The University of New Mexico Lobos football team (2-2) lost 17-10 to Liberty University (3-2) on Saturday evening during an away game in Lynchburg, Virginia.
The loss dropped UNM to a 2-2 record and dashed hopes of a 3-1 start for New Mexico, which would’ve been the first in 12 years. Instead, the Lobos start the season with same 2-2 record they’ve started with for the last five seasons.
The game in Lynchburg was UNM head coach Bob Davie’s first back on the sideline since being hospitalized following UNM’s season opening win against Sam Houston State.
The game started with a glimmer of hope when the Lobos stuffed Liberty running back Brandon Robinson, causing a turnover on downs at midfield. The Lobo’s worked the ball down field, assisted by a Liberty false start, until quarterback Tevaka Tuioti's pass was intercepted in the end zone.
The home team scored in the final possession of the first quarter after Liberty quarterback Stephen Calvert hit wide receiver Antonio Gandy-Golden twice, for 51 yards then 3 yards for the go-ahead touchdown.
UNM responded with a 12 play drive resulting in a 52-yard field goal and later forced a fumble from Calvert, but the Lobos wouldn’t pull together a touchdown drive in the first half. Instead, Liberty would work an eight play, 82-yard drive, going up 14-3 on New Mexico. A 53-yard pass and catch from Calvert to Noah Frith put Liberty past the Lobos' five yard line.
A slow third-quarter, with two Lobo punts and a Liberty field goal, saw another Tuioti interception.
UNM did manage to put 7 additional points on the board in the final minutes of the fourth quarter.
The 11 play, 86-yard drive started deep in Lobo territory. Tuioti connected twice to Jay Griffin — both 14-yard passes — getting the Lobos on the Liberty side of the 50 yard line. Tuioti then took to the ground, trucking 14 yards to the Liberty 32 yard line. Bryson Carroll then ran for 18 yards in two plays, setting up a Tuioti touchdown pass to Aaron Molina for 14 yards. With 43 seconds left, the score was 17-10 Liberty.
The Lobos' final hope was on an onside kick that landed in the arms of a Flames receiver to seal the win for Liberty.
Although it wasn't the Lobos' night, they still managed to make the matchup — which Liberty controlled offensively — into a low-scoring, one-touchdown game. If not for excessive turnovers and penalties, the Lobos could have secured the win with the defense coming up with a fumble recovery and some key stops.
UNM looks to carry their late-game momentum and learning experiences against Liberty into next week as they head West to face off against San Jose State (2-2) this coming Friday, Oct. 4 at 8:00 p.m.
Reyes Gallegos is a sports reporter for the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @dailylobo