By Lance Tominaga, ESPN Honolulu Web Editor.
Playing New Mexico State is so nice that we’ll do it twice in 2021: once at home, and once in Las Cruces. For the Aggies, it will be great simply having a season to play, as their entire 2020 campaign was wiped out by the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of that, it’s hard to predict what we’ll see from NMSU this year, but no doubt Hawaii will be heavy favorites in both contests. College Football News’ over/under for Aggie victories is 2.5.
Game Dates: Game 1: Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021 @ NMSU (2:00 p.m. HST); Game 2: Saturday, Oct. 23, 2021 @ Hawaii (6:00 p.m. HST)
2021 Spring Record: 1-1 (2020 season canceled due to COVID-19 pandemic)
Head Coach: Doug Martin (9th season, 23-64 overall)
♦ New Mexico State has yet to beat Hawaii. The Rainbow Warriors are 8-0 against the Aggies, with their first meeting in 1978 and their most recent contest in 2011. What’s more, none of the games have been particularly close; Hawaii’s smallest margin of victory against NMSU was 11.
♦ Head Coach Doug Martin, a former Kentucky QB, has had only one winning season at NMSU. In 2017, under his leadership, the Aggies beat Utah State, 26-20, in the Arizona Bowl, snapping a 57-year bowl drought. Martin previous served as the head coach at Kent State for seven seasons.
♦ As of today, Martin has yet to settle on a starting QB. JUCO transfer Jonah Johnson and redshirt freshman Weston Eget are competing for the job. Both have size and skills, but neither has yet to take a snap in an official FBS game. Assessed Martin after a recent practice, “They both need to play a little bit more aggressively in the passing game, especially down in the red zone when we have people open, letting the ball go on time.”
♦ The Aggies should pack a formidable one-two punch at running back. O’Maury Samuels, who spent his freshman and sophomore seasons as a Michigan Wolverine, has looked impressive in camp. Redshirt freshman Juwaun Price, meanwhile, was the star of the Aggies’ spring exhibition win over Dixie State, rushing for 165 yards and compiling 242 total all-purpose yards. He is a dangerous returner. Both Samuels and Price were selected to Phil Steele’s All-Independent Team.
♦ New Mexico State should be vulnerable on defense. According to SB Nation, no fewer than six defensive players have left the program since the end of the 2019 season. That defense surrendered 41 points per game. Again, according to SB Nation, “The spring session didn’t exactly inspire a whole lot of confidence going forward, allowing 5.1 yards per carry and five scores in the two games against FCS teams.” In other words, expect Hawaii to run the ball early and often.
♦ One of NMSU’s most notable former players – at least for Hawaii fans – is placekicker Roy Gerela. Gerela graduated from Kalani High School before becoming an Aggie. After being drafted by the Houston Oilers in 1969, Gerela went on to win three Super Bowl rings with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He was a 2x Pro Bowl selection (1972, 1974).
♦ Get used to seeing the Aggies. Hawaii and NMSU are scheduled to meet again in 2022 (Oct. 15), 2023 (Sept. 23) and 2024 (Aug. 24).
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