Another trip to New Mexico. Another shootout out west. A different result. The Aggies and Flames combined for 90 points and nearly 1,100 yards of offense. In the end, Liberty was unable to make it 2-0 on the two week New Mexico trip. NMSU and the Flames will meet again back in Lynchburg in late November.
Throughout every game, there are several moments or plays that go unnoticed, or could be overlooked. Still, they play a huge role in the eventual outcome.
Let’s look at five plays that changed the direction of this game:
Buckshot fumbles after sack from behind – Early in the game, Liberty was looking to seize control. After scoring a touchdown on the first drive of the game to go ahead 7-0, the Flames’ defense held serve and forced a NMSU punt. As Buckshot and the LU offense attempted to take an early two score lead, he was pressured from behind and sacked without seeing the pass rusher. He fumbled the ball and the Aggies recovered. With a short field, New Mexico State was able to tie the game at 7, and changed the momentum and direction of the game early on.
Aggies convert on 3rd down – After taking a 14-7 lead in the 2nd quarter, NMSU faced a 3rd and 10 at their own 14 yard line. With the Liberty defense looking to force a punt for the 5th time in New Mexico State’s first 7 possessions, Aggies quarterback Josh Adkins found Izaiah Lottie for a 32 yard completion. Just a few plays later and the Flames were behind 21-7.
Flames bailed out by a penalty again – With the Flames falling behind by two scores and time running out in the first half, Liberty needed something to go their way. After being forced to punt near midfield, Aidan Alves was roughed on his punt attempt. The 15 yard penalty gave the Flames a first down and new life. On the very next play, Buckshot connected with AGG for a touchdown, bringing the score to a one possession game going into the locker rooms.
Buckshot intercepted – In a back and forth 3rd quarter, Liberty trailed 28-21. The Flames drove deep into NMSU territory, and faced a 2nd and 4 play call from the 38. Buckshot, who went on to connect with DJ Stubbs 11 times, attempted to force it to the slot receiver in the red zone. The Aggies were able to jump in front of the pass, intercepting it and returning 53 yards to the Liberty 31. 3 plays later and NMSU had a two score lead again.
Stopped to force 4th down, or not – With Liberty trailing 42-35 and just about 10 minutes left in the game, the defense desperately needed a stop. The Flames forced a 3rd and 1 for the Aggies at their own 34 yard line. As NMSU attempted an inside run, the Flames’ defense swarmed to the ball carrier in the backfield looking like it would be stopped for a loss to force 4th down, but Christian Gibson had other ideas. He was able to bounce outside of Liberty’s defense and was then off to the races. He scampered 66 yards for what would end up being the deciding touchdown.