The Liberty defense dominated New Mexico, as the Flames won 17-3 to improve to 3-2 on the season and win its 3rd straight game.

“I’m so proud of our kids, in particular, the defense,” Liberty head coach Hugh Freeze said following the game. “I thought they played outstanding against a very good offensive football team. The game went nothing like I thought it was going to go. I had my mind made up this was going to be a 45-41 shootout type game, I quickly changed my mindset. (Defensive Coordinator) Scott (Symons) and his staff did a phenomenal job.”

The Lobos entered the game averaging 36 points and 482 yards of offense this season, but Liberty held the Joe Dailey led offense to 10 points and 362 yards, both season lows.

Head coach Hugh Freeze highlighted the importance of red zone defense this week, and the Flames set the tone on the first drive of the game for New Mexico. After driving into the red zone, UNM quarterback Tevaka Tuioti was intercepted in the end zone by Jimmy Faulks. The Lobos next drive that reached the red zone came with just over 7 minutes left in the game, and again the Liberty defense would hold as Tuioti’s scramble on 4th down was stopped inches shy of the first down marker.

“I thought it was a big play in the game,” Symons said about Faulks’ interception, his first since September 16, 2017 against Indiana State. “It was a big time play by Jimmy. It didn’t surprise me at all to see Jimmy make a play in a big time game because Jimmy’s a big time player.”

It wasn’t until New Mexico’s final drive of the game that they finally scored on a red zone opportunity, scoring a touchdown to pull within 7 with just 43 seconds remaining.

The Lobos lined up for an onside kick following their first touchdown of the game, the kick was recovered by Damian King. The Flames then took one knee to end the game.

Antonio Gandy-Golden continued his impressive season, finishing the game with 5 receptions for 128 yards and 1 touchdown. His 3-yard touchdown reception on the final play of the first quarter broke Darrin Peterson’s school record for career touchdown receptions with 28.

“It’s cool, but we have to wash that away,” Gandy-Golden said of his record. “There’s more to come, hopefully I score more touchdowns by the end of the year. It’s cool, it’s humbling honestly, but (I will) just come back tomorrow ready to work.”

For the third straight game, Buckshot Calvert had another impressive performance. The senior quarterback finished the game 24-of-36 passing for 306 yards and 2 touchdowns, but, perhaps more importantly, zero interceptions for the third straight game. He was also impressive with his legs, rushing for 14 yards and on several occasions was able to evade the New Mexico pass rush and extend plays with his feet.

Joshua Mack had his best game in a Liberty uniform. The Maine transfer led the team in rushing with 95 yards on 14 carries. Frankie Hickson added 55 yards on 13 rushing attempts.

Liberty finished the game with 466 total offensive yards, but only scored 17 points on the evening. The Flames were just 4-of-12 on 3rd downs, Buckshot fumbled near the goal line, and Alex Probert missed a field goal, all leaving valuable points on the board as Liberty tried to seal the victory.

“Offensively, when you have almost 500 yards, you have to have more than 17 points,” Freeze said. “I’m frustrated with myself, just frustrated that we didn’t put the game away. The game should have been put away and we didn’t. We should have had more points. I don’t feel like I called the greatest game, and it starts with me. I don’t feel like some of our key players made the exact plays that we need made at certain moments in the game.”

Following a perfect 3-0 mark in the team’s 3-game home stand, Liberty will now hit the road to take on New Mexico State for the first of two meetings this season.

“I’m happy as  I can be to get this win,” said Freeze. “This was a big one for us before we go on the road next week. You have to play great defense on the road,” said Freeze. “This is something I think we can build on defensively.”