies also defeated UNM 20-17 in Albuquerque. The 2010 season was a disappointment with a 2-10 record. However, for the second year in a row, NM State defeated UNM 16-14 in Las Cruces.
The 2011 season showed some of the talent recruited by Coach Walker and his staff. However, the Aggies finished the season with a 4-9 record. The team played with heart and grit and showed promise of success under third year Coach Dewayne Walker. Aggie fans were looking forward to the 2012 season.
The 2012 season is now in the history books with a 1-11 record and the 2012 football team sums up the last 45 seasons. Coach Walker was very frustrated over the 2012 season. He had a long term process for success at NMSU and this performance was an obvious setback to his process. We were very predictable offensively running on well over 90% of first down plays. The Aggies’ main problem was not scoring points. They had four quarterbacks on the roster and sophomore Andrew Manley started every game, Travaughn Colwell saw very limited action as a running QB. Mop up time was given to Andrew McDonald and the 4th quarterback saw no game experience. The university president, Barbara Couture was forced to resign in the middle of the season. I’m sure this added to uncertainty to Aggie football since she had a say in Coach Walker’s future. 2012 turned out to be his last year at New Mexico State.
Doug Martin Era
2013 – Present
The Aggies played as an independent in the 2013 season. The WAC had dropped football and this left NMSU scrambling for a competitive schedule. The Aggies played at Texas, UCLA, and at home against Minnesota, San Diego State, BYU and Boston College. All these teams went to bowl games in 2013. The Aggies finished 2-10 with victories over Abilene Christian and a finale against Idaho. They opened the 2014 season with a 28-10 win over Cal Poly then went on the road to come from behind and beat Georgia State 34-31. The Aggies played very competitive against rivals UTEP and UNM. The Miners featured running back Aaron Jones who ran for over 150 yards against the Aggie defense. His efforts led the Miners to a 42-24 win over the Aggies in El Paso. The next week the Aggies hosted UNM Lobos. It was an exciting game with over 24,000 in attendance. The fans were treated to a back and forth scoring as the Aggies and the Lobos took turns owning the lead. The Aggies scored with four minutes and forty-one seconds left to take a 35-31 lead. However the Lobos drove down the field 86 yards to score with only twenty-seven seconds remaining and won 38-35. At this point in the season the Aggies are 2-2.
Despite the last minute loss to UNM, Coach Martin and his staff are turning the corner towards more wins at NMSU. The Aggies have returned to the Sun Belt Conference and this should improve the team in years to come. There is a heavy emphasis on high school recruits in Texas as well as New Mexico.