It’s senior day for Liberty (6-5) as the Flames prepare to take on New Mexico State (2-9) in a game that is one of the biggest in Liberty football history.
The Flames need just one more win to become bowl eligible for the first time in school history, and Coach Freeze immediately set his team’s sights on the task at hand following the loss to Virginia by telling them there is 60 minutes for 60 more.
“We’ve got sixty that are on the schedule,” Freeze said Saturday afternoon. “We’ve got a shot if we win those 60 to have 60 more to play together. It sure would be fun to do, especially for these seniors.”
New Mexico State is coming off its first FBS win of the season, a 44-35 home triumph over UTEP last Saturday. They’ve also won two games in a row as the defeated FCS Incarnate Word the previous week. Those two wins comes on the heels of nine consecutive losses to open the season, including a 20-13 home loss on October 5th to Liberty.
This will be the fourth game between the two FBS Independent schools, but they are not scheduled to play again until Thanksgiving Weekend 2022 in Lynchburg. Liberty owns a 2-1 advantage in the two year in-season home and home series.
“New Mexico State is a on a two game win streak and playing extremely hard,” Freeze said of the Aggies. “I give them credit, to not have something to play for, they’re playing really hard. It was a close game out there, and I expect another one Saturday.”
In the first meeting earlier this season, Liberty running back Joshua Mack’s four yard touchdown run with 6:19 remaining provided to be the game winning score for the Flames. Mack accounted for more than half of Liberty’s total offensive yards (177 of 334) on the day, including all 75 yards on the game winning fourth quarter drive.
Liberty’s defense forced all three of the game’s turnovers with the biggest coming at the 3:15 mark of the fourth quarter when Jessie Lemonier stripped Aggies QB Josh Adkins inside the Liberty 10-yard line and Tayvion Land came up with a game saving fumble recovery.
“It was a good memory,” Freeze said of the previous meeting. “I thought our team found a way to win having not played our best out there. It easily could have gone the other way. They turned the ball over three times. They have explosive people on their team, athletic kids that can make plays. It’s going to be a task for us.”
The Flames will have to be prepared for #1 Jason Huntley, an explosive kick returner and running back. He has 985 rushing yards and 9 touchdowns this season. The Aggies also have two defensive linemen, Marcus Buckley and Roy Lopez, who are healthy after missing the previous game against the Flames.
“A lot of people say it’s a disadvantage because it’s hard to beat a team that’s fairly equal to you twice in one season,” Freeze said. “You could look at it the other aspect and say we’re very familiar so we should have a good knowledge of the game plan and the ones we have to stop. It will come down to which team prepares the best and makes the fewest mistakes Saturday.”
Hugh Freeze on Buckshot rebounding from his 2-interceptions against UVA – “One thing about Buckshot is he’s resilient. You won’t see a guy that walks around down or dejected or cowardly this week. The interception, it was certainly out of character, the first one was. He hasn’t done that all year. It was just an RPO that has to come out on time and it’s either incomplete or we have it, but we don’t throw them away in the middle of the field. He knew it as soon as he did it, but he will respond accordingly and correctly.”
Hugh Freeze on the team’s growth since the first NMSU game – “We’ve definitely grown. We have a lot better toolbox now than we did then.”
Antonio Gandy-Golden on Senior Day – “I feel like I will be pretty emotional, I’m an emotional guy as it is. Being here, it has my heart, walking off the field it’s going to suck. I’m going to shed a few tears, but hopefully we can get the win and have another game with these guys.”
Buckshot Calvert on the game – “We’ve got a lot on the line this game. Knowing that it’s going to be my last time on this field, it’s going to hurt a little bit, but I’ve got to focus. It’s going to be an amazing feeling knowing that 4 years have gone by so fast.”
Joshua Mack on the importance of the game – “It’s a one game season, we’re not thinking about anything else but Saturday.”
Frankie Hickson on Senior Day – “It will be the last time I play in Williams Stadium. I’ve been here for the majority of my life. I grew up here in Lynchburg, saw a lot of games here from the stands, played a lot of games here on the field, I think it will be a good way to end.”
Jessie Lemonier on the game – “I thought about this game for the longest. It was hard even though we have a good chance to go to a bowl game, it’s still the last game at Williams Stadium for the seniors. It’s been a long time, we’ve been away for a couple weeks straight, to come back and end it on the right note is the main thing.”
- Saturday’s game will be Military Appreciation Day and the Flames will honor the “Bedford Boys” on the 75th anniversary of D-Day with special uniforms that will be featured Saturday morning on SportsCenter. On the front bumper of the Flames’ helmet is a National D-Day Memorial logo. On the side of the helmet are decals with the faces of the “Bedford Boys.” The back of the helmet, which normally reads “Flames” will read “Bedford Boys” in their honor.
- A victory would give the Flames their first 7-win season since 2014 and would be the first time this senior class has won more than 6 games.
- Buckshot needs 140 passing yards to break his own Liberty single-season record of 3,363 yards set in 2017.
- AGG needs 76 yards from setting a new Liberty single-season receiving record.
- Frankie Hickson needs 26 rushing yards to move into the Flames’ career top five rushing list.
- The Flames are looking to extend a 4-game home winning streak while the Aggies have lost 10 straight on the road.
Liberty 34, New Mexico State 21
The Flames get the needed win behind a big performance from the senior class to become bowl eligible. Now, we wait and see if and where Liberty ends up.