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Defense and Peterson Shine in Win Over Monmouth
|Darrin Peterson had his second-straight 100-yard game and finished with two touchdowns to lead the Flames to a 45-15 victory over Monmouth on Saturday.|
Liberty's defense set the tone early with a first quarter safety and followed with three interceptions, while Darrin Peterson had his second straight 100-yard receiving game to lead the Flames to a 45-15 win over Monmouth, Saturday evening, at Williams Stadium.
The win opened Liberty's 25th season of play at its on-campus facility with a 30-point victory and evened the Flames' record at 1-1 on the year.
The loss dropped Liberty's future Big South opponent to 0-2 on the year, as the Flames will start facing Monmouth on a regular basis next year when the Hawks join the league as an associate member.
Liberty's first drive of the game stalled at the Monmouth 36-yard line. Big South all-conference punter Grant Bowden was able to drop his fourth punt inside the 20-yard line of the season, pinning Monmouth at its own one-yard line.
The Hawks kept the ball on the ground for the next three plays, but Liberty's defense was able to stop them from gaining any yards each time. On the third play, Jacob Hagen and Scott Hyland tackled Julian Hayes in the end zone, giving Liberty a 2-0 lead at 8:05 in the first quarter following the safety.
After holding Monmouth to its second straight three-and-out series, Liberty started its third possession of the game on its own 44-yard line.
On the third play of the drive, quarterback Josh Woodrum completed a 40-yard post route passing play to Dante Shells to set up a first-and-goal situation from the three-yard line. Two plays later, Desmond Rice found a hole open in the middle of the line of scrimmage to score from two yards out and give the Flames a 9-0 lead with 1:11 left to play in the opening quarter.
The visitors quickly answered back, starting with a 34-yard kickoff return by Zach Fabel, followed directly by a 27-yard play action touchdown pass from Brandon Hill to Mike McLafferty. After a bad snap on the extra point try, Charlie Vellis' pass fell incomplete, leaving the score at 9-6 with 59 seconds left to play in the opening quarter.
Monmouth's defense tried to keep the Hawks, momentum alive on the next drive when Tevrin Brandon hauled in a one-handed interception of Woodrum, stepping in front of a pass intended for Darrin Peterson.
But the Flames' defense responded once again, forcing a third three-and-out series to give Liberty the ball back with good field position after a six-yard punt by Spillane.
Six plays later, Woodrum went back to Peterson and this time the sophomore connection worked, as the pair linked up for a 28-yard touchdown pass. Woodrum then found an open Brandon Apon on the two-point conversion try, pushing Liberty's lead to 17-6 with 10:12 left to play before halftime.
The two teams traded three-and-out series with the second putting Monmouth at its own 22-yard line after a 45-yard punt by Bowden.
On the second play of the drive, Kevin Fogg picked off his first of two passes on the evening, running the turnover back 29 yards for a touchdown to extend Liberty's lead to 24-6.
With 3:26 to play in the half, Woodrum found Peterson one more time before the intermission, with the sophomore scoring on an 85-yard passing play to send the Flames into the locker room with a 31-6 lead.
Liberty more than tripled Monmouth's first-half offensive production, finishing the first 30 minutes of play with 260 total offensive yards to the Hawks' 75 offensive yards.
Woodrum finished the opening half 9-of-15 for 190 yards. Peterson tallied 124 receiving yards on three receptions with two resulting in touchdowns.
The Flames held Monmouth to 13 rushing yards in the first half, while Hill completed 6-of-14 passing attempts for 62 yards. His top target was Neal Sterling, who had three receptions for 23 yards.
Monmouth opened the second half with its most successful offensive drive of the game, driving to Liberty's six-yard line on six plays for 69 yards. However, Hill tried to find an open receiver in the end zone and his pass attempt was picked off by Fogg, giving the senior his second career two-interception game.
After the ball was placed at the 20-yard line, Liberty methodically marched down the field, capping off a 10-play, 80-yard scoring drive with a Clifton Richardson one-yard rushing touchdown at the 6:45 mark to push the Flames' lead to 38-6.
Liberty used its third and final interception of the game to score its final points of the night, starting with Walt Aikens' fifth career pick at the 2:16 mark of the third quarter.
On the next play, Peterson completed a flea-flicker pass to tight end Brandon Apon for a 22-yard pick-up, setting up back-to-back rushing plays by D.J. Abnar. The second was a four-yard burst following a pitch right to seal the victory for the Flames with one minute left to play in the third quarter.
The visitors were able to dent the scoreboard twice early in the fourth quarter on two lengthy plays, adding nine points to the scoreboard and trim the Flames' final margin of victory.
The first was a 42-yard touchdown passing play from back-up quarterback Greg DePugh to Fabel with the tight end catching the pass just in front of his own bench and outrunning the defenders for a score at the 14:12 mark of the fourth quarter.
Liberty mishandled the ball on its next drive, giving Monmouth the ball back after a fumble. Four plays later, Spillane put the final points of the night on the scoreboard with a 46-yard field goal with 11:18 left to play.
Liberty missed posting its sixth 400-yard game under head coach Turner Gill by one yard, finishing the night with 399 total offensive yards. Monmouth had 280 yards of total offense, with 101 of those yards coming in the fourth quarter.
Woodrum finished the night 13-of-19 for 237 yards with two touchdowns. Nine different players tallied receptions in the game with Shells leading the team in receptions (four for 68 yards) and Peterson posting his second straight 100-yard game with 124 receiving yards on three receptions.
Liberty's run game was shared between Rice, Richardson and Abnar. Rice led the squad with 16 carries for 50 yards, while Abnar followed with 12 carries for 38 yards and Richardson ended with 11 rushing attempts for 24 yards. Each running back had a rushing touchdown.
Julian Hayes led Monmouth's ground game with 14 carries for 46 yards, followed by K.B. Asante's eight rushing attempts for 43 yards.
Hill finished the night 7-of-17 for 97 yards, while having three passes picked off. DePugh completed 5-of-8 passing attempts for 96 yards. Both visiting quarterbacks had a touchdown pass with McLafferty leading all Monmouth receivers with three catches for 75 yards.
Nick Sigmon and Jimmy O'Grady finished atop the Flames' defensive stats list, leading the stout defensive effort with five tackles each. Fogg finished without a tackle, but with two interceptions, while Aikens had two solo stops and his interception.
Monmouth's top tacklers in the game were middle linebacker Gary Oneukwusi with nine tackles (six solo, three assisted), followed by strong safety Clark Coe's eight stops (two solo, six assisted).
The Flames will welcome Morgan State to Williams Stadium next weekend as part of Hall of Fame weekend. The non-conference tilt is slated to kick off at 7 p.m.