Valpo Football Adds Game at New Mexico State
The Valparaiso University football season is not over yet.
The program has announced the addition of a nonconference game against FBS independent New Mexico State that will take place on Saturday, Dec. 3 at 2 p.m. CT at Aggie Memorial Stadium in Las Cruces, N.M. This will mark the first game against a Division-I FBS opponent in program history.
“When we got the phone call that New Mexico State was interested in the game, we knew this was a great opportunity for our program,” head coach Landon Fox said. “We talk to our team about how we’re going to play anybody, any place, any time. If you live by that motto and that’s something you believe in, it makes it a very easy decision when you get that phone call. If you have the opportunity to win the Pioneer Football League and get into postseason play, this gives you a preview of how you do it. Hopefully the opportunity to play in the FCS Playoffs comes for us sooner rather than later, and this gives us a way to prepare for that.”
This will mark the first December game in the history of the Valpo football program, a long history that spans well over a century. Previously, the latest game in the calendar in program history was Nov. 29, 1923, a 0-0 tie vs. Dubuque.
Valpo will become the third team in Pioneer Football League history to play an FBS opponent. Austin Peay played at Troy in 2002 as a PFL member, and Drake visited Iowa State in 2018.
Former Valpo football standout Jack Jarnigan is a member of the coaching staff at New Mexico State as a graduate assistant. He was a four-year starter at center on Valpo’s offensive line and served as a team captain during Fox’s first season as Valpo head coach in 2019.
For the Valpo football program, this represents an opportunity to build toward a bright future. The group has already reached new heights in recent seasons, attaining three straight years with a .500 or better record in Pioneer Football League play for the first time since 1998-2000, among countless other feats.
For the seniors, this represents an opportunity to put on the Valpo uniform one final time.
“This is pretty crazy; this was the last thing I was ever expecting,” senior captain Kohlton Sherman said. “We get to play an FBS opponent for the first time, so that’s a pretty big deal and it gives us a chance to prove where we are as a program.”
Sherman’s high school quarterback, Bryce Bearss, is on the team at New Mexico State, adding one extra storyline for the fifth-year defensive back who has been afforded an unexpected opportunity to take the field one final time.
“I was pretty emotional after the game against Drake,” Sherman said. “It’s weird to think that you’ll be done with football forever. It was hitting me a little bit watching football games over the weekend. It seemed weird that I didn’t have another year to look forward to. Being able to play one more game is pretty exciting. The coaches always say they’d give anything for one game, and now I get a chance to play one more.”
Aaron Dawson posted eye-popping rushing numbers in his one season with the Brown & Gold, finishing among the national leaders in a variety of rushing categories. His 1,187 rushing yards rank second in single-season program history, and he’ll now get one more opportunity to add to that total. Most importantly, he’ll also have one more opportunity to compete with his teammates on Saturday in New Mexico.
“I was shocked,” Dawson said. “I have never experienced something like this. It’s a blessing; we have another opportunity and more time to get better and make an impression. For young guys, this gets them an opportunity to see how it is playing against an FBS opponent. As a senior, it’s amazing to get to play again. We have to keep grinding and take advantage of this chance to end the season with an incredible experience.”