The New Mexico State football team traveled to Lynchburg, Va. for its seasonfinale against fellow independent Liberty on Saturday afternoon at Williams Stadium. Trailing by two scores at halftime, the Aggies looked to make a comeback late in the game but fell short losing to the Flames, 28-21.
Scoring in the contest began early with Liberty (5-6) capitalizing on a special teams mistake by NM State (3-9). A dropped snap saw a punt of zero yardsset the Flames up with great field position at the NM State 41-yard line. The drive resulted in a five-yard touchdown pass and the Aggies fell behind 7-0 at the 10:27 mark.
On the next drive for NM State, a fumble gave Liberty the ball back with another great starting position at the NM State 26. The Aggie defense was ableto hold the Flames out of the end zone, but a successful attempt on a 25-yard field goal put the Crimson & White down 10-0.
The scoring continued for Liberty off another turnover by the NM State offense. An interception at the 26-yard line was returned all the way for anotherscore and the Aggies deficit grew to 17-0 with 6:09 left in the opening quarter.
This unanswered run for the Flames was ended quickly on the ensuing kickoff by the Aggies. Jason Huntley was led by great blocking and evaded the would-betacklers on his way to an 85-yard kickoff return touchdown that brought the score closer to 17-7.
The next drive for NM State saw the team unable to convert on a try from 4th & 6, giving Liberty the ball at their own 27-yard line. Thisseries saw the defense come up big when Javahn Fergurson picked off a pass and returned it 37-yards for an Aggie touchdown. This score put the deficit at just three for NM State, 17-14, when the first quarter came to a close.
A pair of punts for each side opened the second quarter, before Liberty was able to get back on the board. The Flames sent out the field goal unit onfourth down and proceeded to knock down a 51-yard attempt and take a 20-14 lead over the Aggies.
NM State’s next drive saw the team unable to convert on fourth down, giving Liberty the ball just 38-yards out from the end zone. With under 30 secondsremaining, Liberty connected on a 31-yard touchdown pass and was successful on its two-point attempt to put the Aggies down 28-14 at halftime.
To open the second half, NM State moved down the field effectively on its first drive all the way to a 1st & Goal situation. Three straightrun plays could not get in the end zone, then on fourth down the Aggies looked to run the option but the play was stuffed and the Crimson & White turned the ball over on downs at the 2-yard line.
Strong defense prevailed for the reminder of the game, featuring an interception by DeMarcus Owens towards the end of the third quarter. The Aggies werenot able to capitalize on the turnover, however, trailing 28-14 into the final frame.
NM State looked to add more points to the board in the fourthl quarter with aggressive play calling that saw multiple fourth-down attempts. A pair offourth-down conversions were stopped to keep the Aggies behind by 14.
The offensive attack finally struck pay dirt with under two minutes remaining in the contest. The Aggies moved down field before Josh Adkins found NaveonMitchell in the back corner of the end zone for a touchdown.
On the ensuing kickoff, NM State looked to get the ball back on an onside kick, but the ball was recovered by Liberty with 1:46 left in the game. TheFlames then took a knee to run out the clock and defeat the Aggies, 28-21.
New Mexico State wraps up its 2018 season with a 3-9 overall record in its first year since becoming an independent.
– Jason Huntley’s 85-yard kickoff return for a touchdown was his third of the season,which leads the nation, and fifth of his career to set a new all-time record in program history, passing Mike Carroll (1965-67).
– Javahn Fergurson recorded his first career pick-six, taking an interception back 37-yardsfor a touchdown.
– NM State’s two interceptions against Liberty marked the first game of the 2018 seasonwith multiple picks. The last time the team recorded multiple was against South Alabama on 12/3/17.
– The Aggies have four players with 10+ tackles for the first time since playing AlcornState on 11/3/18.
– The four-yard touchdown pass to Naveon Mitchell was the first score of the freshman’sAggie career.