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Sunday, December 3, 2023

Auburn stunned by New Mexico State in one of largest upsets this season

Auburn entered Saturday’s game against New Mexico State as 25.5-point favorites – yet lost by three touchdowns.

The Tigers fell to New Mexico State, 31-10, on Saturday, marking the team’s first loss at home to a nonconference opponent since 2007.

It was the second-largest upset, based on point spread, of the season, falling just short of Texas State’s outright win over Baylor, a 26.5-point favorite heading into that game, according to ESPN.

It was also the Aggies’ first victory against an SEC school in program history.

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NM State player after win

New Mexico State Offensive lineman AJ Vaipulu #51 celebrates after defeating the Auburn Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium on Nov. 18 in Auburn, Alabama.  (Michael Chang/Getty Images)

To make matters worse, Auburn also paid New Mexico State $1.7 million for the meeting, a common occurrence between power-five and lower-level schools.

“How about that, $1.7 million and we won the game,” head coach Jerry Kill said after the game.

New Mexico State (9-3) outscored the Tigers (6-5) 21-3 in the second half, but Auburn never led at any point in the game since the Aggies scored a touchdown on their very first drive. 

The Aggies outgained Auburn 414-213 and held onto the ball for nearly 39 minutes.

Hugh Freeze

Auburn head coach Hugh Freeze calls out to his players during the second half of their game against the New Mexico State Aggies at Jordan-Hare Stadium on Nov. 18 in Auburn, Alabama. (Michael Chang/Getty Images)

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“You don’t get many opportunities like this,” Kill said. “We’re playing a Southeastern Conference football team and we really dominated the football game most of the time.”

The Aggies had lost their previous 27 games against SEC teams.

In the fourth quarter, New Mexico converted a fake punt on fourth down and later found the end zone on fourth down, completing a 16-play, 83-yard drive.

Diego Pavia completed 19 of 28 passes for 201 yards and three touchdowns, one each to Kordell David, Eli Stowers and Star Thomas, who combined with Makhilyn Young for 119 rushing yards on 13 carries.

New Mexico State players celebrate

New Mexico State running back Star Thomas #4 celebrates with quarterback Diego Pavia #10 after scoring a touchdown during the second half of their game against the Auburn Tigers on Nov. 18 in Auburn, Alabama. (Michael Chang/Getty Images)

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New Mexico State has now won seven straight, clinching a spot in the C-USA title game against Liberty, but first, they’ll host Jacksonville State next Saturday to end the regular season.

Perhaps Auburn may have been looking ahead to next week when they’ll host the Iron Bowl against No. 8 Alabama.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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