The Liberty Flames (3-2) and New Mexico State Aggies (0-5) will meet Saturday night in Las Cruces, New Mexico for the first of two games between the two this season. Don’t let their winless record fool you, as NMSU played Washington State and Alabama to open the season.
“New Mexico State is a scary team to me,” Liberty head coach Hugh Freeze said. “Their record might not reflect it, but look at their schedule they’ve played. It’s been pretty brutal for them.”
Last year, the Aggies and Flames squared off twice, with NMSU defeating Liberty, 49-41 in New Mexico, and LU getting the upper hand in the rematch in Lynchburg, 28-21. The two teams are scheduled to meet again in the regular season finale on November 30th in Lynchburg.
The New Mexico State offense is averaging just 19,2 points per game. They are led by their quarterback Josh Adkins who has completed 129-of-206 passes for 1,210 yards, 6 touchdowns, and 9 interceptions. His main targets have been Tony Nicholson and OJ Clark who have combined for 59 receptions for 506 yards and 3 touchdowns.
“It’s a Tony Franklin system,” Freeze said of the NMSU offense. “We haven’t defended that before. That’s a little scary to me because you have to do a few different things, and our kids have to have the capacity to change in about three days some different coverages that we would like to do that we think are going to be helpful. That’s a little uncomfortable because I think we’re playing so many young kids. We’re going to have to make a few changes this week.”
Jason Huntley is a dynamic athlete at running back for the Aggies. He’s rushed for 300 yards this season while also doing some damage in the receiving and return game. He’s tied for the program record with five kickoff returns for touchdowns. He ran one back from 85 yards against Liberty last year in the game played in Lynchburg. That will be a key matchup to watch as Liberty ranks #5 nationally in kickoff return defense this season and haven’t allowed a return longer than 17 yards.
“The tailback is probably, outside of the one Lafayette had, he’s the most explosive player we’ve seen with the ball in his hands,” Freeze said of Huntley. “He’s really, really dangerous. We’ve got our work cut out for us defensively to slow this team down.”
On defense, the Aggies are allowing 47.2 points and 520.4 yards of offense per game this season. Opponents have scored 58, 62, 31, 55, and 30 points in the five games this season. Former Boston College head coach Frank Spaziani is the NMSU defensive coordinator.
“He does a really nice job, mixes up his coverages very well” Freeze said of Spaziani. “They’ve got two interior defensive linemen that are really disruptive, sort of like the ones we had from Hampton that just really are always on the move. Quick-twitch, not overly sized, but super quick. They’re always on the move. We’ve got to handle that or it’s going to create a lot of negative plays for us.”
- The Flames are seeking its first four game winning streak since 2016 and first 4-2 start to a season since 2010.
- The Aggies are looking to snap a seven game losing skid dating back to last year.
- Buckshot Calvert needs 242 passing yards to reach 10,000 for his career.
- Antonio Gandy-Golden needs 65 yards to set the Liberty career receiving yard mark.
Freeze on the team’s preparation this week – “We look at this week as a one week season. That’s the way I approach it, that’s the way I want our kids to approach it. I want our kids totally prepared and totally focused on this game.”
Antonio Gandy Golden on this week – “We want to be 1-0 at the end of this week.”
Jessie Lemonier on the “rivalry” between the Flames and Aggies – “Last year, there were some jawing back and forth, and there’s still some players there. It’s bragging rights, basically showing everybody we can go in hostile territory and still do the same thing we do each and every week (during) this 3 game winning streak at home.”
Liberty 35, New Mexico State 28
The Flames will stay on the winning streak as Coach Freeze has his team prepared and focused to pick up its first win away from Williams Stadium in 2019.