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Flames Rally Falls Short On The Road Against Gardner-Webb
The Flames racked up a season-high 479 yards offense and scored 13 of their 16 points in the fourth quarter, but their rally fell just short as homestanding Gardner-Webb held on for a 21-16 Big South Conference victory over Liberty, Saturday evening, at Spangler Field.
Liberty (1-8, 0-3 Big South) got on the scoreboard first as the Flames strung together a 12-play, 76-yard drive that ate up 6:24 on the game clock and was capped off by a 20-yard field goal by Ben Beasley to give the Flames a 3-0 edge. The drive was highlighted by a 25-yard pass play from Brock Smith to Brandon Turner over the middle of the field to get the Flames into the red zone.
Gardner-Webb (4-4, 2-1 Big South) looked like it was going to answer back on the ensuing drive as the Bulldogs marched down the field and got to the Liberty two-yard line after a 29-yard run up the middle by Kelvin German; however, the running back's number was called again on the next play and he coughed the ball up in the endzone which Liberty recovered to halt the scoring threat.
On the first drive of the second quarter, the Bulldogs were able to find the scoreboard and take their first lead of the evening as Nick Roberts scrambled for a 21-yard gain on a third-and-four play to keep the drive alive and got to the Flames five-yard line.
Two players later, Roberts found Duvaughn Flagler in the corner of the endzone as the receiver was able to leap over a defending Patrick Calvary for a five-yard touchdown reception to finish a 12-play, 74-yard drive that took 5:20 and gave Gardner-Webb a 7-3 lead with 12:08 left to play in the second quarter.
The score remained the same until late in the second quarter as Smith fumbled the ball at his own 37-yard line and nine plays and 67 yards later, German rushed over the right tackle for a two-yard score with 1:56 left before intermission, giving Gardner-Webb a 14-3 advantage at the break.
Two key third-down conversions kept the drive alive as Aaron Richardson caught a pass over the middle and gained 40 yards on the catch, while Kory Alston caught another ball over the middle on third-and-five for 10 yards and got the Bulldogs inside the Flames' 10-yard line.
The Bulldogs further extended their lead on the opening drive of the second half as Gardner-Webb methodically marched 65 yards down the field and scored on a six-yard run up the middle by German to finish off a seven-play drive and push the lead to 21-3 at the 12:07 mark.
The Flames picked up their first touchdown on the evening on their first drive of the fourth quarter as back-to-back passes from Smith to Brandon Turner trimmed the lead to 21-10 with 12:31 left in the contest.
The first play to Turner was a 25-yard catch on third-and-10, while the sophomore wideout was wide open on the near sideline on the following play for a 34-yard touchdown reception, capping off a quick six-play, 76-yard drive that took only 1:42 off the clock.
The Flames continued to chip away at Gardner-Webb's lead on its ensuing possession as Liberty once again put points on the scoreboard in a hurry as a one-yard run up the middle by Marcus Hamilton cut the lead to 21-16 with 7:34 left on the clock. The five-play, 60-yard 2:34 drive was highlighted by a 58-yard reception by Turner, marking a new career long reception for the wideout.
After trading possessions, Gardner-Webb tried to kill the clock and got all the way to the Flames' 36-yard line, but Liberty was able to stop the Bulldogs on a fourth-and-one play with just over two minutes left on the game clock.
The Flames called on Hamilton for three-straight draw plays up the middle and advanced the ball to middle field, but Smith attempted on the next play to drop back and slipped for a seven-yard sack. On the ensuing play, Smith was hassled by several rushing defenders and threw the ball deep down field to tight end Chris Luck, but linebacker Jonathan Little stepped in front of the pass and intercepted it, ending the threat and the game.
The Flames outgained the Bulldogs by 84 yards, 497 to 395, on the evening, while holding a 6.7 yards per play average to Gardner-Webb's 5.3 yards per play. The Flames held the Bulldogs to a season low in points, keeping the fourth-ranked offense and third-ranked scoring team in the nation to just 21 points.
German led the Bulldogs' rushing attack with two touchdowns and 116 yards on 22 carries, while Zach Terrell became the 21st player in school history to post multiple 100 yard rushing games in a career as he rushed for 128 yards on 18 carries.
Roberts completed 16-of-24 passes for 167 yards and a touchdown, while Smith passed for 261 yards as he completed 17-of-26 passes and a score in his first career start. Brock Farrel chipped in with 61 yards passing as he completed 8-of-15 passes, enabling the Flames to pass for a season-best 322 team yards.
Gardner-Webb used seven different receivers in the contest, led by Flagler with five catches for 30 yards and a touchdown, while Turner turned in the fourth-best receiving game in Liberty history as he caught seven passes for 178 yards and a touchdown.
Defensively, the Bulldogs has three players finish with double figure tackles, led by Brian Jonhnston with 13 tackles, followed by Daniel Cooke with 12 stops. C.J. Moore paced the Flames with 10 tackles and a fumble recovery, while Kenneth Kemp added nine stops.
After a week off, the Flames will conclude their Big South Conference schedule on November 12th when they travel to Charleston, S.C., to face the Buccaneers of Charleston Southern. Kickoff is set for 1:30 p.m. at CSU Stadium.