DETROIT (AP)Diego Pavia threw for 167 yards and two touchdowns, and New Mexico State held off a late rally by Bowling Green to win the Quick Lane Bowl 24-19 on Monday.
The Aggies (7-6) were up 24-7 late in the third quarter, but the Falcons closed the gap in the fourth quarter to make it 24-19 after a field goal, a safety off of a blocked punt and Camden Orth’s 19-yard touchdown pass to Tyrone Broden with 6:27 left.
From there, New Mexico State kept control of the ball for the rest of the game.
New Mexico State coach Jerry Kill, who earned his first victory in six bowl appearances, gave much of the credit for the win to Pavia, who completed 17 of 19 passes, rushed for 65 yards and made three key third-down conversions on the last drive.
”Diego drives me crazy sometimes, but when it comes down to winning, he finds a way to win,” Kill said. ”The last couple of runs he made toward the end were flat unbelievable. He just threw his body out there.”
Pavia said the team didn’t panic after Bowling Green scored its final touchdown.
”Really, it was just do your job,” he said. ”Whenever anything broke down, it was make a play. So when it comes down to those things I want the ball in my hands. I feel we were successful tonight on it.”
Pavia added that the team was excited to be able to get Kill his first bowl win as a head coach.
”Coach Kill, he’s a winner,” Pavia said. ”So for him to have his first one tonight is just crazy. Just because he’s born winning. He doesn’t like to lose.”
Bowling Green (6-7) lost starting quarterback Matt McDonald early in the first quarter when he was hit late by Aggies safety Dylan Early while going out of bounds on a third-down run. He was replaced by Orth, who twice led the Falcons into field-goal range in the first half but Mason Lawler missed both tries.
”I thought Cam went in there and that’s not easy,” Falcons coach Scott Loeffler said. ”The whole game plan was built around Matt and I thought he did a great job and particularly in the second half adapting and adjusting.
”No one knows how hard it is to be the backup quarterback. And when you get thrown into the mix like that, we had to adapt and adjust, and we did to give him a chance in the second half.”
The Aggies scored first to make it 7-0 on Pavia’s 15-yard scoring pass to Star Thomas on their first possession of the game. The junior quarterback later added a 2-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter to Eric Marsh.
New Mexico State: It’s only the second time in the last 20 seasons that New Mexico State has won at least seven games, the first being 2017 when the Aggies beat Utah State in the Arizona Bowl.
Bowling Green: The Falcons’ defense struggled throughout the season and it carried over into the game. Bowling Green was unable to slow the Aggies’ offense, especially Pavia’s ability to extend plays with his passing and running.
New Mexico State: After five seasons as an independent, the Aggies join Conference USA. New Mexico State will aim to go to a bowl in back-to-back years for the first time since 1959-60. Their first game next season is Aug. 26, hosting Massachusetts.
Bowling Green: Will be at Liberty on Sept. 2 to start the season. The Falcons will have to replace two key starters in McDonald and defensive end Karl Brooks. McDonald started 29 of Bowling Green’s 30 games since he transferred from Boston College in 2019. Brooks was one of the nation’s leading defensive linemen with 10 sacks and 18 tackles for losses.
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