Friday, April 18, 2014

Editorial: Football’s comeback improbable, not impossible

For the first four non-conference games of the season, the Flames played the role of a large underdog — and lost four times. The next three games, they played the role of a large favorite — and won three times. Saturday’s contest against conference rival and perennial Big South powerhouse Coastal Carolina (CCU) was supposed to be the most evenly matched game of the year to date. But Turner Gill’s hot and cold team came out cold, losing 36-12.

In soggy conditions resulting from Hurricane Sandy, a Flames offense that had run the ball for an average of 261 yards in each of their three wins, was held under the century mark. Woodrum threw three interceptions, one of which was returned for six points.

The game was sweet revenge for Coastal, who had been hammered in Lynchburg last year, 63-27.

Not unlike most games this season, the Flames won the time of possession battle. But despite their ability to control the clock, Liberty was not able to control the scoreboard. They had more first downs than the Chanticleers, but turnovers ended three potential scoring drives.

Senior wide receiver Pat Kelly was one of the bright spots for the Flames. Kelly’s 16 receptions set a new school record for most in a game. His 13th catch was the only touchdown of the day.

Another positive for the Flames was the return of kicker John Lunsford who had been out with an injury. Lunsford booted field goals of 44 and 50 yards.

Big South Championship Scenarios

In other Big South action over, Charleston Southern University (CSU) defeated non-conference opponent Edward Waters 42-7, Gardner-Webb beat Virginia Military Institute (VMI) 38-7 and Stony Brook hammered Presbyterian 56-17.

With their win Saturday, Stony Brook has all but clinched the 2012 Big South title. The Sea Wolves, who are 4-0 in the Big South, have built a substantial lead with just two games left in conference play. Because Stony Brook has already defeated CSU and CCU, they own the tiebreaker in the unlikely event that they lose their last two games and either CSU or CCU is able to get to four conference wins.

The Flames, who have three games left in conference play (CSU, Stony Brook and VMI, in that order), have backed themselves into a corner. With their loss to the Chanticleers, they have lost control of their playoff destiny. Not only will the Flames have to win out, they will need help from other teams.

Were the Flames able to win out in their remaining three contests, they would need Coastal to lose at least one of their remaining games.

If the Flames lose to CSU, the only way to win the conference would be to beat Stony Brook and hope that Stony Brook then also lose to VMI in their season finale. The Flames would also need CSU to lose both of its remaining games and Coastal to lose two out of their last three. Although mathematically possible, the odds are astronomical — but I guess that is why they play the game.

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