Liberty vs. New Mexico: Game Preview, Kick Time, How to Listen
The New Mexico Lobos will host Liberty to finish their non-conference football schedule. Here’s how to listen in and what to watch for.
Can the Lobos stay hot against the pesky Flames?
WEEK 5: Liberty Flames (1-2) vs. New Mexico Lobos (2-1)
WHEN: Saturday, September 29 — 4:00 PM MT/3:00 PM PT
WHERE: Dreamstyle Stadium; Albuquerque, New Mexico (39,224)
RADIO: The New Mexico broadcast can be found in and around Albuquerque on KKOB, 770 AM, and elsewhere throughout the state on the Lobos Radio Network, so check local listings.
SERIES RECORD: This is the first meeting between Liberty and New Mexico.
After a bye week, the New Mexico Lobos are back in action to wrap up September. They finish their out-of-conference slate against the FBS’s newest team, the Liberty Flames.
Turner Gill’s upstart squad began 2018 with a huge win over Old Dominion but struggled to contain Army and North Texas, two of the Group of 5’s best teams. This would seem to be good news for UNM, which claimed state supremacy after toppling New Mexico State with a strong performance from the ground game and a defense that made plays. Beating Liberty would be a significant step toward potential bowl eligibility, which many doubters hadn’t foreseen this fall.
Here’s what New Mexico can stay on the winning track and beat Liberty.
Three Keys to a New Mexico Win
Stop the Liberty passing game.
While the Flames aren’t quite as pass-heavy as NMSU, this is basically the second week in a row that the Lobos will square off with a team that leads with its aerial attack: Liberty does rank 25th in the FBS by throwing 53.6% of the time.
That strategy has flopped in the last couple weeks, though some of their lopsided defeat to UNT had to do with battling the elements, as well. Stephen Calvert is sitting on a 53.6% completion rate, coincidentally, though he does have 16 plays of 20-plus yards on 112 attempts.
Pound the rock.
The Lobos’ own run-pass ratio is basically the same as last year (33.81% passing in 2018, 32.02% last fall), but the running game’s efficiency has crumbled so far. They’re averaging only three yards per carry against Wisconsin and NMSU, the team’s Stuff Rate (percentage of plays stopped at or behind the line of scrimmage) has fallen to 118th, and their Opportunity Rate (percentage of plays that gain at least five yards) is 120th.
Ahmari Davis’s strong performance against the Aggies, where he had 74 yards and four touchdowns, might be the answer for which they’ve been searching. If they’re going to get it together, doing so against a run defense that has allowed over six yards per carry in the last couple weeks would be a good time.
Re-establish the passing game.
For the moment, it’s still an open question as to who will start at quarterback for New Mexico. Tevaka Tuioti is back at practice after missing time with a concussion, and while head coach Bob Davie hasn’t committed to his opening day starter, it’s telling that they only let Sheriron Jones throw the ball twice in the first quarter against NMSU when Tuioti had been so successful (12-of-17, 247 yards, 3 TDs).
Regardless of who is under center, they’ll need to create big plays. Liberty has given up just six passes of 20-plus yards and rank 25th in defensive explosiveness by Bill Connelly’s Five Factors.