Nov 25, 2023; El Paso, Texas, USA; No. 22 Liberty Flames quarterback Kaidon Salter (7) tries to evade a UTEP Miners defensive end Maurice Westmoreland (0) during the first half at Sun Bowl Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ivan Pierre Aguirre-USA TODAY Sports

No. 24 Liberty chasing CUSA title, CFP cred vs. NMSU

There should be no shortage of confidence for the Conference USA championship game.

New Mexico State visits No. 24 Liberty with the conference title on the line Friday night in Lynchburg, Va.

The Flames (12-0) are trying to stay in play for the Group of 5 spot in the upper tier of bowls when the College Football Playoff committee reveals its final rankings Sunday.

“To say we’re 12-0, I would’ve said you’re crazy,” Liberty coach Jamey Chadwell said. “But this team bought in to each other, and just what a tremendous season.”

The Aggies (10-3) will arrive with an eight-game winning streak that includes a 31-10 handling of host Auburn on Nov. 18 and Saturday’s 20-17 home escape versus Jacksonville State. Ethan Albertson’s 52-yard field goal as time expired won it for New Mexico State.

Liberty has been on those types of highs all season.

Chadwell, who’s in his first at the school, wanted the initial go-around for the Flames in Conference USA to be memorable. It’s the first time a team in the league has gone undefeated in the regular season since former member Houston in 2011.

“I told them before the season started, you have an opportunity to make history (in the) FBS,” Chadwell said. “Certain things haven’t happened here. For us to be 12-0, there’s not an FBS program that has ever won 12 games in a season in the state of Virginia. To be the first to accomplish that, making history like that is something you didn’t start out to do, but because of the success the team has had and what they’ve been able to do, you’ve been able to make some of those (memories).”

The Flames trail only No. 22 Tulane among Group of 5 teams.

It’s a return trip for the Aggies, who dropped a 33-17 decision to Liberty on Sept. 9. The Flames led 23-17 at halftime before tacking on 10 points in the third quarter.

“We’re thankful to be home,” Chadwell said. “They’re coming in hot, a 10-win team. It’s going to be a battle. They’re a way better team than they were at the beginning of the season, but we are, too.”

Since that outcome, New Mexico State has gone 9-1.

“There’s nothing that can make things happier than having a group of kids come together,” New Mexico State coach Jerry Kill said. “It took awhile. When you do that, then you have a chance to do some special things.”

New Mexico State has a double-digit win total for just the second time. The other time came with an 11-0 season in 1960.

This will be the first conference title game for the Aggies. The team hasn’t won a conference championship since claiming the Missouri Valley in 1978.

The goal for Kill, who’s in his second season at the school, is to continue making this a special season.

“Win the conference championship and win in a bowl game,” Kill said. “It’s rewarding to me to be a part of all this.”

Liberty has had only two games decided by single-digit margins — 21-16 at home vs. Sam Houston on Oct. 5 and 42-35 at home vs. Middle Tennessee on Oct. 17.

New Mexico State cranked out a couple of its better games offensively in November.

“We’re going to have to be clicking (on defense),” Chadwell said.

Liberty’s offense was in a groove in the first matchup with the Aggies. The Flames collected 26 first downs and gained 250 rushing yards and 276 passing yards. Those factors helped Liberty to a nearly 16-minute edge in time of possession.

–Field Level Media

Nov 19, 2022; Columbia, Missouri, USA; Missouri Tigers wide receiver Barrett Banister (11) runs the ball against New Mexico State Aggies defensive lineman Donavan King (16) during the first half at Faurot Field at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Missouri routs New Mexico State, nears bowl eligibility

Brady Cook threw three touchdown passes as Missouri kept its bowl hopes alive by beating New Mexico State 45-14 in a non-conference clash in Columbia, Mo.

Cook completed 19-of-27 passes for 251 yards for the Tigers (5-6). He also rushed seven times for 71 yards.

Missouri’s rushing attack was paced by Cody Schrader, who ran for 70 yards and a pair of scores on 18 carries. Schrader also made four catches for 47 yards.

Gavin Frakes and Star Thomas scored rushing touchdowns for the Aggies (4-6), both in the second half.

Missouri scored on its first three possessions, building a 21-0 lead heading into halftime.

The second of those drives was a long and grinding one, as the Tigers covered 81 yards in 17 plays and chewed more than six minutes off the clock. It was capped by Schrader 2-yard scamper for a touchdown.

After the Aggies finally got on the board in the third quarter with Thomas’ 10-yard touchdown run, the Tigers responded with two more touchdowns and a field goal.

The first touchdown came when Cook connected with Luther Burden III for a 14-yard score, and then redshirt freshman defensive back Daylan Carnell picked off New Mexico State and ran it back 40 yards for a pick-six.

A 43-yard field goal by Harold Mevis gave the Tigers their largest lead of the day at 45-7 with just under 10 minutes to play.

Burden also caught Cook’s first touchdown pass, hurdling a defender to reach the end zone from 12 yards out.

Missouri converted 9-of-14 third downs and turned the ball over just once. The 31 points was the Tigers’ largest margin in a victory this season.

The Tigers will need a victory next Saturday at home against Arkansas to get to six wins and bowl eligibility.

–Field Level Media

Nov 13, 2021; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA;  Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Bryce Young (9) prior to the game against the New Mexico State Aggies at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

No. 2 Alabama gets 5 TDs from Bryce Young in blowout win

Bryce Young passed for five touchdowns and Jameson Williams caught three as second-ranked Alabama rolled to a 59-3 victory over New Mexico State on Saturday afternoon in nonconference action at Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Brian Robinson Jr. rushed for 99 yards and two touchdowns on just nine carries for the Crimson Tide (9-1). Young became the first Alabama quarterback to open a game with 13 straight completions and he finished 21 of 23 for 270 yards.

Williams had six receptions for 158 yards and had touchdowns of 50, 32 and 7 yards. He fell two yards shy of the career-best 160 he had against LSU last week.

Alabama outgained the Aggies 587 to 138 while notching its fourth consecutive victory. The Crimson Tide had a 247-9 edge in rushing yardage.

Jonah Johnson completed 19 of 30 passes for 129 yards for New Mexico State (1-9), which fell for the sixth straight game. The Aggies lost by 20 or more points for the fifth time this season.

New Mexico State’s lone points came on Ethan Albertson’s career-long 50-yard field goal with 5:35 left in the first quarter before Alabama ran off 59 unanswered points.

The Crimson Tide got on the scoreboard 44 seconds later when Young connected with Williams on a 50-yard scoring pass. Alabama made it 14-3 when Young hit Cameron Latu on a 12-yard touchdown throw with 14 seconds remaining in the quarter.

A blocked punt by Christian Leary set up the next Alabama score. Jaylen Moody recovered it and returned it 20 yards to the Aggies’ 4-yard line. Three plays later, Robinson scored from the 1 with 13:15 left in the half.

Young tossed a 32-yard scoring pass to Williams to make it 28-3 with 11:25 left. Just 3 1/2 minutes later, Robinson broke loose for a 63-yard touchdown run.

Young threw a 7-yard scoring pass to Williams with 5:28 left in the half and later connected with Jahleel Billingsley on a 5-yarder to make it 49-3 with 15 seconds left in the half.

Trey Sanders added a 5-yard scoring run in the opening minute of the final stanza and Jack Martin booted a 24-yard field goal.

–Field Level Media

Nov 6, 2021; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban looks on during the first half against the LSU Tigers at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

Nick Saban, No. 2 Alabama not taking NMSU lightly

Second-ranked Alabama takes a break from the rigors of Southeastern Conference play on Saturday, but coach Nick Saban is adamant it doesn’t equate to a needed breather.

Saban is bullish on this rationale despite the fact the Crimson Tide (8-1) will be hosting one of the worst programs in the nation, New Mexico State (1-8).

“I think that your opponent should be faceless in terms of what you want to try to accomplish and what you want to try to do in terms of individually improving and getting better and individually and collectively as a team getting better,” Saban said. “I think we certainly need to do that. We’re not where we want to be, so it shouldn’t be like … this is a good break for us.”

Alabama remained in the No. 2 spot in the College Football Playoff rankings despite a lackluster 20-14 win over LSU last weekend.

Saban isn’t worrying about the rankings, as he couldn’t wait to make New Mexico State sound like a carbon copy of the 1985 Chicago Bears.

Yes, the same New Mexico State squad that lost 35-13 to Utah State last week for its fourth setback by 20 or more points this season.

“I think New Mexico State is a dangerous team because they’re one of these teams that are going to pass the ball,” Saban said. “They’re one of the Top 25 passing teams (23rd at 278.4 yards per game) in the country. Their quarterback’s efficient. They’ve got good skill guys. They’ve got a pretty good runner.

“They play a lot of pressure-type stuff on defense, which we’re going to have to do a good job against. But again, I think the focus needs to be on what we need to do individually and collectively as a group so that we get things right moving into this week.”

Aggies quarterback Jonah Johnson has passed for 1,975 yards, eight touchdowns and seven interceptions. He knows the Crimson Tide rate as a huge test for his club.

“You cannot afford to make mistakes against a team the caliber of Alabama,” Johnson said, according to the Las Cruces Sun-News. “Offensively, we can’t afford to turn the football over. We can’t afford the costly penalties and we can’t afford blown assignments.

“Moving the football against Alabama is already hard enough when you are not shooting yourself in the foot.”

The Aggies average 23.1 points per game and allow 38.1, with the latter figure ranking fourth worst in the country.

New Mexico State scored the first 10 points and led 13-7 at halftime against Utah State before getting outscored 28-0 in the second half.

“We really could not play much better than that in the first half on both sides,” New Mexico State coach Doug Martin said. “There’s a talent gap with us right now and other teams, and that’s obvious. You’ve got to be able to get players here that can compete for 60 minutes. Our guys wear out after a while, both mentally and physically.”

That doesn’t sound like a good formula for dealing with an Alabama squad that averages 43 points per game and allows 19.9.

Quarterback Bryce Young has been solid with 2,755 yards and 28 touchdowns against just three interceptions.

On defense, linebacker Will Anderson Jr. has been superb and has 10.5 sacks among his national-best 19.5 tackles for loss.

Anderson recorded a career-best 12 tackles and had 1.5 sacks among four stops for loss against LSU.

“The guy had an outstanding game for us,” Saban said. “He has played extremely well all year and certainly didn’t disappoint anybody in this game.”

–Field Level Media

New Mexico Lottery to Offer Game Tied to Sports

The New Mexico Lottery Board on Tuesday voted to approve a game linked with the outcome of sporting events, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported. The game will mark the second venture for an entity in New Mexico to offer sports betting after the Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in May. Just last month, the tribal-owned Santa Ana Star Casino & Hotel, with USBookmaking as its operator, launched a sportsbook. 

Though details of the new lottery game were not made public, it’s likely it will involve parlay wagering, similar to Delaware’s sports lottery. In such a game, players must select the winners of at least three sports events and select each one correctly in order to win.

The driving force behind developing a sports-related lottery game is to generate more money for education, which the lottery funds. Lottery CEO David Barden told the Santa Fe New Mexican that the new game could produce $30 million a year, with $9 million to be directed to the lottery’s college tuition assistance program.


Read more New Mexico Lottery to Offer Game Tied to Sports on SportsHandle.