Antonio Gandy-Golden is one touchdown reception away from becoming Liberty University’s all-time leader in that category.
It seems practically inevitable that the 2-2 Flames’ 6-foot-4, 220-pound star wide receiver will reach the feat with his 28th career touchdown reception on Saturday against 2-1 New Mexico.
Last year, Gandy-Golden burned the Lobos when he caught 11 passes for a school-record 245 yards and one touchdown in a 52-43 win.
His final grab hurt UNM the most. The Lobos rallied from a 42-10 halftime deficit to within 49-43, but Gandy-Golden’s 50-yard reception in the closing minutes helped seal Liberty’s win.
“He is a handful,” said UNM coach Bob Davie, who likens the Flames star to to Hall of Famer Terrell Owens. “I’m curious to watch as his career evolves just how far he goes in the NFL world. He’s a tough guy. If you play him one-on-one you’re rolling the dice. It’s about 70-30 that he’s gonna go up and make the play and beat you one-on-one. It’s just the reality.”
Liberty’s high-powered aerial attack goes through Gandy-Golden. The Flames, 7-point favorites Saturday, have done a good job of surrounding him with talent, so defenses can’t double-team him all the time, Davie said. Receivers Kevin Shaa, Khaleb Coleman and DJ Stubbs are also viable threats.
“Nobody wants to cover him one-on-one,” Davie said of Gandy-Golden. “but the reality is you’re going to have to cover him one-on-one at times.”
Gandy-Golden leads the Football Bowl Subdivision in receiving yards (544) and receiving yards per game (136). He’s the only receiver in the nation with more than 500 receiving yards.
Letayveon Beaton, a 5-9, 200-pound free safety for the Lobos, is excited for the challenge.
“When I see competition and the opponent we’re playing, my mind set is this is my chance to show what I got against someone who is good,” Beaton said. “This is my opportunity to show what I can do. So it’s time to step up.”
Gandy-Golden tends to line up on the right side, which is UNM’s left, about “70%” of the time, Davie said.
When that’s the case, UNM cornerback De’John Rogers usually will be assigned to cover Gandy-Golden.
Rogers, also a dangerous Lobo punt returner, said he is treating Saturday’s game like any other, knowing that he will have to be prepared as always. Last year, Rogers was a part of the Lobos’ secondary that was a bit caught off guard.
“Last year, we really didn’t know that much about him,” Rogers said. “This year, even his film doesn’t really show how good he really is. Physical. Tall. Strong. Can run after the catch; has good YAC (Yards After the Catch). So, this year I believe we’re prepared.”
The Lobos hope they can counterpunch the Liberty offense with their own. It had its best day of the season with 598 total yards of offense in a 55-52 win over New Mexico State last week.