Sep 30, 2008

Bevins' Last -Second Field Goal Gives Flames 31-28 Win

by Thomas Lourdeau

The Liberty Flames (4-0) secured a crucial road victory against Youngstown State on Saturday thanks to freshman Matt Bevins’ game-ending field goal, pushing the squad to a 31-28 win.

The win preserved the Flames perfect season as Liberty defeated a ranked opponent on the road for the first time in 11 years. The

Flames currently boast a nine game Football Championship Series win streak that is tops amongst eligible teams.

Rashad Jennings rushed for a career high 220 yards and three touchdowns, highlighting a Flames ground game that rushed the ball 44 times and averaged 5.5 yards per carry.

“The biggest difference tonight was Rashad Jennings,” Head coach Danny Rocco said. “Rashad just had his mind made up he was going to take this game under control.”

Liberty’s defensive unit rebounded from a shaky start to keep the Flames in the game. On the game’s opening possession, Youngstown State moved the ball downfield during a methodical 13-play drive that resulted in a touchdown. Youngstown’s junior quarterback Brandon Summers was 8-for-8 on the drive and went on to complete a school record 32 passes in the contest.

Four plays into its opening possession following the touchdown, Liberty’s offense committed a costly turnover as senior quarterback Brock Smith’s pass was intercepted at Youngstown’s 32-yard line and returned to the 41. The Flames, however, forced a three-and-out on the ensuing Penguin possession.

After Liberty’s offense sputtered to a second three-and-out, Youngstown took over on its own 30-yard line before marching 70 yards in 10 plays. Summers capped the drive with an 18-yard scamper for a touchdown, pushing the Penguin advantage to 14-0.

The Flames responded with a second quarter drive totaling 10 plays and 71 yards. Jennings rushed for 35 yards on the possession before Zach Tarrell found the end zone from the 3-yard line, tying the score at 14.

“I had my mind made up that we were going to stay poised on the sidelines and show confidence in our kids,” Rocco said.

The two teams traded possessions for much of the third and fourth quarters before a personal foul pinned the Flames deep inside their own territory at the 5-yard line. Undaunted, Liberty needed just over four minutes to march 95 yards in nine plays, highlighted by a Zach Terrell 51-yard strike to Dominic Bolden on a designed fake run. The drive resulted in the Flames third unanswered touchdown and pushed their lead to 21-14.

Liberty’s defense continued its aggressive play, forcing Youngstown to punt and received great field position via a 46-yard Bolden return. Rashad Jennings found the end zone on the next play from scrimmage on a 6-yard run to put the Flames ahead 28-14.
Youngstown State would not go down quietly. With 6:19 remaining in the game, Summers found a receiver in the end zone from the 4-yard line, capping an eight-play, 50-yard drive to pull within one score.

Liberty moved the ball effectively on the next drive, using eight plays to take several minutes from the clock before Brock Smith was intercepted for the second time at the Youngstown 34-yard line. The Penguins took over with 2:31 remaining in the game and used the sideline to preserve the clock as they marched 64 yards in just over one minute to tie the game at 28.

Liberty was again the benefactor of a crucial special teams mistake by Youngstown when Penguin kicker Stephen Blose kicked the ball out of bounds, giving Liberty the ball at its own 40-yard line. Smith had four of 15 completions during the drive that set up the eventual game-winning field goal as time expired.

“For us to win is a statement. It really validates our program,” Rocco said.

Summers enjoyed a career day in the loss, completing 32-of-39 passes for 334 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran for a score and netted 45 yards on the ground.

Liberty’s defense employed a “bend but not break” mentality, holding the Penguins to under three yards per carry (32-for-93 yards). Nick Hursky led all Flames defenders with nine tackles, including three for a loss. As a unit, the defense totaled three sacks and an interception.

Liberty continues its road trip next Saturday, facing off against Big South Conference foe Coastal Carolina at 7 p.m. before returning home to face Stony Brook on Oct. 11 at 3:30 p.m.

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