LAS CRUCES, N.M. — Ceneca Espinoza Jr. was a key cog in the Liberty secondary through the season’s opening five weeks. Whether it was interceptions, pass breakups or sure tackles, the redshirt junior was playing well at nickelback.

Espinoza, however, was a no-show Saturday night against New Mexico State. The Washington, D.C., native did not travel with the team because of disciplinary reasons.

“We want him to learn how to be a great teammate,” Flames coach Hugh Freeze said after the game. “Everything that applies to the team applies to everybody on the team. That means you be on time, you show up, and we love him. Hopefully this is one of those teaching moments in life that we all can learn from and be better because of it.”

Espinoza entered the game tied for the team lead with two interceptions (including one returned 45 yards for a touchdown) and was tied for fourth on the team with 23 tackles. He also had two pass breakups, one fumble recovery and one forced fumble.

Battle scars

The medical tent on the Liberty sideline was used quite a bit against the Aggies.

And most of the injured were on defense, which was something the Flames could ill afford.

Cornerback Jimmy Faulks started and played the first series, but did not see the field for the rest of the game with an undisclosed injury, and fellow cornerback Bejour Wilson missed his third straight game with a foot sprain.

“He couldn’t go,” Freeze said of Wilson.

Kei’Trel Clark, Isaiah Avery and Chris Megginson received the majority of the snaps at cornerback.

Emanuel Dabney returned after missing one game with a hamstring injury and was playing well until he came up lame on an incomplete pass in the third quarter.

“I think Dabney’s was cramps because he hadn’t practiced in two weeks. Humid night,” Freeze said. “I don’t think it was a re-injury. I think it was just cramps.”

Linebacker Brandon Tillmon, whose interception ended the Aggies’ second drive of the game, did not play the remainder of the game with an undisclosed injury.

“Tillmon went out in the first quarter,” Freeze said. “Tillmon tried.”

The offense only suffered one setback when right tackle Sam Isaacson had his left knee and ankle rolled up on late in the second quarter.

Isaacson returned in the third quarter, but Jonathan Graham finished the game.

“It just got tighter and tighter,” Freeze said of Isaacson’s ankle. “Jonathan’s had some good weeks of practice. He’s coming on. He’s got a chance to be special.”

Hickson moves up all-purpose yard list

Frankie Hickson’s first carry of the night, a seven-yard gain, allowed him to pass Adrian Cherry for fourth all-time in all-purpose yards.

Hickson has picked up 3,706 yards in his career at Liberty after he rushed for 72 yards on 15 carries Saturday night.

Cherry had 3,639 all-purpose yards from 1990 through 1993.

Next on the list is Rashad Jennings’ 4,155 all-purpose yards.

Norcom’s Prunty commits to Liberty

I.C Norcom High School senior Karon Prunty verbally committed to Liberty on Friday afternoon at the Portsmouth-based school.

Prunty is projected to play cornerback for the Flames and is the 24th verbal commit for the recruiting class of 2020.

Linebacker Enoch Howard, a senior from Hephzibah High School in Augusta, Georgia, decommitted from Liberty late Thursday afternoon. He had verbally committed in late July.

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Damien Sordelett covers Liberty University athletics and local golf for The News & Advance. Reach him at (434) 385-5550.

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