LAS CRUCES — It remains to be seen whether Josh Adkins is New Mexico State's quarterback of the future.
That depends on what he does with the present.
Adkins, a 6-foot-3 redshirt freshman from Spring Branch, Texas, climbed from No. 3 to No. 1 on the Aggies' depth chart Saturday night. Adkins played the second half of NMSU's 42-25 loss to New Mexico at Aggie Memorial Stadium and did enough to earn an extended audition.
"Josh is going to start at UTEP," Aggies coach Doug Martin said after Saturday's game. "We'll build a game plan around the things he does well and see if we can start running an effective offense."
Adkins' performance against the Lobos had its ups and downs. He was 12-for-21 passing for 168 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions, also rushing nine times for 29 yards. The two late picks, both by New Mexico safety Marcus Hayes, effectively sealed NMSU's fourth loss in as many weeks this season.
But Adkins also provided a definite spark for an offense that had sputtered for three-and-a-half games. With UNM leading 35-17, Adkins led a scoring drive that trimmed the margin to 35-25. He later led the Aggies to the Lobos' goal line with a chance to make it a one-score game.
But after a holding penalty wiped out an apparent touchdown, Hayes intercepted an Adkins pass near the sideline to short out the home team's momentum.
"It was a great play call," Adkins said of the fateful play. "I was just late with the ball. At this level if you're late, it's an interception. I'll learn from that."
Martin doesn't doubt it. In fact, he said Adkins' aptitude for the game is one of his biggest strengths.
"Josh studies the game, understands where the ball is supposed to go and gets it there," Martin said. "He's pretty accurate throwing the ball, too."
Adkins was one of three players vying for the starting QB job in fall camp, but had less experience than junior-college transfer Matt Romero and senior Nick Jeanty. Romero won the job with Jeanty as the backup, but NMSU averaged just 10 points scored in its first three games.
Romero also threw two ill-advised passes Saturday that were intercepted and set up New Mexico touchdowns. Jeanty was ineffective in two series off the bench and also threw a pick to end a potential Aggies scoring opportunity.
"We went with Matt Romero for four games," Martin said. "I thought we were very patient with him. Nick hasn't brought anything to the table when he's been in there, so it's time to see what Josh can do."
The quarterback change was not entirely unexpected. Adkins had been seeing increased repetitions during recent practices and was not entirely shocked when Saturday's opportunity arose. He also thinks a full week of practice with the first-team offense will make him that much better at UTEP.
"I think I'll be ready to go," Adkins said, "I have to learn from (Saturday), but the thing for me is to just go play and try to do the job. Going out there and being timid doesn't make much sense. We have to play to win."