LAS CRUCES, N.M. - The Sacramento State football team cut a second half deficit to just nine points but couldn't complete the comeback against New Mexico State, losing 49-19 on Thursday night at Aggie Memorial Stadium.
The Hornets (0-1) will play another Football Bowl Championship subdivision team next weekend when they visit Colorado. New Mexico State (1-0) won its season opener for just the third time in the last 13 years.
Sophomore quarterback threw for a career high 318 yards and two touchdowns on 23-of-35 passing and the Hornets had three pass catchers — , and — each tally more than 75 yards receiving. Junior running back Ezekial Graham led the Hornets with 46 rushing yards on 16 carries.
After going down early on two long touchdown passes from NMSU quarterback Andrew Manley and a 2-yard run by Tiger Powell, the Hornets got on the board after junior kicker booted his first career field goal from 32 yards out with 2:35 left in the first half. New Mexico State scored again on an 84-yard touchdown pass shortly after but the Hornets did not fold going into the break.
After a long pass from Safron to Carter down the Hornets' sideline, the duo hooked up again on an 8-yard touchdown strike on 4th-and-goal with17 seconds left in the half. It was Carter's first career touchdown and the Hornets' first touchdown of the season.
Sacramento State carried that momentum into the third quarter, with Castaneda's second field goal, this time from 25 yards out, on the Hornets' first drive of the half. The Sacramento State defense forced a three-and-out after the field goal and came back with their fourth straight scoring drive.
On a third down, Safron found Knowles down the middle for a 25 yard strike and his second touchdown pass of the evening. The PAT was blocked, however, giving the Hornets just six points for the score.
Sacramento State outscored New Mexico State 9-0 in the third quarter to cut the New Mexico State lead to just nine points at 28-19.
New Mexico State rallied in the fourth quarter, turning three Sacramento State turnovers into 21 fourth-quarter points to put the game away.
Safron's passing total easily eclipsed his previous high of 130 which came last year against Northern Arizona. The Santa Monica, Calif., native also set career marks with completions and attempts. His effort was the first 300-yard performance by a Sacramento State quarterback since totalled 333 yards against NAU in 2010.
The sophomore was not the only Hornet to have a career night as Carter matched his best with four receptions and 81 yards. Knowles also set career highs with five grabs for 75 yards.
Defensively, amassed a team high 11 tackles to give him seven double-digit games since the start of last season. added a career high nine stops and provided seven, including a pair of forced fumbles.
Manley, who was making his first start since injuring his knee in the third game of last year, was an effecient 14-of-22 for 367 yards and three touchdowns. Franklin was his favorite target, catching eight passes for 236 yards and two scores.