Flames get by Lions 21-13
Holloway, Allen rush for combined 233 yards in win over Div. II opponent
The Liberty Flames dominated virtually every facet of the game in their win over the visiting Mountain Lions of Concord University, Saturday, Oct. 20 at Williams Stadium.
The Flames held possession of the ball twice as long, and they out gained their opponent by nearly 230 yards. They had 16 more first downs and were significantly better than their opponent on third down.
However, contrary to the 2:1 advantage that Liberty enjoyed in every statistical category, the final score was 21-13. And that is OK with Head Coach Turner Gill.
“It was a good win for us,” Gill said. “The defense had to respond, and they responded, shut them down. The offense made enough plays and scored touchdowns. There’s always some things that you can improve on, but I think our guys responded the way they needed to respond to get a win.”
It did not take long for the Flames to find misfortune in the game against the Mountain Lions. Ryan Ferguson, the second leading wide receiver for the Flames, went down on the first play, appearing to suffer a right leg injury that would keep him from returning for the rest of the game. No official word has been given as to the severity of the injury.
Perhaps it was Ferguson’s that let the air out of the Flames sails, but for whatever reason, the Flames offense struggled early. The first quarter ended with an empty scoreboard and the Flames having only moved the ball 91 yards against their Division II foe.
The second quarter started much better than the first, with the Flames knocking on the Mountain Lions door at the 38-yard line. Liberty moved the ball inside the red zone to the 19-yard line before a sack on third down forced a 47-yard field goal attempt.
It was the first field goal attempt of his career for Aaron Sassaman, who was filling in for the injured John Lunsford, and it will be one he will not soon forget.
Concord’s Evan Moore burst up the middle and blocked the ball, batting it up and behind the spot of the kick. The Mountain Lions Nate Pollard took possession and returned it 58 yards for the first score of the game.
Liberty was able to answer with a 41-yard touchdown pass from Josh Woodrum to Darrin Peterson on the ensuing drive. The touchdown was only the second catch of Peterson’s young career.
“Darrin Peterson, we put him in that Z spot, and he caught that touchdown pass,” Gill said. “We have two or three other guys that are in the rotation, and when the opportunity presents itself, we always want those guys to be ready. … Darrin Peterson stepped up and made a play — a big play — to keep us going in the football game.”
Two possessions later, Woodrum was intercepted when his intended receiver, Pat Kelly, was muscled to the ground before the ball arrived — something his opponent admitted to.
“I was pressed up and had the safety over the top, so I could play real aggressive,” Riyahd Richardson said. “I basically just threw him on the ground, the quarterback threw the ball, and I picked it and ran it down the sideline.”
Richardson returned the pick to the one yard line, and the Mountain Lions punched it in for a touchdown on the next play. The point-after attempt was blocked, leaving the score at 13-7 in favor of the Mountain Lions.
Liberty scored again in the second quarter when running back Sirchauncey Holloway managed to hang onto a short shovel pass that was slightly off-target. After securing the ball, he shook off a would-be tackler to walk into the end zone. The extra point put the score at 14-13, where stayed for the remainder of the first half.
With five minutes left in the third quarter, Holloway added another score — a two-yard run up the middle to put the Flames ahead 21-13. Holloway, who ran the ball seven times on the scoring drive, finished the evening with 142 yards on 28 carries for a 5.1-yard carry average.
The Liberty running attack, which put up an astonishing 429 yards on the ground last week against Presbyterian, gained 233 yards on Saturday. Aldreakis Allen and Holloway alternated series, trading off on every possession. Allen finished the night just shy of the century mark with 94 yards.
The back and forth between Holloway and Allen has wreaked havoc on nearly every opponent this season, and the two backs said that the competition and camaraderie only helps to push both of them to be better.
“We push each other in practice — that’s pretty much it,” Holloway said of himself and Allen. “He gets a good gain, I’ll tell him, ‘good run,’ and if I do the same thing, he’ll say the same thing for me.”
Holloway’s second touchdown in the third quarter was the final score of a very uneventful second half. The teams combined for seven punts and one missed field goal over the course of the last 20 minutes.
While not the most exciting spectator football, players agreed that keeping the offense on the field longer and thereby allowing the defense to rest is a winning formula — one that could be successful against conference heavyweights Coastal Carolina and Stony Brook.
“We get a nice groove going, we’re hitting them, sticking them,” Holloway said of the running game. “I believe we can beat Coastal that way.”
Even those in the passing game see the benefit of using both running backs extensively.
“We can definitely beat Coastal with it,” wide receiver Elliot Dutra said. “We got the best 1-2 punch in the conference, let alone in the nation, and if they come to play like they always do and our wide receivers do what they’re supposed to do, this style of offense can take us straight to the playoffs.”
“Our offense does a great job of managing time, and I think that allows for us to rest and play fast and play hard,” defensive lineman Corey Freeman said. “It’s great to have a team that can gel together, an offense that wants to help the defense and vice versa.”
Freeman had three tackles against Concord and was a part of a solid defensive outing for the front seven, which held Concord’s star running back Calvinaugh Jones to just 23 yards throughout the afternoon. Jones had three 100-yard outings this season prior to Saturday.
While it came out in Liberty’s favor this week, the ball-control offense employed Saturday is not a proven formula. Four games ago against Lehigh, Liberty was defeated 28-26 in a game where they held the ball for 42:25. Statistically, the similarities are striking.
Looking ahead, the Flames will travel to Coastal Carolina. It is worthy of note that after last year’s 63-27 homecoming drubbing of the Chanticleers, Coastal was quick to schedule Liberty for its own homecoming in 2012 — a game traditionally seen as a guarantee — to show off before the larger than usual crowd.