Liberty's familiarity with the Aggies allowed the Flames to limit New Mexico State's offense to one touchdown en route to a 28-21 win at Williams Stadium, Saturday afternoon, during Military Appreciation Day.
Liberty and New Mexico State were meeting for the second time this season. The Aggies claimed a 49-41 home victory over the Flames on Oct. 6 at Aggie Memorial Stadium in Las Cruse, N.M.
It is believed that the Flames and Aggies are the first Division I football teams to match up twice within the same regular season since 1998, when UConn beat UMass on both Oct. 24 and Nov. 21.
For the second time this year, the Aggies held the offensive edge over the Flames, finishing a rainy and foggy afternoon with 396 total offensive yards to Liberty's 295.
Liberty's quarterback Stephen Calvert finished the day completing 18-of-31 passing attempts for 154 yards. With two touchdown passes, the junior is now tied with Robbie Justino for the program record of 64 career touchdown passes (1989-91).
Frankie Hickson finished the day with his fifth career 100-yard game and the fourth of the 2018 season, carrying the ball 27 times for 116 yards. With his yardage on the day, the junior enters the final game of the season needing 68 rushing yards to become Liberty's first 1,000 yard rusher since the 2014 season.
Likewise Antonio Gandy-Golden is approaching the 1,000 yard mark. The junior finished the day with eight receptions for 62 yards and his 10th touchdown of the year. He needs 34 receiving yards next week against Norfolk State to become the second wide receiver in program history to post back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons (Chris Summers – 2010-11).
Box Score Highlights: Final Score: 28-21 Liberty (5-6) New Mexico State (3-9) Location: Williams Stadium (Lynchburg, Va.) Attendance: 16,022
During the Oct. 6 meeting, the two teams combined for 1,085 total offensive yards: Liberty (518) and New Mexico State (567).
Today, the Aggies scored twice during the first quarter on a kickoff return and an interception return, while the Flames defense nearly did not allow an offensive touchdown for the first time since the 2016 season.
However, New Mexico State pieced together its longest drive of the game, a 13-play, 83-yard drive that ended with a touchdown with 1:46 left in the fourth quarter.
Liberty's defense limited the Aggies to 396 yards on 81 plays (4.8 yards per play), including an opponent season low 83 rushing yards.
First Quarter • The wet weather played a factor during Liberty's first two scoring drives of the game, helping the Flames jump out to a 10-0 lead midway through the quarter. • A mishandled snap on an Aggie punt attempt gave Liberty a short field that ended with a five-yard touchdown pass from Calvert to Gandy-Golden at 10:27. Juwan Wells forced a fumble on the next drive, giving Liberty the ball back and eventually led to a 27-yard field goal by Alex Probert at the 6:54 mark. • Three more scoring plays took place during the remainder of the period, all coming on lengthy returns by the defense and special teams. • Solomon Ajayi returned an interception 26 yards for a touchdown for Liberty, while the Aggies got an 85-yard kickoff return for a score by Jason Huntley and a 37-yard interception return for a touchdown by Javahn Ferguson, trimming the Flames lead to 17-14 at the quarter break.
Second Quarter • The score remained the same until the final two minutes of the period where the Flames scored twice to take a 28-14 lead into the locker room at halftime. • Alex Probert tied a career long with a 51-yard field goal with 2:06 left to play in the half, followed by a quick three-and-out defensive stop for the Flames which set up Calvert's 31-yard touchdown pass to B.J. Farrow with 26 seconds left to play in the half.
Third Quarter • Neither team added points to the scoreboard during the third quarter, with the teams combining for 166 total offensive yards (New Mexico State – 106; Liberty – 60). • The closest either team came to finding the end zone was on New Mexico State's opening drive of the quarter. The Aggies managed to get to the Liberty one-yard line, but the Flames came up with their third fourth-down stop of the game to keep the visitors out of the end zone.
Fourth Quarter • The Aggies finally scored their first offensive touchdown of the game with 1:46 left to play in the contest when Josh Adkins completed a four-yard touchdown pass to Naveon Mitchell in the back corner of the end zone to finish a 13-play, 83-yard drive. • New Mexico State attempted an on-side kick on the ensuing kickoff, but Liberty successfully recovered the kick. The Flames were able to run out the game clock after the Aggies exhausted their timeouts during the previous scoring drive.
Liberty wraps up its inaugural season at the FBS level when they close out a two-game homestand against in-state foe Norfolk State at Williams Stadium. Next Saturday will be Senior Day and the Flames will honor their graduating senior class prior to kickoff.
Date: Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018 Location: Lynchburg, Va. (Williams Stadium) Radio: LFSN Radio (Flagship Station: The Journey 88.3 FM Lynchburg) TV: ESPN3 (LFSN TV production) Kickoff: 2 p.m. (EST)