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Liberty vs. New Mexico State Episode 1: “First Impressions”

The Flames head to Las Cruces for homecoming against the New Mexico State Aggies, fresh off their first bye week.

Liberty v Baylor
Stephen Calvert leads the Liberty Flames into the Land of Enchantment for the second straight week
Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

Welcome back Aggie fans! It’s homecoming! After a long bye, the Aggies are back on the hardwood gridiron with the first of their home and home basketball football series with the Liberty Flames.

Yes, you read that right. The Aggies and Flames will be playing another game against each other in the same season, the first time since 1998 that two Division 1 teams will do so. Pretty cool, right?

The Liberty Women’s Swim and Dive team will also be on campus to compete Friday and Saturday.

Anyways, here’s what you need to know for Saturday’s game.


Location: Aggie Memorial Stadium, Las Cruces, New Mexico

Game Time: Saturday, October 6, 6:00 p.m. MT

TV: AggieVision

Radio: 99.5 KXPZ

Weather Forecast: 86 degrees and sunny!

Betting Line: Liberty is a 4.5 point favorite.

Series History: The two teams have never met before, as this is Liberty’s first season as an FBS football team.

What’s at Stake? A lot. For NM State, this game is a must win if they want to get back to a potential bowl this season.

For Liberty, it will be their chance to go 2-0 in the state of New Mexico and get a leg up in the two game series, as well as a chance to have a winning record in their first FBS season and 13th straight winning season overall (they aren’t eligible for a bowl this year, so that isn’t included).

What happened in their last game? Last week Liberty beat up on the Lobos 52-43, scoring 42 first half points but allowed UNM to score 33 points in the second half to close the gap to six (49-43), before putting the game away with a late field goal.


Previewing the Flames Offense

Liberty will attempt to “burn” the Aggie defense through the air with star players QB Stephen Buckshot Calvert (yes, that’s his middle name) and WR Anton Gandy-Golden.

Those two guys are their biggest and most important players. Calvert has already broken three Liberty passing records and is close to breaking more, having thrown for 1,291 yards, ten touchdowns and three interceptions this year. He is also averaging 322.8 yards per game.

NCAA Football: Liberty at Army
Stephen Buckshot Calvert is arguably the most important player on the Liberty Flames’ team.
Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

His favorite target, Gandy-Golden has been Golden throughout his time at Liberty. He currently has 25 receptions for 382 yards and four touchdowns. He is coming off a career best 245 yard performance against the Lobos last week and is the Flames’ leader in career receptions.

NCAA Football: Liberty at Baylor
Gandy-Golden (#11) is a playmaker for a potent Flames offense
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The starting running back is senior Kentory Matthews, a big play ability runner who leads the team with 221 rushing yards. The Flames don’t run the ball too much but Matthews already has two runs of 50+ yards this season so the Aggies can’t forget about him coming out of the backfield.

As a team, Liberty averages 31.2 ppg and 480 yards of offense a game, 338.5 of that coming through the air.

The Flames D

While Liberty’s offense can move the ball, their defense can allow opponents to move the ball just as well, with stats that have been trending downwards since the start of the season. Averaging 480.5 yards per game they should be a blessing for a NM State offense that has struggled this sesaon. In addition to their high yardage numbers, they only have four sacks on the year.

NCAA Football: Liberty at Army
#14 Solomon Ajayi is one of two leading tacklers on Liberty’s defense
Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

Leading the defensive “inferno” is DE Juwan Wells, a two time All Big South Conference player, who has 26 tackles and three tackles for loss. The co-leading tackler for the Flames is LB Solomon Ajayi.

The Aggie offense will need to score points Saturday if they want any chance to win.

Prediction

I expect the first matchup between the Aggies and the Flames to be very exciting, not only because it’s homecoming, but because a lot of points will be scored.

Liberty’s offense will test the Aggie D and the Aggie offense should be able to keep the game close. A total team effort will be needed if the Aggies want to pull this one out!

Fortunately, agricultural folk are very good at dousing flames.

New Mexico State 31, Liberty 21