Flames Roll to Homecoming Win over Chanticleers

LYNCHBURG, Va. – The Liberty Flames scored on their first seven drives of the game and never looked back en route to a 63-27 Homecoming victory over No. 20 Coastal Carolina, Saturday afternoon, inside of Williams Stadium.

With the victory, Liberty’s third in a row, the Flames up their record to 4-3 on the season and open at 2-0 in Big South play for the fifth year in a row.

Coastal Carolina, who tried to get back into the game by scoring on its first two possessions of the second half, levels its Big South record at 1-1 and falls to 4-2 overall this season.

The win also extended Liberty’s Big South home winning streak to 13-consecutive games, during which the Flames have outscored their opponents by an average of 29.6 points per game (47.5 to 17.9).

For the second week in a row, the Flames jumped out to a 14-0 lead during the first six minutes of the game.

This go around, Liberty’s quick start came on the strength of its running game. On a blustery afternoon, the Flames elected to keep the ball on the ground eight of the first 10 plays and quickly amassed 105 rushing yards on the first two drives.

The run-game burst started on the game’s first offensive play, when Sirchauncey Holloway found a hole on the right side of the line and lumbered downfield for a 59-yard gain. The career-long run by the junior running back set up a five-yard touchdown carry by Mike Brown just 21 seconds in the game.

Coastal Carolina’s first possession of the game did not last long, as Marcus Whitener was struck by Cory Freeman and the ensuing loose ball was recovered by Chris Mayo.

The Chanticleers’ defense stopped the Flames on their next drive, forcing Liberty to punt. However, Mike Larsson was tackled during the special teams play, giving Liberty a new set of downs on the Coastal Carolina side of the field.

Liberty kept the ball on the ground for the next five plays, including a six-yard touchdown run by Aldreakis Allen at the 9:52 mark. Allen’s third rushing touchdown of the season capped off an eight-play, 53-yard drive that staked Liberty to a 14-0 lead.

Turnovers continued to hurt the visitors, as Coastal Carolina gave the ball back to Liberty on the fourth play of the next drive. Mayo, who recovered the first fumble of the game, caused the next when he jarred the ball free from running back Jeremy Height, which was picked up by Paco Varol.

A 20-yard pass over the middle to tight end Tommy Shaver from Brown got Liberty back into the red zone for the third-straight drive. From there, the Walter Payton Award candidate quarterback called his number on four plays in a row, including a one-yard run to complete a nine-play, 53-yard scoring drive with 4:30 left to play in the opening stanza and make the score 21-0, Flames.

Liberty’s stout defense continued to hold strong, forcing a pair of three-and-out series and a third turnover. The three drives resulted in three more touchdowns, allowing Liberty to open up a 42-0 lead with 3:16 left before halftime.

Two of the three scoring drives went for 10 or more yards, with both ending in rushing touchdowns. The first was a two-yard run by Allen at 13:57 of the second quarter, followed by Desmond Rice’s first career touchdown run, for one yard, at 7:40.

Liberty’s final scoring drive of the first half saw Brown find Peter Gagliardi open for his first career touchdown reception, a 32-yarder, that pushed Liberty’s margin to 42 points. Following Gagliardi’s 32-yard reception, Liberty had used its 40 plays to amass 289 yards, while having held the Chanticleers to 79 yards on 12 plays.

Coastal Carolina was finally able to mount its first scoring drive of the game on the final drive of the first half. The Chanticleers implemented a hurry-up offense which allowed them to quickly move the ball downfield and eventually score on a 20-yard touchdown pass from Aramis Hillary to Chris Presley with three seconds left before the break. As a result, the Flames’ halftime advantage stood at 42-7.

At the intermission, Liberty more than doubled up Coastal Carolina in total offense yards, having outgained the visitors 346 to 155 yards.

Brown continued to be Liberty’s top offensive weapon, as the senior collected 204 yards of Liberty’s first-half yardage. He completed 13-of-17 passing attempts for 144 yards, while rushing for two scores and 61 yards on 13 carries. Chris Summers was Liberty’s top target, finishing the first 30 minutes with five receptions for 83 yards.

Hillary matched Brown’s effectiveness, as the junior completed 11-of-14 passing attempts for 120 yards. Travis Small led Coastal’s limited ground attack with four carries for 14 yards, while Akeem Wesley caught three passes for 36 yards.

The Chanticleers tried to gain the momentum for the first time in the game early in the second half, doing so by cutting Liberty’s lead from 35 points to 21.

Coastal Carolina did so on a pair of quick plays. The first was a 44-yard completion from Hillary to Adrian Sullivan at the 9:31 mark followed by a 32-yard flea-flicker pass from DeMario Bennett to Matt Hazel just three minutes later.

However, Liberty squelched the visitors’ hopes of continuing their comeback effort by scoring the next two times the Flames touched the ball to put the game out of reach.

The Flames would score three more times, giving Liberty its third-most points scored in a single game under Rocco.

Rice scored his second rushing touchdown of the game (one yard) at the 4:51 mark, while Brown completed a 50-yard touchdown pass to Pat Kelly a minute and a half later. Finally, Liberty’s special teams got into the mix on the 60-point effort when Ryan Ferguson blocked a Austin Cain punt and Bobby Partilla recovered it in the end zone for a score.

Special teams also played a factor into the final scoring drive of the game, as Liberty muffed the last punt of the game and gave the visitors the ball at the 10-yard line. Four plays later, Cody Craig found Bennett open on a sideline route with 59 seconds left to complete the evening’s final scoring effort.

The Flames had their highest offensive output of the season, finishing the afternoon with 518 total offensive yards. Liberty’s season-best effort saw the Flames complete the night with an even 259 rushing yards and 259 passing yards.

Brown played a part in four of Liberty’s touchdowns. The senior threw for two scores, completing 13-of-17 passing attempts for 218 yards, while rushing for two more on 13 carries and 61 yards.

Allen was Liberty’s top rusher, as the sophomore posted his third career multiple rushing touchdown game. He scored twice on the ground and finished the game rushing 19 times for 96 yards to help the Flames post their second 200-plus yard rushing performance in three games.

Summers’ first-half numbers stood to lead Liberty’s receiving efforts, while Kelly caught three passes for 64 yards and his second receiving touchdown of the season.

Coastal Carolina, which finished with 380 total offensive yards, was paced by Hillary. The junior quarterback completed 18-of-27 passing attempts for 207 yards and two touchdown passes.

His top target was Hazel, who finished the night with six receptions for 90 yards, including his 32-yard touchdown reception from Bennett. Small continued to lead the Chanticleers on the ground, rushing nine times for 43 yards.

Francis Bah finished the game with a career-best eight tackles to lead the Flames. The defensive line had four solo and four assisted tackles, to go along with two tackles for a loss and a quarterback hurry. Four players followed behind Bah with five stops each.

Coastal Carolina was led by Marcus Lott, who finished the afternoon with a game-high 10 tackles, including seven solo stops. Quinn Backus followed with nine tackles (five solo, four assisted), while Desmond Steward rounded out the visitors’ top three defenders with eight tackles.

The victory was Liberty’s first over a nationally ranked opponent in three seasons and the fourth under head coach Danny Rocco. The last time the Flames knocked off a Top 25 FCS program was Nov. 22, 2008, when the Flames ended the year with a 26-3 win over No. 12 Elon.

The Flames will look to pick up their second-straight Big South road victory next weekend when Liberty travels to Charleston, S.C., to face Charleston Southern on Oct. 22.

Liberty has never lost to the Buccaneers under head coach Danny Rocco, having won its last five meetings with Charleston Southern by an average of 25.4 points per game.

The closest contest during the five-game run was last time Liberty visited CSU Stadium, when the Flames had to come up with a last-drive defensive stand to hold off the Buccaneers for a 20-13 win on Oct. 24, 2009.

Coastal Carolina returns home next weekend to host Gardner-Webb inside Brooks Stadium. The battle between the Chanticleers and the Runnin’ Bulldogs is slated to kick off at 7 p.m., and will be regionally televised on MASN.

 

Submitted by

Todd Wetmore ’98

Assistant Athletics Director – Communications

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