Dino Maldonado got his shot. He made the most of it.
The St. Joseph High grad is a walk-on quarterback at New Mexico State. The quarterback was thrust into the starting role for the first time in his career last weekend.
Maldonado powered the Aggies to their first win of the season, beating South Carolina State 43-35. The former Knight completed 24 of 32 passes for 321 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions.
Maldonado earned a national player of the week award for his showing. He threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to Jared Wyatt to put the Aggies up 29-6 in the second quarter. He then tossed a 41-yard touchdown to Isaiah Garcia-Castaneda to give NMSU a 36-13 lead near halftime.
Maldonado's final touchdown pass was a 1-yard dime to Eric Marsh. That gave the Aggies a 43-13 lead over South Carolina State early in the third quarter, but the Bulldogs scored 22 straight points to close out the game and make it close.
Injuries to Jonah Johnson and Weston Eget put Maldonado into the starting spot beginning with last weekend's game.
Maldonado also played in the Sept. 11 game against the University of New Mexico. The 6-foot-2 sophomore completed 13 for 34 passes for 192 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions after coming on in relief.
The Aggies are slated to host the University of Hawaii on Saturday for their Homecoming game. It was not clear if Maldonado would start for the Aggies. Johnson and Eget were both set to practice this week, according to Jason Groves of the Las Cruces Sun.
Maldonado was named College Sports Madness Independent Offensive Player of the Week. The Aggies are an Independent FBS program, meaning they don't play in a conference.
After graduating from St. Joseph in 2018, Maldonado enrolled at Portland State, an FCS program. From there, the signal-caller transferred to Ventura College to play for coach Steve Mooshigian.
Maldonado played one season with the Pirates, appearing in eight games in Ventura. He threw for 1,724 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2019.
Ventura College, like most California junior colleges, didn't field a team in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Maldonado chose to enroll at NMSU this past summer and attempt to walk on to the Aggie program. His plan and dedication paid off last weekend when he was rewarded with his first start.
Per NMSU, Maldonado became the first Aggie to throw for 300 or more yards in their first-career start since JJ McDermott threw for 319 yards against Louisiana Tech on Oct. 13, 2007.
"We were trying to run a lot of play actions and screens for Dino early because those are plays where he didn't need to make a read," NMSU head coach Doug Martin said after the game. "It was just a case of 'you're going to throw it to this guy', it's a screen. That allowed Dino to get off to a good start. And of course, everybody makes adjustments at halftime. So, we faced a lot of man coverage in the second half which forced us to make throws and reads. That's where we struggled and didn't do as well as we needed to. South Carolina State brought a lot of pressure in the second half and Dino quite frankly doesn't have the experience needed to handle those situations quite yet. He'll get there."
Nevada suffers first loss
Two former local standouts helped Nevada get out to a 2-0 start before the Wolf Pack suffered a 38-17 loss at unbeaten Kansas State last Saturday.
Former St. Joseph and Atascadero star Elijah Cooks caught a touchdown pass for the Wolf Pack in the loss. That catch tied the game up at 17 in the third quarter, but the Wildcats scored 18 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to seal the win.
Cooks and former Lompoc star Toa Taua are both seniors. The Wolf Pack also feature former Lompoc lineman Jacob Nunez, who is a redshirt sophomore who transferred from Arizona State last season.
Nevada is set to play again at Boise State on Saturday, Oct. 2. The Wolf Pack are scheduled to host New Mexico State on Saturday, Oct. 9.
Morgan suits up at ASU
Former Lompoc star receiver Ryan Morgan has suited up at Arizona State as a redshirt freshman tight end/H-back.
Morgan played in one game during the 2020 season at ASU and has been suited up this fall, though he hasn't recorded a reception.