New Mexico state football is way ahead of schedule, even by Jerry Kill’s standards.
When he was hired about a year ago, Kill described himself as college football’s fix-it guy. At stations like Southern Illinois and Northern Illinois, it took Kill at least two seasons to make those schools winners.
At Minnesota, Kill finished his third and fourth seasons 8-5, but the freshman Aggies head coach went 0-3 in bowl games with the Gophers.
New Mexico State beats Valparaiso and ends the regular season 6-6
So for the Aggies to finish 6-6 and go bowling in first grade and for the fifth time in school history is truly a unique achievement.
“We still have a long way to go,” Kill said. “In the beginning I didn’t think we would be where we are, that’s for sure. …We’ve gotten better every week and some people have leveled up.
“Most of the time we did everything right. There are two or three things we could have done better.”
This season marks the sixth time Aggies has won six games since the Warren Woodson era in the 1960s.
Since then, Doug Martin and now Kill are the only other Aggies coaches to practice in a bowl game, as the Aggies will figure out which bowl game they’ll be in on Sunday.
The Aggies qualified for bowl eligibility based on a waiver issued by the Football Oversight Committee. NM State Athletics Director Mario Moccia said he was surprised when the waiver was approved, but it’s also surprising how the Aggies got themselves into that position.
And they did it as an independent without the resources of the other independent programs in America, including a Liberty program that lost its head coach to Auburn and lost to the Aggies 49-14 last week.
NM State started the season 4-0, losing a home game to Florida International, where the Aggies were a 14.5-point favorite, falling 5-1.
NM State took a step forward in the next game, ending the Lobos on a three-game losing streak, and they never stopped improving, which is the hallmark of a well-trained ball club.
What’s most encouraging for Aggies fans is that the Aggies just keep getting better.
There was some play, mostly on the defensive side of the ball, but little depth to start the season.
The quarterback position was not locked until Diego Pavia led a comeback win in Massachusetts that ended a 21-game losing streak.
The players Kill and his staff brought in during a rushed signing course last year will only get better, and you should think he’ll improve the talent level after they’ve had a full year to recruit.
The Aggies compete in Conference USA next year, where only two of the returning teams qualified for the bowl this season.
There’s no reason to think they can’t at least land in the middle of the field and flirt with bowl eligibility again.
No waivers required.
Jason Groves can be reached at 575-541-5459 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @jpgroves.