Written By: NM State Athletic Dept.
LAS CRUCES, N.M. - Round one goes to Liberty.
The Aggie defense, led by redshirt freshman linebacker Devin Richardson's career-high 2.0 sacks and senior defensive back Shamad Lomax's two pass breakups, delivered a strong all-around performance for the second week in a row.
Liberty was just as good, though. The Flames (4-2) outlasted NM State (0-6), 20-13, to win the first of the teams' two meetings this season Saturday night inside Aggie Memorial Stadium.
Both teams struggled to assert their dominance offensively throughout the game. Richardson and Lomax's contributions on the defensive side of the football helped keep Liberty off balance, as the Aggies totaled six tackles for loss, including a season-best four sacks, three pass breakups and a forced fumble.
Richardson had the best game of his young career, logging eight tackles and taking down Liberty quarterback Stephen 'Buckshot' Calvert twice. The native of Klein, Texas, forced a fumble for the second game in a row, as his second sack of the night knocked the ball out of Calvert's hand.
Senior defensive back Jared Phipps was tasked with slowing down Flames wideout Antonio Gandy-Golden and did just that. He limited Gandy-Golden, who entered the contest ranked second in the nation in receiving yards, to four receptions for 40 yards.
Liberty was successful on just 4-of-13 third-down conversions, stifled by the Aggies' furious pass rush and stout downfield coverage. Senior defensive end Cedric Wilcots II and junior defensive end Xander Yarberough each logged sacks in the contest.
"The defense kept us in the game all night," head coach Doug Martin said. "We didn't help them by getting in the end zone."
The Aggie offense was plagued by turnovers yet again and failed to score through the first two quarters of play.
NM State broke through in the second half, putting up points on three of its first four possessions of the third quarter and erasing its 10-point halftime deficit. Senior kicker Dylan Brown connected on field goals of 33 and 39 yards in the third quarter before redshirt senior running back Jason Huntley dashed 12 yards for a touchdown midway through the fourth quarter.
Huntley's rushing score knotted the game at 13 with 7:46 remaining in the game, but it was as close as the Aggies would get. Liberty scored on its very next possession and forced another turnover - the third of the night - on the Aggies' final drive to pull out the 20-13 win.
NM State is on the road for its next three contests, starting with a trip to Central Michigan. The Aggies and Chippewas kick off at 1 p.m. MT Saturday, Oct. 12, in Mount Pleasant, Mich.