Friday, April 25, 2014

Conference play top of Coach Gill’s agenda

Gauntlet — The Flames will have to win the Big South to gain playoff contention. Photo credit: Elliot Mosher

Entering a bye week with a 0-4 record is never how first year Head Coach Turner Gill wanted to begin his tenure at Liberty. With conference play on the horizon, Gill knows that every game is crucial.

The Flames open Big South play against Gardner-Webb homecoming weekend.

“The first quarter of the season is our preseason, our first four games of the year,” Gill said. “The second quarter starts this week with our open week and two conference games against Gardner-Webb and Presbyterian. Then our third quarter is broken down against Concord. Our fourth quarter of the season is four more conference games and the first game of the four is most important (Coastal Carolina).”

All the pieces

The Flames have the tools to win, with the smash-and-dash attack of running backs Aldreakis Allen and Sirchauncey Holloway and through the air with receiver Pat Kelly. Both Allen and Holloway have averaged over four yards a carry, and Kelly leads the team with 34 receptions.

After quarterback Brian Hudson suffered an injury against Norfolk State three weeks ago, Josh Woodrum has seen the double-edged sword of success and failure. In his first start as a quarterback for the Flames, he threw over 300 yards. Against Lehigh, Woodrum had another consistent game, but a late interception drenched the Flames hopes for victory.

“We are going to go with Josh (Woodrum) against Gardner-Webb,” Gill said. “He has played well the last two ball games, and we need to settle in (who) that person is as quarterback. I think he has earned it. He has completed 70 percent of his passes. He’s thrown the ball accurately.”

Effective play when it counts

In the first four games, three have been decided by a total of 12 points. In each of those games, the Flames have held a lead in the second half, only to let the game slip away in the end.

“We need to have continuity in our offense, which may help us eliminate some of the unfortunate plays that we have had, such as turnovers and illegal procedures penalties,” Gill said.

Simple fixes on every facet of the ball could leave this team with a comfortable 3-1 record heading into the most important part of the season.

“In our bye week, we want to get a few things corrected,” Gill said. “Defensively we want to get better in the red zone, we want to hold them to a field goal if they do get inside the 20 instead of giving up touchdowns. We want to also create more turnovers. Offensively, we need to improve with ball security and unforced errors, and special teams we need to improve on punt coverage. We have given up big plays in this area.”

Both the Liberty Flames and the Gardner-Webb Bulldogs enter this week with a 0-4 record. The Bulldogs have lost each game by an average of 32 points. They are also prone to turn the ball over, which coach Gill has stressed to his defense throughout the week.

Key Games in Conference play

After the game against the Bulldogs, the Flames key games against rival Coastal Carolina Chanticleers and Stony Brook Seawolves may once again decide who will come of victorious in the Big South. The Chanticleers will look to avenge a 63-27 drumming at the hands of the Flames last season, as the Flames want to put the season finale in the past, when a loss to Stony Brook dashed their playoff hopes.

For now, the Flames focus on this week’s game against the Bulldogs.

“Our guys have played hard,” Gill said. “They played with great emotion and passion. Unfortunately, we have made to many mistakes, but I do think that those four games will help us going into conference play.”

The Flames should come out on top, defeating the Bulldogs 35-10, Oct. 6 at 3:30 at Williams Stadium, which would mark the first win in the Turner Gill era and the start to the mission to win the Big South Conference.

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