TUCSON, Ariz. -- New Mexico State waited 57 years for a night like this, so a little bit of overtime wasn't going to get in the way of the party.
Senior Larry Rose III's overtime touchdown run gave the New Mexico Aggies (7-6) their first bowl victory since 1960 at the Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl on Friday night. Rose finished the game with 142 rushing yards while leading his team to a 26-20 win over Utah State -- the same program that New Mexico State beat the last time it played in a postseason game during the Eisenhower administration.
"That game couldn't have ended any better. That was just poetic that Larry Rose would score that last touchdown," said head coach Doug Martin, who returned to New Mexico State's Las Cruces campus three seasons ago to take over a program that was on the brink of dropping from FBS competition. "He's meant so much to this program. We sold him on a vision when we didn't have anything. It was just a vision that he was going to be a part of a class that changed the culture of a place."
Martin called the bowl win the "most rewarding experience" he's had in coaching. The former Kent State head coach didn't have a team with more than three wins in his first four years in Las Cruces.
New Mexico State, which snapped the nation's longest bowl drought thanks to a last-minute comeback win in the final regular-season game of the year, fell behind 20-13 in the fourth quarter before mounting a comeback. A pair of redshirt seniors -- quarterback Tyler Rogers and wide receiver Jaleel Scott -- connected for a game-tying touchdown pass with 6:31 remaining in the game to force overtime. After Utah State missed a field goal for the fourth time in the game on its overtime possession, Martin said he only wanted to make sure his offense didn't fall out of field goal range.
Rose rushed for 102 yards on nine carries in the first half, but he fumbled the ball late in the second quarter to set up a scoring drive for Utah State right before the two teams went to the locker room. He said he wasn't going to miss an opportunity to redeem himself in overtime.
"I wouldn't want to go out any other way," Rose said. "I told them, 'I'm going to make it up to you.' The game ended and I hadn't made it up, so there was a lot of pressure on me. I told them I got them, and I like to be a man of word."
Several hundred fans poured onto the field after Rose's game-winning score. The overwhelming majority of a record-setting crowd of 39,132 was dressed in New Mexico State Aggie crimson at the University of Arizona's stadium Friday night and many of them stuck around to celebrate the end of their lengthy drought.
"They had the whole U of A home side of the field covered. I was like, 'Man, this is what it's supposed to look like,'" Rose said. "Nobody is in Las Cruces right now."
When they return, the Aggies and their city will get a chance to celebrate a bowl win that was 57 years in the making.