Nov 3, 2009

Flames get even in Blue Hose blowout

by Jordan LoSasso

Judging by the crowd at Williams Stadium after halftime, it would appear the game was over. Although Liberty led 28-5 at this point, technically, there were still two quarters left in the game, but practically, Liberty already won.

The Flames’ first touchdown came after quarterback Tommy Beecher found tight end Will Quarles over the middle on a vertical route for a 37-yard reception that brought Liberty to Presbyterian’s 3-yard line. Freshman running back Aldreakis Allen, who totaled 92 yards and two touchdowns, finished the drive with a goal-line run that he bounced from the inside to the edge for the score.

“We saw on film that their safeties didn’t like to play real deep so we knew we were going to take some shots down field,” Beecher said.

The back breaker, based on what Coach Danny Rocco labeled the “mass exodus,” was with 2:55 left in the first half. A 10-play, 28-yard drive was capped off by a 4-yard touchdown run by SirChauncey Holloway for one of his two scores. The attendance was announced at 14,197 at the beginning of the game, but after Holloway’s touchdown, it was down to roughly 1,000.

“I actually turned to Todd (Wetmore, Liberty’s athletic communications director for football) and said, ‘Mass exodus.’ I don’t know if it started to pour or if it was the score, but I was taken back by that,” Rocco said.

What the fans did not know was that Presbyterian still had hope after a disappointing final two minutes that yielded a safety on an errant punt snap for the Blue Hose to close the gap 28-5. Despite the score, the first half statistics were almost even, with the Blue Hose holding the 164-162 edge in total yards.

“I thought in the first half we had a chance to knock them out, and we didn’t knock them out. We gave them a little bit of life. That was a little bit disappointing,” Rocco said. “We took control in the third quarter and created our own energy and momentum.”

The difference between this week’s blowout and last week’s close finish against Charleston Southern was Liberty’s ability to take advantage of Presbyterian’s four turnovers, which often gave the offense a short field to work with.

“A big emphasis this week was to finish,” Beecher said. “If we could have converted on a couple of the short fields last week, it really could have changed the game. It really built momentum for Charleston Southern when they got those stops. The defense has been real good for us all year. It makes it a lot easier for us when you only have 20 or 30 yards to score.”

Beecher, who went 15-for-17 with two touchdown passes and a rushing touchdown, led the offense until the game was out of reach by the start of the fourth quarter.

“Once again, he has been a model of consistency. He managed the game real well and we are real proud of the performance he gave us today. We are excited to have him on our football team,” Rocco said.

In a game that the players and coaches both knew Liberty would be more physically dominant, and with the stadium vacant from the “exodus,” the Flames relied on other motivation — last season’s 31-28 loss to Presbyterian that cost them a playoff berth.

After the game, linebacker Wes Cheek continuously named plays that cost the Flames their 2008 season. The hardest part of the week’s preparation for the Blue Hose came Tuesday.

“31-28 was everywhere. The most painful part was Tuesday. We struck up the film from last year and that was tough to see,” Cheek said. “There were only about five plays where they gained over 10 yards and I think almost every one of them was for a touchdown.”

Atonement came on Quarles two touchdown receptions; the first came early in the second quarter on a 6-yard screen pass that put the Flames on top 21-3. The other was an 8-yard catch that Rocco said finally gave the Flames control of the game in the third quarter, after the missed knockout punches in the first half.

To ensure last year’s disappointment resonated with the players, the Presbyterian game results, 31-28, were posted all over the locker room and Football Operation Center. The players had all the motivation they needed to avoid another let down.

“I wouldn’t say it was in the back of our minds. It was right in the front. 31-28 was everywhere,” Cheek said.

Now the Flames can focus on improving their 6-2 record (3-0 Big South), and fight for what the Blue Hose cost them last season — the playoffs.

Liberty will play VMI (2-6) at home Saturday Nov. 7 at 7 p.m. for its fourth Big South contest of the year.

Contact Jordan LoSasso at jlosasso@liberty.edu

 

 

 


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