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LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) -- Minnesota had a pair of return touchdowns for the second week in a row and Roddrick Williams Jr. rushed for 148 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries to lead a 44-21 victory Saturday night at New Mexico State.
The Gophers made sure the Aggies wound not repeat their 28-21 upset form two seasons ago in the second meeting between the schools. The Gophers (2-0) opened with a 51-23 victory at home against UNLV last week. NMSU (0-2) took a 56-7 beating at Texas last week.
Despite the final score, the outcome wasn't fully settled in the second-ever meeting between these two until midway through the fourth quarter. Phillip Nelson was 8 of 15 for 127 through the air and carried 15 times for 122 yards as the Gophers rolled up 342 yards on the ground.
Andrew McDonald was 22 of 31 for 186 to lead the Aggies.
Despite the final score, the outcome wasn't fully settled in the second-ever meeting between these two until midway through the fourth quarter. Minnesota led 30-14 when NMSU defensive lineman Kevin Laudermill tried to knock down a third-down pass by Nelson, but ended up intercepting the ball. That put the Aggies in business at the Minnesota 34-yard line, but they failed to capitalize on the opportunity after McDonald was stuffed for no gain on a sneak on a fourth-and-1 play from the Gophers' 11-yard line.
"They quick-huddled us," Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill said, noting his defense was able to take advantage of NMSU not getting a clean play off. "We've done that to people before. But sometimes not everyone gets set, and I think that's what happened to them. Their quarterback bounced out on us earlier in the game on that and we learned from our mistake."
From there, Minnesota put the game away with a 1-yard touchdown from Nelson and a 50-yard fumble return for a score by Aaron Hill.Minnesota imposed its will on the Aggies, using a bruising ground attack to churn out 342 yards on 43 attempts. The Gophers also had 127 passing yards to finish with 469 total yards.
Asked if he was pleased with the performance of his tailbacks, Kill said, "Not just the tailbacks, but the offensive line looked like we executed better in the running game.
"Our running backs ran physical. Roddrick - him and David (Cobb) - they played hard."
NMSU head coach Doug Martin was happy with his team's effort despite the loss.
"Well, we got the right heart," he said. "I really think we've got the right character. These kids have come a long, long way."The difference in the game was two fourth-down conversions that we don't make and then the punt that we gave up for the touchdown. If we don't do those things ... we're hurting ourselves. We got some wins coming our way. We just have to keep working."
Minnesota appeared to take command midway through the second quarter on a 14-yard touchdown run by Cobb. That made it 13-0 against an Aggie team whose defense was beginning to tire. NMSU had just one first down in its first five possessions, including four three-and-outs.
However, the NMSU offense responded by getting up off the deck and rattling off a seven play, 76-yard scoring drive that cut the lead to 13-7. The payoff came on a 1-yard run by Brandon Betancourt.
But the Gophers one-upped the Aggies on the following series, putting NMSU right back on its heels with a long drive featuring power running to make it 20-7. Williams did the heavy lifting, carrying six times on the eight-play, 72-yard drive. That included a 7-yard scoring run by Williams, who fumbled on the play but recovered the ball in the end zone with 2:38 left in the first half.
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