In the rematch of the teams’ game from October where New Mexico State edged Liberty, 49-41, the Flames came out on top on a cold, rainy day in Lynchburg. Neither team would score in the 2nd half until the closing minutes as Liberty held on to a 28-21 win to improve to 5-6 on the season.
The Flames quickly jumped out to a 17-0 lead, thanks primarily to excellent starting field position. After a poor Aggies’ punt, Liberty took over in New Mexico State territory at the 41. Just a few plays later, Buckshot Calvert connected with Antonio Gandy-Golden for a 5 yard touchdown pass.
On the Aggies’ ensuing drive, Juwan Wells forced a fumble that was recovered by Devin Pearson at the NMSU 26. That led to a Alex Probert 25 yard field goal. Just a couple plays later and Solomon Ajayi intercepted Josh Adkins’ pass and returned it for a touchdown.
Just as it looked like the Flames were going to seize control of the game, Jason Huntley returned the following kickoff 85 yards to get NMSU on the board.
Not much later, Calvert threw his 12th interception in just over 4 games. It was returned by Aggies lineback Javahn Ferguson 37 yards for a touchdown. Just like that and Liberty’s lead was cut to 17-14 by the end of the first quarter.
Neither offense was able to get much traction in the first half, despite the points that were put on the board. Both of Liberty’s first quarter scoring drives came on drives that started in NMSU territory, and all 14 of the Aggies’ points were accredited to the defense and special teams.
The Flames were able to put together a drive late in the quarter that went for 40 yards and ended in a 51 yard field goal made by Alex Probert to give Liberty a 20-14 lead at halftime.
After Probert’s field goal, New Mexico State got the ball back with 2 minutes left in the half. The Aggies picked up 9 yards on 3 pass plays to bring up a 4th and 1 at the Liberty 38 yard line with just over a minute left in the game. Surprisingly, NMSU elected to go for it, and Adkins’ quarterback keeper was stopped short.
This gave Liberty the ball in NMSU territory with all 3 timeouts left. Buckshot and the Flames took advantage as Liberty’s signal-caller connected with BJ Farrow in the endzone for a touchdown. Calvert then connected with Farrow again on the 2 point conversion to give Liberty the 28-14 lead at halftime. That touchdown pass put Calvert in a tie for the program record of 64 career touchdown passes.
After a couple of poor performances against P5 opponents Virginia and Auburn, the Liberty offense went to standout receiver AGG early and often. He was targeted 10 times in the first half, hauling in 5 receptions for 43 yards and a touchdown.
The Liberty defense played one of its best halves of the season, keeping NMSU off the scoreboard and only allowing 113 yards of total offense.
Looking to cut Liberty’s lead in half, the Aggies moved the ball into the red zone and had a 2nd and goal from the 3. 3 straight run plays were stopped short as Solomon Ajayi and Brandon Tillmon stuffed Adkins at the 2 on 4th down.
The rest of the 3rd quarter was a defensive struggle as neither offense was able to get much traction in the rain and increasing fog. We went into the 4th quarter with the score still, Liberty 28-14.
The Aggies drove into Liberty territory with 10 minutes left in the game, but failed to convert on 4th and 5 as they turned it over on downs for the 4th time in 5 tries on the afternoon. This became a reoccurring theme throughout the day as New Mexico State went for it a total of 7 times during the game, but only converted twice.
Their 2nd 4th down conversion came on 4th and goal at the 4 with less than 2 minutes remaining in the game. It was a touchdown pass from Adkins to wide receiver Naveon Mitchell that brought the Aggies with one score at 28-21 with 1:46 left in the game.
Liberty’s defense held the Aggies to 396 yards and didn’t surrender a point until the final two minutes of the game, as NMSU scored earlier on a kickoff return and interception return for a touchdown.
The Flames will close out the season next Saturday at home against Norfolk State as Liberty hopes to finish its season at 6-6.