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Last Second TD Lifts Old Dominion Over Flames
A 27-yard touchdown pass from Taylor Heinicke to Blair Roberts with 27 seconds left in the game gave Old Dominion its first lead of the night and a 21-17 victory over Liberty, Saturday night, at Foreman Field at S.B. Ballard Stadium.
The win pushes Old Dominion's record to 4-2 on the season and was the Monarchs' fourth-straight home victory. The loss evens the Flames' 2013 record at 3-3 following the first-ever meeting between the two Commonwealth opponents.
The first four drives of the game failed for both teams, including a pair of three-and-out series for the Flames and the Monarchs missing on a fourth-down play from the Liberty three-yard line.
The Flames were the first team to get on the scoreboard thanks to two quick strikes from quarterback Josh Woodrum. The first was a 38-yard completion to Dante Shells over the middle to get Liberty into Monarch territory for the first time on the evening. The second was a 15-yard slant pass to Gabe Henderson near the back of the end zone, giving Liberty the 7-0 lead with 3:35 left to play in the first quarter.
The high-powered offense of Old Dominion quickly answered, as the Monarch's Heinicke matched Woodrum's big-play passing game.
The reigning Walter Payton Award winner first hit Antonio Vaughan in stride down the near sideline to get into the red zone on a 33-yard passing play. Two plays later, Heinicke found Blair Roberts in the back of the end zone, tying the game, 7-7, at the 1:29 mark with a 12-yard scoring pass.
The Flames had a chance to regain the lead after piecing together a 15-play, 52-yard drive that stalled at the Old Dominion 23-yard line. John Lunsford's 40-yard field goal attempt five minutes into the second quarter sailed wide right to keep the game tied.
The next scoring opportunity came nearly nine minutes later when a hurry-up attack by Old Dominion was stopped by the Flames. The Monarchs brought Jarod Brown onto to the field to attempt a 53-yard field goal, but the kick sailed wide left.
Liberty took a page out of Old Dominion's playbook by quickly moving the ball downfield on three quick completions from Woodrum to Shells. The third setup a 52-yard field goal try from Lunsford, who was able to knock down his career-long kick to give the Flames the 10-7 edge at the break.
The two teams used their passing games to move the ball during the majority of the first half, finishing with a combined 307 passing yards to a combined 405 total offensive yards.
Heinicke completed 24-of-28 passing attempts for 191 yards, while Woodrum was successful on 11-of-19 attempts for 116 yards. Both quarterbacks had passing touchdowns.
Desmond Rice led the Flames limited ground game with seven carries for 25 yards, while Boyd paced Old Dominion with five carries for 19 yards. Top receivers for the first half were Liberty's Darrin Peterson with five receptions for 38 yards and Boyd with five catches for 24 yards.
The Monarchs looked like they might score on the opening drive of the second half, as Old Dominion penetrated the red zone for the fourth time of the night. However, Kenny Scott recorded his first career interception in the end zone to thwart the scoring attempt.
Liberty managed to move the ball just past midfield on the ensuing drive, but Old Dominion was able to stop them at its own 40-yard line. Lunsford was brought on to attempt what would have been a program-record 57-yard field goal, but the kick was tipped at the line and the game remained in favor of the Flames, 10-7, midway through the third quarter.
The next drive for the Monarchs was nearly a carbon copy of the first of the half with Heinicke quickly moving the home team down the field. But Scott was able to set in front of another pass in the end zone, ending the drive following a 16-yard interception return.
The Flames were finally able to dent the scoreboard with 3:15 left to play in the third quarter when Woodrum hit Brandon Apon over the middle for a touchdown. The 28-yard pass play, which saw the tight end drag a defender into the end zone from four-yards out, was his second of the year and gave Liberty a 17-7 edge.
The six-play, 84-yard drive was spotlighted by a pair of sizeable first down receptions by Gabe Henderson (17 and 23 yards) to keep the drive alive.
The Flames' first turnover of the game nearly cost them their 10-point lead, as Clifton Richardson was struck from behind an lost the football to strong safety Fellonte Misher.
On the next play, Heinicke completed a 47-yard pass to Larry Pickard to get the Monarchs into the red zone for the sixth time on the day. Old Dominion kept the ball on the ground for the next four plays and Liberty was able to get its third fourth-down stop of the game just in front of the end zone to keep its 10-point lead.
The Flames were unable to pick up a first down on the ensuing drive and were forced to punt following the three-and-out series. Grant Bowden's punt sailed only 35 yards, allowing Aaron Evans position to return the punt 64 yards for a touchdown to trim Liberty's lead to three, 17-14, with 4:22 left to play in the ball game.
Trying to wind the clock out, the Flames were able to pick up one first down on the next drive, but it was not enough, as Liberty was forced to punt for the third time in the fourth quarter.
Taking over with 80 seconds left on the game clock, Heinicke was able to complete four-of-five passing attempts on the game winning drive. His final completion was a lofted ball to Roberts in the far corner of the end zone, completing the home team's dramatic comeback victory.
Liberty did manage to get the ball to the Old Dominion 35-yard line on the game's final drive, but Woodrum's deep pass in the end zone to Peterson was broken up by Misher to save the Monarchs' Homecoming victory.
Old Dominion outgained the Flames in the game 550 total offensive yards to 401, with 173 of its yards coming during the decisive fourth quarter.
Heinicke had his seventh career 400-yard passing game, finishing the contest with 450 passing yards and completing 39-of-52 passing attempts.
Woodrum had his third-most passing yards in a game in his young career, completing 23-of-37 passing attempts for 295 yards. Both quarterbacks had two touchdown passes.
Rice was the game's leading ground gainer, finishing the contest with 20 carries for 78 yards, while Goodwyn led the Monarchs with 10 carries for 41 yards.
Henderson had his first career 100-yard receiving game, finishing the contest with eight receptions for 120 yards and a score. Roberts led the Monarchs with eight receptions for 86 yards and both the team's scores, while Vaughan had seven catches for 108 yards.
The Flames' defense limited the Monarchs to less than half the points they had been averaging per game coming into the contest (49.8).
Liberty's defense was paced by Wesley Scott, who finished with a career-best 13 tackles, while Walt Aikens added 10 stops. Kenny Scott became the second Flame this year to finish a game with two interceptions.
Old Dominion's defensive effort was paced by Misher, who was the third player in the game to finish with double-digit tackles (11).
The Flames will have the week off before they begin Big South play on Oct. 19 against Coastal Carolina at Williams Stadium. Kickoff for the game is set for 3:30 p.m. and the game will be broadcast on ESPN3 as part of the Big South television package.
Coastal Carolina is one of two unbeaten teams in the Big South this season, as the Chanticleers enter their bye weekend this year with a 5-0 record. Coastal Carolina is currently ranked No. 9 in this week's Sports Network poll and No. 6 in this week's FCS Coaches poll.