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Liberty University’s rough start for the football program continued this past Saturday, Sept. 16 as the Flames took on the Grizzlies of Montana University at the smoky Washington-Grizzly Stadium in Missoula, Mont. Smoke from nearby wildfires filled the stadium during the game, reducing visibility for players. The Flames made several mistakes that Grizzlies were quick to capitalize on, which cost them the game. The Grizzlies came up with a 34-14 win, leaving the Flames with 0-3 record.
Admittedly, Washington-Grizzly stadium is a tough place to play – Montana has won nearly 90 percent of its home games since it opened in 1986. However this is the first since 2003 that the Flames have started the season with a three-game losing streak.
The first 10 minutes of the game was a defensive standoff as both offenses tried to put something together. The game seemed slow until Montana’s senior running back Peter Nguyen tore down the left side of the field on a 90-yard punt return to bring the crowd to its feet. That play set the tone for the rest of the game.
By the end of the first half, the Grizzlies had added another 17 points by a 32-yard run from fullback Dan Moore, a 6-yard push by freshmen quarterback Trent McKinney and a 42-yard field goal from the kicker, Chris Lider.
After the half, Liberty came out on a mission and took advantage of a Montana turnover. Flames quarterback Josh Woodrum found the end zone for Liberty’s first score of the day, hooking up with wide receiver Pat Kelly for a 14-yard touchdown pass. Woodrum, playing in his first collegiate start, was filling in for the injured Brian Hudson.
Later in the fourth Liberty stopped the Grizzlies offense and answered with a drive down to the 33-yard line. However, their comeback attempt was put to rest by a failed attempt on a fourth-and-one play that was made worse by a false start, and ultimately resulted in a sack. Montana countered with its longest drive of the day (13 plays – 54 yards) that finished in the end zone to bring the score to 31-7 with 12:20 left to play.
Woodrum dominated on the Flames next possession, completing five passes for 92 yards. He capped the drive by connecting with Ryan Ferguson for a 34 yard touchdown to put Liberty just 17 points away from the Grizzlies with a little more than 10 minutes on the clock.
The Grizzlies ate up the remaining time with their next effort, leaving only four-and-a-half minutes for the Flames to work with. At the end of that 12-play drive, the Grizzlies put the ball through the uprights on a 46-yard field goal from Lider, bringing the score to where it would stay for the remainder of the game (34-14.)
Woodrum made it into the record books as the 11th quarterback in Flames history to pass for 300 yards in a single outing. He accounted for 322 of the 342 total offensive yards Liberty posted on the day.
The Flames looks to turn the season around this coming Saturday, Sept. 22 when they take on the Lehigh Hawks on their home turf at Williams Stadium at 7 p.m.