The Liberty Flames knocked off defending Big South champion Coastal Carolina 37-24 on Saturday, improving their record to 6-3 while remaining perfect in Big South Conference play.
Junior quarterback Brock Smith went 11-for-15 for 265 yards and a touchdown as the offense continued its improved play, evident over the last three games. Junior tailback Rashad Jennings totaled 172 of the team’s 288 total yards rushing as the Flames maintained a balanced offensive attack through the air and on the ground.
Liberty scored early and often, beginning with their first drive, as the Flames marched down the field 56 yards in just three plays, capped off by a Jennings’ rush up the middle for the touchdown.
Two drives later, after consecutive punts by the Chanticleer offense, Liberty tacked on a field goal by Noah Greenbaum to increase its lead to 10-0.
Coastal Carolina obtained great field position on a kick return into Flames territory, and a 15-yard personal foul for taunting on redshirt senior Vince Redd appeared to give Coastal a prime scoring opportunity. The Flames, however, tightened up on defense, forcing a turnover on downs. On Liberty’s next drive, Brock Smith completed a 35-yard pass to Dominic Bolden that ignited the drive and resulted in Jennings’ second touchdown of the afternoon.
With the score 17-0, it appeared as though the Flames would pull away and quickly put the game out of reach going into halftime. However, Coastal responded with a 13-play drive in which they methodically moved down the field by mixing in an equal amount of run and pass plays to keep the Flames defense guessing. The end result was a seven-yard completion by quarterback Will Richardson to Big South Conference Preseason Player of the Year Jerome Simpson for the score that put Coastal Carolina on the board.
Smith would respond with an 86-yard completion to Brandon Turner that went all the way down to Coastal’s four-yard line. On the next play, junior running back Zach Terrell took the handoff and rushed right up the gut four yards for the touchdown, extending his consecutive games with a rushing touchdown streak to 14. However, a failed extra point kept the score at 23-7.
On Coastal’s next possession, Redd forced Richardson to fumble, giving the Flames a chance to extend their lead and put the game out of reach. The offense drove the ball inside the Carolina five-yard line before Bolden fumbled a pass from Smith that was recovered at the two-yard line. The Flames went into the locker room ahead 23-7.
Coastal Carolina received the ball to start the half and capped off the drive with a 38-yard field goal from Justin Durham, pulling them within two touchdowns. On the very next play from scrimmage, Terrell fumbled the ball, giving Coastal good field position and a huge momentum swing.
“Momentum had really come our way,” Coastal Carolina coach David Bennett said, according to the News and Advance, “But give Liberty all the credit. They fought hard. They wanted it. And they got it.”
The Liberty defense responded, forcing Coastal to punt after six plays. Jennings then rushed eight times for 89 yards for Liberty’s next touchdown and, in doing so, recorded his 12th touchdown of the season and his fifth consecutive 100-yard performance. His 172 rushing yards marked the sixth time this season Jennings eclipsed the 100-yard marker.
Coastal would not go down quietly as it scored 14 consecutive points against the Flames’ second-team defense and forced some of the starters to return to action to close out the game.
The Flames amassed 13 penalties that cost them a collective 114 yards but still managed nearly 9.1 yards per play on offense. Redd, who recorded 2.5 sacks in the game, and junior Ryan Greiser led the way defensively with 11 tackles each while junior Colin Dugan had 10 tackles and two sacks as the Flames defense held the Chanticleers to 315 yards.
The Flames have already set a single-season record for most points scored in team history with 365, breaking the previous record of 356. With the win, the Flames move into a tie with Gardner Webb in the Big South standings. They will face Virginia Military Institute in the final game of their three-game home stand on Saturday at 1 p.m.
Contact Thomas Lourdeau at email@example.com.