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First Half Offensive Burst Pushes Sycamores over Flames
Indiana State racked up 322 first-half total offensive yards and a halftime margin No. 22/23 Liberty was not able to overcome to secure a 38-19 victory over the Flames on Saturday afternoon at Memorial Stadium.
The victory ups Indiana State's record to 3-1 on the year and keeps the Sycamores unbeaten at home this season. The loss snaps Liberty's three-game winning streak and drops the Flames to 3-2 on the season.
Indiana State outgained the Flames during the game, 468 total offensive yards to 341, including a 322-129 edge following 30 minutes of play.
Indiana State quarterback Mike Perish set a Sycamore program record, completing 39 of his 51 passing attempts for 340 yards and three touchdowns.
Liberty's Josh Woodrum had his third-straight 300-yard passing game (308), completing 26-of-45 passing attempts and two touchdowns. The junior finished the game with two interceptions, his second game this year with two interceptions.
Indiana State outgained the Flames, 128 to 33 yards on the ground. The Sycamores came into the game allowing an average of 203.7 rushing yards per game, but limited the Flames to 33 yards on 22 rushing attempts.
Liberty's leading ground gainer was D.J. Abnar, who rushed 15 times for 50 yards. Buck Logan led Indiana State with 17 carries for 77 yards and his second rushing touchdown of the year.
Darrin Peterson posted his third-straight 100-yard game, leading all receivers with 12 receptions for 116 yards and a score. Dante Shells followed with three catches for 96 yards, including a career-long 71-yard touchdown reception.
Gary Owens led the home team with 10 receptions for 71 yards and a touchdown, followed by eight catches for 89 yards and a touchdown for Robert Tonyan.
Indiana Stata's top defender was Jameer Thurman, who finished the game with nine stops, followed by eight tackles by Conn Underwood.
The Sycamores scored on their first drive of the game, taking a 3-0 lead on a 25-yard field goal by Eric Heidorn at the 11:00 mark of the first quarter.
Perish completed 4-of-6 passing attempts for 60 yards on the drive, but the Flames were able to keep the home team out of the end zone and force a field goal attempt.
Two punts set up the game's next scoring drive, resulting in Liberty tying the game at 3-3 at the 4:30 mark of the first quarter.
Liberty's Trey Turner pinned Indiana State at its own three-yard line and three plays later was forced to punt. Sycamore punter Osborn Umeh had the punt go off the side of his foot and sailed out of bounds at the Indiana State 28-yard line.
Liberty managed to get a first-and-goal situation thanks to a personal foul during a 35-yard field goal try by John Lunsford. However, Indiana State was able to keep the Flames from finding the end zone and the Flames had to settle for a 22-yard Lunsford field goal.
Indiana State broke the tie on the first drive of the second quarter when Perish completed a 17-yard touchdown pass to Owens with 11:19 left to play before halftime. Perish was 6-of-7 on the 10-play, 96-yard scoring drive with 60 passing yards.
The lead was short lived for the home team. Following a 25-yard kickoff return by Joshua Smith, Woodrum found Shells who beat Travis Speaks down the left sideline for a 71-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the next drive to tie the game at 10-10.
Big plays continued on the next drive, allowing Indiana State to take a 17-10 less than two minutes later.
Dimitri Taylor took the opening handoff of the four-play, 75-yard drive and scampered 49 yards. Following a 19-yard pass to Tonyan, Perish found Taylor open on the far side of the field for a six-yard score at 9:16 of the second quarter.
Both teams would score one more time before the intermission, starting with a 48-yard Lunsford field goal with 3:16 left to play in the first half, pulling the Flames within four, 17-13.
However, Perish marched his team quickly down the field, completing 10-of-12 attempts on a quick 14-play, 84-yard drive. His 10th completion was to Tonyan over the middle of the field, putting the home team up 24-13 at intermission.
The two teams came into the game ranked among the national leaders in turnovers. Indiana State had not committed a giveaway during three games in 2014 and the Flames had finished the last three contests without a turnover.
However, the third quarter was a different story for both teams, as the 15-minute period saw the two squads combined for four turnovers, keeping either team from finding the scoreboard.
The score remained the same until the Sycamores sealed their second home win of the year with a nine-play, 60-yard scoring drive midway through the fourth quarter.
Perish continued to remain efficient, completing six of his seven passing attempts to break the Sycamore's single-game completion record.
After completing a 12-yard pass to Tonyan to get to the one-yard line, the quarterback called his own number and scored his second rushing touchdown of the year to put the home team up 31-13 with 6:10 left to play in the game.
Both teams scored once more before the clock turned to all zeros. Woodrum hit Peterson for an eight-yard touchdown pass at 4:51, while Logan scored from seven yards out with 2:49 left in the game to account for the game's final score.
Liberty returns home next week to host in-state foe Richmond at Williams Stadium, capping off Homecoming Weekend on Liberty Mountain. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
The Spiders come into the game with a 2-2 record and off a bye week. In Richmond's last game, the Spiders suffered a 29-26 setback to No. 7/9 New Hampshire at home.