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Defense, Mack Step Up in Flames' 20-13 Triumph at New Mexico State

October 5, 2019  Las Cruces, N.M.  RSS
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Postgame Notes and Quotes

 Top Plays: New Mexico State

For the second straight week, Liberty pulled out a seven-point victory in a defensive struggle against an opponent from New Mexico. This time around, Joshua Mack's four-yard touchdown run with 6:19 to play proved to be the winning score in the Flames' 20-13 triumph at New Mexico State, Saturday evening at Aggie Memorial Stadium.

Liberty's defense forced all three of the game's turnovers, with the biggest coming at the 3:15 mark of the fourth quarter. The Aggies had driven inside the Flames' 10-yard line, seeking a game-tying touchdown. But Jessie Lemonier stripped quarterback Josh Adkins and Solomon Ajayi came up with a game-saving fumble recovery.

Liberty successfully ran out the clock, improving to 4-2 with its fourth straight victory. The triumph snapped the Flames' five-game road losing streak and extended New Mexico State's losing streak to eight straight games. The Aggies remain winless on the season at 0-6 after losing their first of two meetings with the Flames in 2019.

Mack accounted for more than half of Liberty's total offensive yards (177 of 334) for the game, including all 75 yards on the Flames' game-winning fourth quarter drive. The redshirt junior running back posted his first 100-yard game as a Flame, tallying 113 yards and a score on 16 carries. Mack also caught two passes for 64 yards on the night.

New Mexico State outgained the Flames by a 396-334 count, with Adkins completing 20-of-30 passes for 265 yards. But the Aggies managed only one touchdown in five red zone trips, as Liberty held the home team to a pair of field goals and came up with two turnovers (interception and fumble) on the four remaining possessions.

Lemonier spearheaded the Flames' stout defensive effort with a team-high 11 tackles, a sack, 2.5 TFL and a forced fumble. Javon Scruggs and Brandon Tillmon also came up with interceptions.

Box Score Highlights:
Final Score: 20-13
Liberty (4-2)
New Mexico State (0-6)
Location: Aggie Memorial Stadium (Las Cruces, N.M.)
Attendance: 23,140

Turning Point:
Liberty never trailed and led by as many as 10 points on two occasions. But its first 4-2 start to a season since 2010 was not secure until the closing minutes.

After seeing New Mexico State tie the score at 13-all midway through the fourth quarter, the Flames needed only four plays and 87 seconds to retake the lead. Mack touched the ball all four times, headlined by a big 54-yard screen pass and his aforementioned four-yard TD carry.

The Aggies then used a quick-strike drive of their own, moving 76 yards in six plays before Liberty's crucial fumble recovery on the six-yard line.

Play-By-Play Breakdown:

First Quarter

  • Defense set the table for Liberty's first points of the night. Scruggs picked off a deflected pass in his own end zone and returned his first career interception 72 yards. Five plays later, Alex Probert connected on a 25-yard field goal with 2:59 to play in the opening quarter. Liberty took a 3-0 advantage into the second period.

Second Quarter

  • The second quarter featured a Tillmon interception and six total punts before Liberty put together the first half's most impressive drive.
  • After starting on their own 13-yard line, the Flames marched 87 yards downfield in 13 plays. A two-yard TD pass from Stephen Calvert to Zac Foutz extended Liberty's advantage to 10-0 just 22 seconds before halftime.

Third Quarter

  • After two penalties, Liberty had to begin the second half by kicking off from its own 15-yard line. New Mexico State took advantage of good field position (starting on its own 39) and got onto the scoreboard at the 11:54 mark with Dylan Brown's 33-yard field goal.
  • Liberty got three points of its own on its ensuing drive as Probert knocked a 51-yard field goal through the uprights at 8:08, matching his career long and pushing the Flames' lead to 13-3.
  • New Mexico State made it a trio of made field goals during the third quarter, thanks to a Brown 39-yard FG with 2:20 remaining in the stanza.

Fourth Quarter

  • The Aggies found the end zone for the first time midway through the fourth quarter (with 7:46 on the clock), tying the score at 13-13 on Jason Huntley's 12-yard touchdown run. The home team needed only three plays to march down the field after taking possession on its own 45-yard line.
  • After the pivotal Mack touchdown and Liberty fumble recovery, the Flames successfully ran the final 3:15 off the clock to end the game. The running back duo of Mack and Frankie Hickson combined for 43 yards on six carries to pick up two game-clinching first downs.

What's Next:
Following a bye week, Liberty will return to Williams Stadium on Oct. 19 for its annual Homecoming game. The Flames will match up with Maine for the first time since the 1992 season.

Date: Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019
Location: Lynchburg, Va. (Williams Stadium)
Radio: LFSN Radio (Flagship Station: The Journey 88.3 FM Lynchburg)
Kickoff: 6:00 p.m. (EST)