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No. 6/4 Chanticleers Outlast Flames in Homecoming Thriller

October 19, 2013
|  Lynchburg, Va.
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Desmond Rice tied a career high with three rushing touchdowns and rushed for a career-best 170 yards during Liberty's Homecoming contest against Coastal Carolina.
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LaDarius Hawthorne blocked a potential game-tying 40-yard field goal from John Lunsford in double overtime, allowing No. 6/4 Coastal Carolina to complete its 55-52 comeback victory over the Flames, Saturday evening at Williams Stadium.

The win keeps the Chanticleers unbeaten on the season, moving Coastal Carolina to 7-0 overall and 2-0 in Big South play.

The setback brings to an end Liberty's Big South record 18-game home conference winning streak with the Chanticleers handing the Flames their first home Big South setback since 2006.

Liberty drops its first Big South opener in six seasons and falls to 3-4 overall on the year and 0-1 in Big South play.

The Flames controlled the first half of play, turning a three-and-out defensive stop on Coastal Carolina's first series into their first lead of the game. Following the strong defensive start, Liberty marched 88 yards downfield to take a 7-0 lead on a seven-yard run over the right tackle by Desmond Rice six minutes into the game.

Later in the first quarter, Alex Scearce intercepted a Josh Woodrum pass and five plays later, Lorenzo Taliaferro scored from two yards out to get the visitors on the scoreboard. Coastal Carolina's mishandled snap on the extra point and a block by Chima Uzowihe allowed the Flames to keep the lead, 7-6, at the 3:37 mark of the first quarter.

Liberty scored three of the game's next four touchdowns to take a double-digit lead. Two of the scores were passing touchdowns from Josh Woodrum to Gabe Henderson (29 yards) and Brandon Apon (20 yards), while Nicky Fualaau's three-yard scamper toward the near side of the field pushed the Flames' lead to 28-13 with 2:45 left to play before halftime.

Coastal Carolina's touchdown during Liberty's 21-point spurt was a 34-yard pass play from Alex Ross to Matt Hazel were the wide receiver broke three tackles to score.

Liberty had a chance to use some clock late in the first half, but Coastal Carolina's defense made its presence known. The Chanticleers forced its first three-and-out series of the day to give Coastal Carolina the ball back with 59 seconds remaining before the break.

Ross quickly moved the visitors downfield, completing 4-of-5 passing attempts to set up a career-long 48-yard field goal by Alex Catron. The junior's kick just made it over the crossbar, trimming Liberty's lead to 28-16 at the break.

The two teams combined for 530 total offensive yards during the first half, with Liberty outgaining the visitors, 298 to 232.

Woodrum was the offensive standout, completing 17-of-24 passing attempts for 218 yards and three touchdowns. Ross countered by completing 11-of-19 attempts for 124 yards and one scoring pass.

The Flames picked where they left off during the first half, scoring on their opening drive of the third quarter. Liberty's third 11-play drive of the game was capped off by a Clifton Richardson score on a two-yard run, pushing Liberty's lead to 35-16 at the 9:00 mark of the third.

The Flames looked like they might maintain their largest lead of the game at 19 points when they forced Coastal Carolina into a punting situation midway through the next drive. However, a fake punt by the Chanticleers turned into a momentum shifting play.

Ross completed a six-yard shovel pass to Hazel on the fake, giving Coastal Carolina a new set of downs. Taliaferro was handed the ball on the next two plays, scoring on the second from five yards outs to cut the Flames' lead to 35-23 with 5:25 left to play in the third quarter.

Liberty did answer back on its next drive, pushing the lead back to 19 points, 42-23, on a 10-yard rush by Rice just over three minutes later.

Ross started the next drive off with a 46-yard completion to Hazel and three plays later completed 13-yard scoring pass play to Hazel to begin Coastal Carolina's comeback.

The Chanticleers relentless fourth-quarter push during the 2013 season continued at Williams Stadium, as Coastal Carolina outscored the Flames 15-3 during the final period to force overtime. Coming into the game, Coastal Carolina had outscored opponents, 53-36, during the fourth quarter.

Taliaferro started the fourth-quarter push, scoring his third of what would be four rushing touchdowns from nine yards outs with 8:42 left in the regulation.

Liberty's next drive stalled at the Coastal Carolina five-yard line, leaving the Flames to settle for a Lunsford field goal to put the Flames up eight, 45-37, with 4:13 left to play.

The tandem of Ross and Taliaferro continued to lead Coastal Carolina on what would be a game-tying drive. Ross completed all five of his pass attempts on a nine-play, 75-yard drive, including 15-yard pass to tight end Thomas Pauciello with 46 seconds left on the clock. Ross then completed the two-point conversion pass to Bruce Mapp, knotting the game at 45-45.

The Flames managed to get to midfield on the final drive of regulation, but a deep pass from Woodrum fell incomplete at the goal line, sending Liberty into its first overtime game since 2011.

The first extended period got off to a good start for Liberty, as Rice took the opening overtime handoff and scored from 25 yards. The junior's third rushing touchdown of the game gave Liberty the 52-45 lead.

However, Coastal Carolina struck back, tying the game again when Taliaferro scored from seven yard outs on his third carry of the four-play scoring drive.

Liberty's defense was able to keep the Chanticleers out of the end zone on the next drive, forcing Coastal Carolina to settle for a 35-yard field goal by Catron. The three-point kick gave Coastal Carolina its first lead of the game, 55-52, to begin the second overtime.

Coastal Carolina matched Liberty's defensive effort, allowing the Flames to advance the ball only two yards on the next three plays. Lunsford was brought back on to the field for this second field goal try of the game where Hawthorne was able to tip the ball and keep Coastal Carolina's perfect season alive.

The game's final stat sheet showed sizeable offensive numbers with the two teams combining for 1,169 total offensive yards and 107 total points scored. Liberty managed to outgain Coastal Carolina in the game, 615 yards to 554 yards.

Ross finished the night completing 24-of-39 passing attempts for 294 yards, while Woodrum threw for a career-best 382 yards and completed 29-of-41 attempts. Both quarterbacks had three scoring passes and one interception.

Taliaferro put his name in the Coastal Carolina record book, scoring four rushing touchdowns and rushing for 151 yards on 26 carries. The senior now has 17 rushing touchdowns, breaking the previous record of 13 set by Aundres Perkins in 2003.

Rice also had a career day, rushing for a career-high 170 yards on 21 carries and he posted his third three-rushing touchdown effort of the year.

Hazel led all receivers in the game, finishing the contest with nine catches for 147 yards and two scoring receptions.

Liberty had a pair of 100-yard games for its top two receivers. Henderson crossed the 100-yard threshold for the second-straight game (135 yards), while Darrin Peterson posted his third 100-yard game of the year. Both receivers finished the game with nine catches.

Big South Preseason Defensive Player of the Year Quinn Backus led Coastal Carolina's defense with 10 tackles, followed by nine stops by Richie Sampson.

Nick Sigmon was Liberty's top tackler in the game with the Flames' middle linebacker recording a season-best 12 tackles. Kevin Fogg finished the night with a career-best nine solo tackles to rank second on Liberty's team in tackles.

The Flames continue Big South Conference play next weekend when Liberty travels to Boiling Springs, N.C., to face the Bulldogs of Gardner-Webb (4-3 overall, 0-1 Big South).

Liberty leads the overall series with Gardner-Webb, 10-8-1, and has won each of the last six meetings. Kickoff from Spangler Stadium is set for 1:30 p.m. and the game will be broadcast on ESPN3 through the Big South television package.