Antonio Gandy-Golden came up 3 yards shy of a third touchdown against Hampton last weekend. The Liberty senior wide receiver knew exactly how big those precious few yards were for him.
That touchdown would have given him the program record for career touchdown receptions.
When the Flames got to the 3-yard line against New Mexico late in the first quarter Saturday evening, there was only one place quarterback Buckshot Calvert was going with the ball, and that was to his favorite target.
Gandy-Golden hauled in the 3-yard touchdown reception to give him 28 career touchdown catches, breaking the tie he held with Darrin Peterson, in the Flames’ 17-10 victory at Williams Stadium.
“Me and Buck looked at each other immediately,” Gandy-Golden said of the back-shoulder pass that secured the record. “ … We knew what type of coverage they were going to play.”
Gandy-Golden has caught 30 passes for 688 yards and five touchdowns and has surpassed the century mark four times through five games this season.
He is second to Peterson in career receptions and receiving yards but is closing in quickly on both records.
Peterson had 215 catches for 3,170 yards. Gandy-Golden currently has 191 catches for 3,106 yards.
Running game finds traction
The Liberty running attack hadn’t found much footing in the opening three quarters through the first four weeks, averaging less than 3 yards per carry against Syracuse, Louisiana, Buffalo and Hampton.
That changed in a big way against the Lobos.
Liberty racked up 136 of its 160 rushing yards through the first three quarters. Joshua Mack led the way with big runs of 17 and 38 yards on back-to-back carries to highlight his 95-yard performance.
“We really honed in on getting our steps lined up with the O-line,” Mack said.
Frankie Hickson picked up 28 of his 55 yards in the fourth quarter to allow the Flames to take a good chunk of time off the clock.
The Flames averaged 5.16 yards per attempt, their best average against an FBS team this season.
“We were locked in, we were focused, so that had a lot to play into it,” Mack said.
First Lobos sacks allowed
New Mexico did not allow a sack for the first 13 quarters of its season.
Heading into Saturday’s contest, the Lobos were the only team in the Football Bowl Subdivision to not surrender a sack this season.
Liberty ended that streak in the second quarter.
The Flames used a strong pass rush to finally get to quarterback Tevaka Tuioti, then recorded a second sack in the third quarter.
“We prepared for this game quite a lot the whole week,” nose guard Ralfs Rusins said. “We just wanted to get after it.”
Rusins, who finished with nine tackles, combined with Austin Lewis on the first sack of the game when the two took advantage of Solomon Ajayi’s pressure to take down Tuioti for a 2-yard loss.
True freshman defensive end TreShaun Clark came up with a stop midway through the third quarter for his first career sack. He entered the game with 1.5 tackles for a loss through four games.
LU picks up 23rd verbal commitment
Orange Park High School (Florida) senior defensive end Kendy Charles verbally committed to Liberty on Friday and became the 23rd verbal commit in the recruiting class of 2020.
The 6-foot, 246-pound Charles chose the Flames over offers from Coastal Carolina and Wofford.
He has recorded 54 tackles, two tackles for a loss, one sack, five quarterback hurries and two blocked kicks through four games this season.
Damien Sordelett covers Liberty University athletics and local golf for The News & Advance. Reach him at (434) 385-5550.