NMSU Football Defeats Liberty 49-41

Written By: NM State Athletic Dept.

LAS CRUCES, N.M. - The New Mexico State football team welcomed fellow independent Liberty to Aggie Memorial Stadium for homecoming on Saturday night in the first of two matchups between the two independents during the 2018 season. An offensive shootout saw the Aggies only trail in the first quarter and have six different players score en route to a 49-41 victory over the Flames.

Liberty (2-3) opened the game with a commanding opening drive. After six plays for the Flames saw the team gain 53-yards, the opposition finished the series off with a 22-yard rush for an early score to put NM State (2-4) behind 7-0 just 2:17 into the contest.

After the Aggies elected to punt on their first drive, the defense came up big when Liberty took over. On first down, NM State linebacker Shane Jackson came flying around the edge and sacked Flames quarterback Stephen Calvert, forcing a fumble that was recovered by Roy Lopez at the Liberty 24-yard line.

Starting with great field position, NM State used a 20-yard pass to Anthony Muse to set up a 1st & Goal just three yards from the end zone. After a pair of failed attempts, running back Christian Gibson lowered his shoulder and barreled in for a two-yard touchdown rush that tied the game up at 7-7.

Defensive play then tightened up on both sides with the next seven drives resulting in punts. This was until NM State orchestrated a drive that lasted 1:51. The possession ended with Josh Adkins finding Anthony Muse in the end zone for a 10-yard touchdown pass to give the Aggies a 14-7 lead.

The NM State defense then continued to stand strong, forcing Liberty to punt on its fifth-straight drive and bringing the opponent’s third-down conversion rate to 1-for-6. Then on the Aggies next possession, a pair of long passes including a 32-yard pass to Izaiah Lottie and a 41-yard pass to Drew Dan set the Crimson & White up with a 1st & Goal at the two-yard line. NM State was able to convert on the drive with Jason Huntley rushing in from two yards out to put the team ahead 21-7.

Liberty looked to be backed up into another punting situation on the ensuing drive, but a roughing the kicker flag gave the Flames a new set of downs. The visitors took advantage of this second chance using the next play to air it out for a 34-yard touchdown reception that cut into the Aggies lead that now stood at 21-14 before the first half was all over.

Despite a punt on the first drive of the third quarter, the second half was not short of offensive production. Liberty used a long punt return to begin its next drive at the NM State 25-yard line. This drive ended with a 5-yard quarterback keeper for a touchdown to knot the game up at 21 apiece just 2:48 into the third.

Then following a pair of punts, NM State got back on the board to regain the lead. A pass play saw Adkins find Drew Dan wide open for a 22-yard touchdown that put the Aggies ahead 28-21.

Liberty looked to respond as the Flames moved down the field, but that came to a halt when DeMarcus Owens intercepted a pass that he took back 53 yards to the Liberty 31-yard line. A defensive pass interference on the Aggies offensive series gave the team a 1st & 10 at the 16 before Adkins found another target in Bryce Roberts who scored from 10 yards out to give NM State a 35-21 edge.

Three possessions later, the Flames were able orchestrate a scoring drive. A 25-yard pass followed by a 17-yard run gave Liberty a first down on the NM State 12-yard line. After a one-yard rush, the Flames used an 11-yard pass to find the end zone and cut into the Aggies lead that stood at 35-28 when the third quarter came to a close.

To open the fourth frame, NM State began with a 2nd & 8 at their own 36-yard line. A 24-yard pass completion to Huntley got the ball onto the Liberty side of the field before Adkins found O.J. Clark across the middle and the receiver broke off a 40-yard score to give the Crimson & White a 42-28 lead.

The two-score Aggie lead was cut into on the next drive for the Flames. After getting into the red zone and working to a 1st & Goal from just seven yards out, the Aggie defense was able to force a 4th & Goal from the one-yard line. Liberty chose to go for it and saw the quarterback rush it in for the touchdown and NM State now just led by seven, 42-35, with 10:24 left in the game.

This lead for the Aggies was expanded upon on their next series. The ball was handed off to Gibson who looked to be stopped right around the line of scrimmage, but the senior running back bounced off a tackle and reversed field for a 66-yard touchdown rush that gave the Aggies a 49-35 advantage.

In desperation time, Liberty was again forced to pull out all the stops to keep the comeback hopes alive. On 4th & 7, the Flames converted on a pass attempt to give the team a 1st & Goal from the six-yard line. This set of downs ended with a one-yard touchdown rush. Looking to make it a seven-point game, Liberty lined up for the point after, but NM State’s Cedric Wilcots II made a jump at the line to get up and block the extra point to hold the Aggies 49-41 lead.

NM State was forced to punt on its final offensive drive that gave the Flames the ball back at its own 13-yard line with 2:10 remaining. After Liberty was able to move the chains, the NM State defense then came up big when Jassavia Reese got a sack to force a 3rd & 20 for the visitors from their own 16. Then on a fourth down attempt, the Aggies forced an incomplete pass to take over on downs and close out a thrilling 49-41 win over the Flames.

New Mexico State now hits the road to take on former Sun Belt foe Louisiana on Saturday, Oct. 13, at 3 p.m. MT in Lafayette, La. inside Cajun Stadium.

NOTABLE
- Anthony Muse reeled in his first touchdown catch of the season, and fourth of his career.
- Chrstian Gibson’s rushing touchdown in the first quarter was the Aggie’s first rushing score by a running back during the 2018 season.
- Jason Huntley ran for his first rushing touchdown of the season.
- The 573 yards of total offense was the most for NM State since gaining 622 yards at Texas State on 11/4/17.
- Shane Jackson recorded the second forced fumble of his Aggie career and first since doing so against Utah State in the Arizona Bowl on 12/29/17.
- Josh Adkins’ 34 completions was the most by an NM State quarterback since Tyler Rogers has 40 against South Alabama on 12/2/17.
- O.J. Clark set a new career-high in receptions with 10 and receiving yards with 145.
- DeMarcus Owens recorded his first interception of the 2018 season, fourth for the team and sixth of his career.
- Bryce Roberts hauled in his first touchdown of the season. This was his first since doing so against Arkansas State on 10/28/17.
- Drew Dan recorded a career-high in receiving yards with 75.
- Josh Adkins totaled 402 passing yards and is the first Aggie with 400+ since Tyler Rogers threw for 451 against South Alabama on 12/2/17.
- Adkins’ four passing touchdowns was the first time an NM State quarterback has done so since Tyler Rogers against Georgia Southern on 10/14/17.
- This was the first time the Aggies have had four or more players with a receiving touchdown since playing against Texas State on 11/19/16.
- Gibson’s 66-yard touchdown rush was the longest since Jason Huntley ran for a 50-yard score at Arizona State on 8/31/17.
- NM State had six different players score a touchdown for the first time since playing UTEP on 9/19/15.
- This was the first time NM State’s first two wins of the season came in back-to-back weeks since 2014.
- The victory was the first win in program history for the Aggies over a team from the state of Virginia.