New Mexico State thrilled its Homecoming crowd with a season-best aerial attack, leading to a 49-41 win over Liberty, Saturday night, at Aggie Memorial Stadium.
New Mexico State, who came into the game averaging 190.6 passing yards this season, finished the night with 402 total passing yards and four passing touchdowns.
During its consecutive weeks in the state of New Mexico, the Flames allowed a combined 771 passing yards and eight passing touchdowns. Liberty finished the swing to the "Land of Enchantment" with a 1-1 record, including its 52-43 win at New Mexico, last weekend.
Despite the lofty passing yards allowed, Liberty remained in the game until its final possession when Flames quarterback Stephen Calvert was sacked for the fifth time. Calvert finished the night with his 11th career 300-yard passing game, completing 31-of-54 attempts for 365 yards and two touchdowns.
DJ Stubbs paced the Flames' receivers with his second career 100-yard game, finishing the night with 11 receptions for 115 yards. Running back Frankie Hickson also recorded his second career 100-yard game, ending up with a career-high 155 rushing yards and a touchdown.
Box Score Highlights: Final Score: 49-41 Liberty (2-3) New Mexico State (2-4) Location: Aggie Memorial Stadium (Las Cruces, N.M.) Attendance: 8,337
Liberty's defense allowed the Flames to tie the game midway through the third quarter, 21-21. The Flames forced two three-and-out series and the visitors scored on their first possession of the second half at the 12:12 mark. The Aggies were able to restart their potent passing attack midway through the period and regained the lead on a 22-yard touchdown pass from Josh Adkins to Dan Drew at the 9:04 mark.
Calvert tried to respond on the next drive, but his deep pass down the field to Stubbs into double coverage was intercepted and returned 53 yards. Three plays later, the Aggies pushed their lead to 14 points, 35-21, and the Flames would never get closer than seven points the rest of the game.
First Quarter • For the second game in a row and the third time this season, Liberty put points on the board on its opening drive, taking a 7-0 lead less than three minutes into the game. Hickson capped a seven-play, 75-yard drive with a 22-yard rushing touchdown at the 12:43 mark of the opening quarter. • The game's first turnover allowed the home team to tie the contest at 7-7 at the 6:51 mark. Calvert was sacked and the Aggies recovered the loose ball at the 26-yard line. A 20-yard pass from Josh Adkins set up a one-yard touchdown run by Christian Gibson, his first of the season.
Second Quarter • The two teams traded the ball back and forth on the game's next seven drives until Adkins found Anthony Muse open for a 10-yard strike at 5:38. The seven-play drive saw Adkins complete all five of his passing attempts and pick up 57 of the 80-yard drive through the air. • The Aggies pushed their lead to 14, 21-7, with 2:26 left to play before halftime on a two-yard rushing touchdown by Jason Huntley. The quick six-play drive took only 1:13 off the clock as Adkins completed 3-of-5 passing attempts for 84 of the drive's 86 total yards. • The Flames benefited from the Aggies' second roughing the kicker penalty on a punt with just over a minute to play. The personal foul gave the Flames new life, setting up a 34-yard strike from Calvert to Antonio Gandy-Golden 57 seconds before halftime, trimming the home team's lead to seven just before the intermission, 21-14.
Third Quarter • The Flames tied the game on their first possession of the second half when Calvert called his own number from five yards out at 12:12. The four-play, 25-yard scoring drive was set up by a 60-yard punt return from Stubbs. • After Liberty forced a pair of three-and-out series on the Aggies' first two drives of the quarter, New Mexico State was able to restart its passing attack. Adkins completed all four of his passing attempts on a six-play drive, including a 22-yard strike to a wide open Drew Dan at 9:04 to give the home the lead at 28-21. • The Flames tried to respond on the following drive, but a Calvert pass deep down the field was picked off by DeMarcus Owens and returned 53 yards. Three plays later, Adkins found tight end Bryce Roberts open over the middle for a 10-yard touchdown reception at 5:34, doubling the Aggies' lead to 35-21. • Liberty was able to answer on the following drive, getting its own tight end touchdown to shave the lead to seven with 38 seconds left in the quarter. Calvert completed all three of his pass attempts on the five-play, 67-yard drive, including an 11-yard dart to Zac Foutz for the tight end's second career touchdown.
Fourth Quarter • New Mexico State doused Liberty's hopes of a comeback on the second play of the fourth quarter when Adkins completed a 40-yard touchdown pass to OJ Clark. The redshirt freshman's fourth touchdown pass of the game pushed his passing total over 400 yards for the game. • After a one-yard run by Calvert pulled Liberty within seven with 10:24 remaining, Gibson put the game out of reach when the senior broke free for a 66-yard rushing touchdown to give New Mexico State a 49-35 advantage with 9:44 left to play in the contest.
What's Next: Following back-to-back weeks in the "Land of Enchantment," the Flames return home to begin a two-game homestand to close out the month of October. Liberty will host Troy for the Flames' first afternoon game at Williams Stadium in 2018. The Trojans are coming off a 37-20 Thursday evening win over Sun Belt foe Georgia State, Troy's fifth win in a row to raise its record to 5-1.
Date: Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018 Location: Lynchburg, Va. (Williams Stadium) Radio: LFSN Radio (Flagship Station: The Journey 88.3 FM Lynchburg) TV: ESPN3 (LFSN TV Production) Kickoff: 2:00 p.m. (EST)