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Liberty takes down NMSU in Conference USA Championship game, 49-35

LYNCHBURG, Virginia - The New Mexico State Aggies gave it their all, but in the end it wasn't enough to extinguish the Liberty Flames.

Liberty would win their first Conference USA championship after defeating the NMSU Aggies, 49-35.

It was a hard fought game from both sides, but the Aggies just couldn't keep pace especially after losing starting quarterback Diego Pavia in the third quarter of the game.

Liberty's perfect record remains intact as they improve to 13-0 on the season, while NMSU drops to 10-4.

NMSU couldn't have asked for better start to the game.

On their first possession of the game, the Aggies would find the end zone courtesy of a 25-yard touchdown run from quarterback Diego Pavia.

NMSU would take a 7-0 lead early in the first quarter.

However, the Flames would respond on their first possession of the game.

Liberty running back Quinton Cooley would score on a one-yard touchdown run to put the first points of the game on the board for the Flames.

The first quarter would end with the two teams tied at 7.

On the first play of the second quarter, NMSU would score their second touchdown of the game.

Pavia would connect with tight end Ron Tiavaasue on a 10-yard touchdown pass.

NMSU would retake the lead, 14-7.

NMSU's defense would have a big stop after Liberty's offense tried to go for it on 4th and 2 in the red zone.

The turnover on downs would bring back NMSU's offense onto the field, but they were unable to take advantage going 3-and-out and punting the ball back to Liberty.

Liberty would then march down the field and hit pay dirt for the second time of the game.

Cooley would score his second touchdown on a 12-yard touchdown run.

The game was once again tied at 14 a piece.

Liberty would take their first lead of the game shortly before halftime.

Quarterback Kaidon Salter would connect on a 26-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Noah Frith.

Liberty was up 21-14.

However, the Aggies were quick to respond after getting good field position on the kickoff.

Pavia would find Trent Hudson in the end zone on a 17-yard touchdown pass with just two seconds left to go in the first half.

The teams would go into halftime tied at 21.

Liberty would get the ball to start the second half and they would waste no time getting some more points.

On their first possession of the second half, Cooley would cap off the drive with a 4-yard touchdown run.

That would be Cooley's third touchdown of the game.

Liberty would retake the lead 28-21 in the third quarter.

Liberty's offense was finding their stride.

On their next drive, Salter would air it out to CJ Daniels on a 20 yard touchdown pass.

Liberty would take their largest lead of the game, 35-21.

On the ensuing possession, NMSU's offense would score a touchdown on their first play of the drive after Pavia would connect with Jonathan Brady on a 75 yard touchdown pass.

NMSU would cut Liberty's lead to 7, 35-28.

Pavia would not return for the rest of the game after suffering what appeared to be an injury to his right elbow.

NMSU freshman quarterback Blaze Berlowitz would enter the game and orchestrate another touchdown drive for NMSU.

Berlowitz would throw an 11 yard touchdown pass to Hudson.

The third quarter would come to an end with the game tied at 35, the fourth tie of the game.

It wouldn't take long for Liberty to once again break the deadlock.

Just two minutes into the 4th quarter, Billy Lucas would take it into the end zone on a 2-yard touchdown run.

Liberty was once again on top, 42-35.

The Flames would then score another touchdown in the quarter after Salter would take it 35 yards to the end zone on a quarterback keeper.

Liberty would extend their lead back to fourteen, 49-35.

NMSU's offense was unable to put up any more points on the scoreboard.

A valiant effort for the Aggies that unfortunately came up a bit short in the game's closing minutes.

This was the first season for both NMSU and Liberty as members of Conference USA, and the two teams put on a memorable game.

NMSU will now await word on where they will be playing in a bowl game.

That announcement will be made Sunday.

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Adrian Ochoa

Adrian Ochoa is ABC-7’s Sports Director.


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