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New Mexico State (1-9) at Florida Atlantic (4-6)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 23, 3 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: FAU Stadium (29,419) -- Boca Raton, Florida. Television: None. Home Record: NMSU 1-5, FAU 1-2. Away Record: NMSU 0-4, FAU 3-4. Neutral Record: NMSU 0-0, FAU 0-0. Conference Record: NMSU 0-0, FAU 3-4. Series Record: New Mexico State leads, 1-0.
GAME NOTES: Interim head coach Brian Wright shoots for a third straight win this weekend as he and the FAU Owls clash with the New Mexico State Aggies in non-conference action.
Wright took over the Owls in October after head coach Carl Pelini tendered his resignation amidst illegal drug allegations, and since then FAU has come up with a pair of victories, matching the team's win total through the first eight games of 2013. The latest victory came last Saturday in a 41-7 romp over a winless Southern Miss squad.
As for the Aggies, there was a time this season when they were going head-to- head with Southern Miss for the longest losing streak in the Football Bowl Subdivision, but the team finally broke that cycle when it defeated Abilene Christian, 34-29, back on Oct. 26. Unfortunately, the setbacks keep on rolling in for NMSU as the team bowed to Louisiana the following week and then Boston College the last time out (Nov. 9).
The last win for the Aggies against another member of the FBS took place late in the 2011 season versus Fresno State.
According to NMSU sources, the Aggies won the only previous meeting between the teams with a 35-7 decision at home.
New Mexico State's offense has gotten a little better in recent weeks, but still the squad ranks 91st in the country in rushing with just 139.3 ypg and 101st in scoring with 21.7 ppg.
The squad has had a total of six different players attempt at least one pass this season, although not all were quarterbacks obviously. Andrew McDonald has been the most productive passer with 68.6 percent accuracy, leading to 217.5 ypg and 13 TDs, but at the same time he has tossed 10 INTs.
Despite missing the first four games of the season, Austin Franklin has become a favorite target down the field with three straight games of double-digit receptions and at least 120 yards in each of those efforts. Franklin now has 42 receptions for 548 yards and five TDs, all of which lead the Aggies.
Over on the defensive side, it can't get much worse for New Mexico State as the team ranks 123rd in the FBS with a staggering 312.9 ypg allowed on the ground alone. Add to that another 242.1 ypg through the air, and it's easy to see how the unit bottoms out with an unbelievable 555.0 ypg permitted.
It may have been just another defeat handed to Southern Miss last weekend, but for the Owls the 34-point margin of victory represented the largest in program history against a member of the FBS, not to mention consecutive wins for the first time since 2010. FAU led 41-0 in the third quarter before calling off the attack, as quarterback Jaquez Johnson and Damian Fortner both posted a pair of rushing touchdowns.
Johnson, who now holds the school's single-season record for rushing TDs for a quarterback with 10, carried the ball 19 times for 111 yards and converted 5- of-9 passes for 37 yards, the latter being largely insignificant since the rushing attack accounted for 333 yards.
Defensively, the Owls held USM to a meager 20 net rushing yards, tallied three sacks and made a pair of interceptions, both picks coming from Christian Milstead who took one of them back 61 yards for a touchdown near the end of the first half.
The Owls now have 13 interceptions on the season and according to team sources, D'Joun Smith has logged an astounding seven of them, not to mention forcing a pair of fumbles as he tries to keep the team relevant. Like Milstead, Smith has also scored once after picking off a pass this season.
Johnson leads the rushing attack for the Owls with 629 yards, stemming from 144 attempts, while Fortner and Jonathan Wallace both have three touchdowns to their credit. Unfortunately, the passing attack is not nearly as productive with six TDs thrown by Johnson and another three from Greg Hankerson.
With renewed energy, the Owls can't be considered an easy target any longer, although more and more that seems to be the story with a slumping New Mexico State squad that is destined to come out on the losing end yet again this weekend.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Florida Atlantic 34, New Mexico State 21
11/20 10:40:08 ET