Many New Mexico players will be experiencing a big-time college football environment for the first time at Texas A&M on Saturday, but senior quarterback Terry Wilson has seen it before.
The Kentucky transfer went 17-8 as a starter with the Wildcats. One of those losses came at Kyle Field in the 2018. The Aggies defeated the 13th-ranked Wildcats 20-14 in overtime before 99,829 fans.
“Preparationwise, [his experience] is unbelievable,” New Mexico head coach Danny Gonzales said Tuesday at his weekly press conference. “I mean, he’s been there. He knows exactly what kind of environment it is, and he can explain it. Until you live and see it, I mean it’s still just words, but he took that team to overtime.”
Wilson played a solid game that Saturday night as Kentucky didn’t have a turnover. He threw for 108 yards, completing 13 of 20 passes with a touchdown. He had 14 carries but netted only 4 yards because the Aggies had six sacks with the last one essentially winning the game.
“[Kentucky] had a fourth-and-2 and they call a boot[leg], and Texas A&M plays it great,” Gonzales said.
A&M defensive end Kingsley Keke sacked Wilson, and Kentucky missed a field goal to open overtime. The unranked Aggies, who were favored by six points, needed only four plays to score the game-ending touchdown, denying Kentucky its first 6-0 start since 1950.
Wilson will get a second chance at beating the Aggies, but the Lobos (2-0) are a four-touchdown underdog. The young Lobos list six underclassmen as starters on their depth chart with several more as backups.
“We don’t have a whole lot of experience,” Gonzales said. “That’s OK. They’ve got to get their ears wet some time. ... I’m the ultimate competitor. I believe we can go over there and win. I mean, we’re going to give it our best, but if you don’t believe in that, why go?”
New Mexico has won its first two games for the first time in 16 years, and Wilson is a big reason why. He has thrown for 559 yards on 48-of-65 passing with six touchdowns and no interceptions. He has 47 yards rushing on 16 carries.
“He’s as athletic as heck,” A&M coach Jimbo Fisher said. “If we slip up one second, he’s around the corner.”
Dual-threat quarterbacks have hurt the seventh-ranked Aggies (2-0) with Kent State’s Dustin Crum rushing for 60 yards on 11 carries and Colorado’s Brendon Lewis adding 76 yards on nine carries.
Wilson was the Mountain West Conference offensive player of the week for his play in the Lobos’ 35-25 victory over rival New Mexico State. Wilson threw for a career-high 381 yards on 26-of-37 passing with three touchdowns.
Wilson and the Lobos beat their in-state rival Aggies before 28,470 fans, who provided a definite home-field advantage, Gonzales said, adding that now they’ll be playing against a team backed by support four times greater.
“We’re going against a great opponent, who is one of the best football teams in the country in one of the hardest environments to play,” Gonzales said. “That’s fun. That’s why you do this. Those are the games that we want to play and compete in. We’re going to throw our hat in the ring and go see how we do.”
NOTES — New Mexico’s depth chart features 14 Texans, including starting senior cornerback Corey Hightower from Huntsville. New Mexico has 22 Texans on its overall roster. The Lobos also have 32 players from California, three more than they have from New Mexico. ... Gonzales is in his second season coaching the Lobos. He was a walk-on safety and punter at New Mexico from 1994-98 under head coaches Dennis Franchione then Rocky Long. Gonzales served as a graduate assistant and assistant under Long from 1999-2008 then went to San Diego State from 2011-17 to again work under Long, who has been Gonzales’ defensive coordinator the last two seasons. ... The Lobos played only seven WMC games last season because of COVID-19, going 2-5. New Mexico went 2-10 in 2019, including 0-8 in conference play. ... A&M is 4-0 against the Lobos, winning the last meeting 55-14 in 2017 at Kyle Field.