Troy 18

(2-1, 0-1 Sun Belt)

New Mexico St 22

(1-2, 1-0 Sun Belt)

8:05 PM ET, September 18, 2004

Aggie Memorial Stadium, Las Cruces, NM

1 2 3 4 T
TROY 0 7 0 1118
NMSU 3 6 6 722

Top Performers

Passing: B. Pierce (NMSU) - 219 YDS, 2 TD, 1 INT

Rushing: D. Betterson (TROY) - 23 CAR, 137 YDS, 1 TD

Receiving: J. Cray (ALST) - 4 REC, 87 YDS, 1 TD

New Mexico State 22, Troy 18

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) -- Troy University coach Larry Blakeney didn't feel comfortable taking his team to the Southwest, and his instincts were right as New Mexico State beat the Trojans, 22-18.

The Aggies gave the favored Trojans their first defeat in their first-ever Sun Belt Conference game Saturday night in front of a crowd of 17,587 at Aggie Memorial Stadium.

The Trojans were coming off a stunning 24-14 win over 17th-ranked Missouri, and Blakeney was worried that his team would have a letdown against an 0-2 New Mexico State team.

"It was a trap that you couldn't describe fully," Blakeney said. "We knew they were going to be excited about playing us. The road looks like it could be really severe in this league."

Aggie quarterback Buck Pierce tossed a 7-yard touchdown pass to tight end Travis Samuel with 2:05 left in the game to give the Aggies the win.

Samuel, a sophomore, is the son of Aggie head coach Tony Samuel.

"I was a little nervous because he was so wide open and those are the ones you tend to drop," Tony Samuel said. "But I was real happy with the way he handled it."

The touchdown capped an 80-yard scoring drive and gave the Aggies (1-2) their first win of the year. NMSU had lost its first two games by a combined score of 104-27 to Arkansas and California.

"The kids showed a lot of heart and fire," Samuel said. "We had some adversity there in the third and fourth quarter. They recovered from it and finished the game strong."

After NMSU took the lead, Troy's ensuing drive was halted when defensive back Shukree Shabazz forced Cray to fumble after a long catch and Aggie safety Matt Griebel recovered at midfield with 1:45 to play.

"It was Shukree's play," Griebel said. "He's the one who knocked it loose. I had the easy part."

After trailing most of the game, Troy had taken an 18-15 lead with 6:58 to play when Greg Whibbs converted a 34-yard field goal. Troy had tied the game, 15-15, on the first play of the fourth quarter when quarterback Aaron Leak completed a 33-yard scoring pass to James Earl Cray. On the two-point conversion, Leak tossed a pass to DeWhitt Betterson in the corner of the end zone.

Betterson led Troy on the ground with 137 yards on 23 carries. It was Betterson's 1-yard scoring run that gave Troy its only lead of the game, 7-3, in the second quarter.

The Aggies used three field goals by Ryan Guardia and a 14-yard Pierce touchdown pass to freshman Jeremy Lawson to build a 15-7 lead through three quarters.

Pierce, a senior, completed 22 of 34 passes for 219 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Aggies. Muammar Ali led NMSU in rushing with 50 yards on 18 carries.

"That's a great team against the run," Samuel said. "I thought Buck threw the ball well. I thought our receiving was great and so was our protection."

Lawson had five catches for 48 yards and Tim Tolbert had three catches for 58 yards for NMSU.

Troy used two quarterbacks: Leak, a senior, and D.T. McDowell, a freshman, shared the duties. Leak completed 10 of 19 passes for 165 yards, while McDowell completed 3 of 4 passes for 18 yards.

New Mexico State hosts New Mexico next Saturday, while Troy plays at South Carolina.