Sep 8, 2009
by Axel Cerny
West Virginia Head Coach Bill Stewart wrapped up most of his thoughts on yesterday’s game by saying, “We got a win, and that’s what it’s all about,” pointing to the struggles that the Mountaineers had with the Christian university from Lynchburg.
As a Flames player, coach or fan reflecting on the 33-20 loss in Morgantown, W.Va., those are encouraging words — words that show Liberty football is prepared for a 2009 campaign. The Flames can only lose one more game if they want to match their stellar record of a year ago, which controversially did not send them into postseason play.
Obviously, any coach with a track record like Danny Rocco does not like to lose, but getting into a dog-fight on the road with one of the stronger programs in the Football Bowl Series (FBS) is nothing to be ashamed of, and by taking a quick glance at the other Big South games this opening weekend, 2009 looks to be another bright year in the Rocco Era.
Only two of the seven Big South teams that played this past weekend picked up a win, and all but three battled Division I-AA teams. The only team matching up against a foe more notable than the Mountaineers was Charleston Southern, who couldn’t find the end zone in their 62-3 demolition at the hands of the reigning national champion Florida Gators. Instead of seizing the sterling opportunity that the reigning Big South champion Flames left for their conference opponents, who played the strongest competition they should face all year, only two teams will start off this year with a better record than the Flames.
The other two squads beginning the year at 1-0, Gardner-Webb and VMI, racked up their victories against a couple notably weaker opponents. Gardner-Webb beat up on Division-II school, Mars Hill, 58-14. VMI, on the other hand, squeaked out a 14-13 win over Robert Morris, whom went 5-6 last season and is in the NEC.
Furman, whom posted a record of 7-5 last year in the Southern Conference, took down a Presbyterian football team that joined the Big South Conference (BSC) this year. Presbyterian’s 45-21 loss to the Paladins is a good sign for the Flames, who suffered one of two losses last season in a 31-28 heartbreaker at home against Presbyterian, who was not yet a member of the BSC. The Flames and the Blue Hose will be squaring off on Halloween at Presbyterian in what could be one of Liberty’s biggest games of the year.
One of the top predicted pre-season contenders with Liberty for the Big South crown, Coastal Carolina, faced a tough match up in FBS opponent Kent State, but getting blanked 18-0 by a MAC squad did not speak well for its Big South hopes, and is precisely the opposite of what Liberty accomplished on Saturday afternoon.
As for the Flames, Rocco is determined to keep his team’s focus on next week’s game against North Carolina Central. Fans can be sure that the coaches and players who were around for last year’s snub from the postseason gained some confidence for this year’s chances watching the strong effort in the defeat against West Virginia. Hopefully this effort can set a precedent for a Flames team that wants nothing more than to pile on to the recent successes that have become known as the Rocco Era.
Contact Axel Cerny at email@example.com.
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