NMSU quarterback ready to test Longhorns' tough secondary

Updated: August 28, 2003, 4:06 AM ET

LAS CRUCES, N.M. -- Texas' defense has intercepted 54 passes over the past three seasons, a stat that may have escaped New Mexico State quarterback Buck Pierce.

Pierce, speaking this week about the Aggies' season-opening game Sunday night against the No. 5 ranked Longhorns, ventured a bold prediction.

"They aren't a team that's going to shut our passing game down," Pierce said. "We are going to be able to move the ball on them."

Nothing like the days leading up to the first game of the season to spur optimism and the Aggies are no exception.

"They are beatable," said Pierce. "I think we are a much more physical, stronger team than we've been before."

New Mexico State, which hasn't had back-to-back winning seasons since 1966-67, is taking on a Texas team with a national championship on its agenda. The Aggies finished 7-5 last season, their most wins since 1967.

So odds are that the Longhorns' 19-game home winning streak -- second longest active streak in the nation -- isn't in jeopardy. That's the longest home winning streak for the Longhorns since they won 42 straight from 1969-76.

Over the last two seasons Texas is an overall 22-4, including 35-20 win over LSU last year in the Cotton Bowl and a No. 6 national ranking in the final AP poll.

Texas and New Mexico State have played three times since 1996 and the Longhorns have won all three -- 41-7 in 1996, 66-36 in 1998 and 41-7 in 2001. In the 1998 game, Texas led 33-0 at halftime.

Still, Texas coach MackBrown says Sunday's game will be a good test for his team.

"I love their offense,"Brown said of the Aggies. "They can make it very, very difficult for defenses. They make it hard to put pressure on the quarterback because of their blocking schemes and their ability to use the play-action pass."

Defensively, the Aggies will face a Texas offense that has one of the country's top running backs in Cedric Benson and a trio of explosive wide receivers led by senior Roy Williams.

Benson has rushed for 2,346 yards in his career and has scored 24 touchdowns. Williams enters the season with a school-record streak of five straight 100-yard receiving games. The two-time All-Big 12 first team receiver has 171 career receptions for 2,787 yards and holds the school record with 27 touchdowns.

New Mexico State over the years has been willing to schedule road games against much bigger programs such as Texas, South Carolina and Georgia as a way to increase its revenues. The Aggies will receive about $450,000 from Sunday's game, an all-time high for the school according to athletics director Brian Faison.

NMSU coach Tony Samuel said the chance to earn that kind of money for his program and the chance to get his team some national television exposure will help.

"It's more to make money, more than anything. That's the cold-hearted facts about it," Samuel said. "You can make money and win a game. The kids are excited about it."

Kickoff at Texas' Darrell K Royal Stadium is 6 p.m. CDT.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index