DETROIT — For more than a quarter century, New Mexico State head coach Jerry Kill has made it a habit of turning downtrodden programs into winning ones; He has molded winning teams into conference championship teams; and he has gone from relative unknown upon being hired to conference coach of the year on multiple occasions. Yet, in his close to 20 years coaching at the Division I level, Kill had never elevated any of his turnaround projects into bowl game winners, despite five chances to do so.
On Monday afternoon, Kill and one of his reclamation projects finally checked off that last box.
Quarterback Diego Pavia threw for 167 yards and two first-half touchdowns while also rushing for 65 yards, helping the Aggies to defeat Bowling Green 24-19 in the Quick Lane Bowl at Ford Field in Detroit. The Aggies defense held the Falcons scoreless in the first half in opening up a 14-0 lead, and Pavia’s timely runs late allowed New Mexico State to end the season with a 7-6 record, winning six of their last seven games after a 1-5 start to the campaign.
It is no surprise that Kill was the spearhead of another in-season turnaround, with this season’s second half finish allowing the Aggies to reach their first bowl game since 2017. But Kill’s history of losing in bowl games ran counter to the Aggies 3-0-1 record in bowl games in program history, the only FBS team to never lose a bowl game. With the help of Pavia’s dual-threat ability, Kill was able to break his bowl game duck while keeping a goose egg in the loss column for the program in FBS postseason play.
“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.”
*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Monday afternoon’s game, with all photos taken by Detroit-area photographer Aaron J. Thornton. After clicking on the first photo to enlarge the picture, make sure to press the left and right arrow buttons to scroll through the rest of the pictures. There are 34 pictures in total.