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Buccaneers Rally To Hand Flames 31-30 Loss
The Buccaneers rallied from a 12-point fourth quarter deficit to pick up a monumental 31-30 victory over Liberty, Saturday afternoon, at CSU Stadium.
The victory ensures the Buccaneers of their first winning season in the history of the program and gives Charleston Southern an opportunity for a share of the Big South Conference title as they host Coastal Carolina next weekend, which enters the game with a 3-0 league record.
For the Flames, the contest marked the team's nine-straight loss, which ties a school record as the 1981 team lost their last nine games of the year to finish the campaign 1-9. It also marked the first time since joining the Big South Conference that Liberty will finish a league season without a victory; however, it will be by the slimmest of margins as the Flames finish their conference season with a 0-4 record, having lost all four games by a combined 15 points.
Charleston Southern (6-4, 2-1 BSC) wasted little time getting on the scoreboard as the Buccaneers took the opening drive of the contest downfield and capped off a nine-play, 53 yard drive with a four-yard touchdown run as Colin Drafts called his own number up the middle to give CSU a 7-0 lead at the 10:43 mark of the first quarter.
Liberty (1-9, 0-4 BSC) managed to advance the ball to middle field on the ensuing drive, but was forced to punt with a 31-yard punt by Noah Crouch pinning the Buccaneers at their own 10-yard line.
The punt proved to be key as after a three-and-out series that saw Charleston Southern lose one yard, the Flames' punt coverage team was able to get through the line and Pat Dickerson blocked Nick Ellis' punt out the back of the endzone for a safety, marking Liberty's first blocked punt for a safety since Erick Harris blocked a Kentucky Wesleyan attempted punt out the endzone on September 20, 2003.
After a three-and-out series by the Flames, the Buccaneers quickly answered back as Maurice Price caught a pass on the outside and found a hole for a 73-yard touchdown reception, giving the Buccaneers a 15-2 lead with 2:51 left in the opening quarter.
Liberty slowed the pace of the game down on the next drive as Liberty pieced together a seven-play, 80-yard scoring drive which ended with a 64-yard touchdown pass from Brock Smith to Wynton Jackson as Smith avoided two would-be sackers on a third-and-20 play and found the wideout open on the run to cut the lead to 15-9 with 25 seconds left in the opening quarter.
The score remained the same until late in the second quarter when Smith once again took the Flames downfield 80 yards by completing 7-of-9 pass attempts on the 14-play drive, including a 12-yarder to Brandon Turner in the near corner of the endzone with 37 second left before intermission, giving Liberty a 16-15 lead at the break.
The Flames extended their lead on the opening drive of the third quarter as Liberty took the ball and marched 65 yards downfield on nine plays, including a 34-yard touchdown pass from Smith to Wynton Jackson to push the Flames' lead to 23-15 at the 10:30 mark.
The Buccaneers trimmed the lead slightly late in the third quarter as Ellis capped off a 10-play, 55-yard drive with a 20-yard field goal with 39 seconds in the period to cut the lead to 23-18. However, the Flames quickly answered back on the ensuing drive as Liberty marched down the field 79 yards in just eight plays and 3:30, thanks to an acrobatic catch by tight end Chris Luck on a 35-yard reception to get the Flames to the CSU one-yard line, while two plays later Rod Fluellen picked up his first career touchdown on a one-yard scamper to give Liberty a 30-18 cushion with just 12:09 left to play in the contest.
The Flames' defense looked like it had held the Buccaneers during the ensuing drive as Charleston Southern brought out the punting unit on a fourth-and-four play, but the ball was centered to back-up quarterback Sidney Bryant who found Price open for a 15-yard pick-up to extend the drive and three plays later fullback Robert Adams found an opening for a seven-yard touchdown run at the 9:57 mark to cut the lead to 30-25.
The ensuing kickoff pinned the Flames on their own two-yard line while Liberty was only able to advance the ball 20 yards on the following six plays before punting the ball away to Charleston Southern who took over possession on their own 45-yard line at the 6:39 mark.
Liberty's defense once again put the Buccaneers in a difficult position, but Drafts was able to scramble for a 19-yard run on a third-and-12 play at midfield to extend the drive. An 11-yard run by Copeland, followed by a 10-yard pass from Drafts to Copeland got Charleston Southern down to the Flames' six-yard line and four plays later Liberty looked like it had stopped the Buccaneers as Draft's attempted pass to Price in the endzone was incomplete on fourth down play, but Liberty was whistled for a pass interference call, giving Charleston Southern a new set of downs.
The Flames drove the Buccaneers back eight yards on the next three plays to force another fourth down situation, but this time Drafts was able to find Price open for a 10-yard scoring strike to give Charleston Southern a 31-30 after a failed two-point conversion.
With just 70 seconds left in the ballgame, the Flames attempted one last drive but a Smith pass to Jackson deep into Buccaneers territory, that could have put the Flames in field goal range, slipped through the fingers of the wideout to end the contest.
The contest was certainly a throwing battle between Drafts and Smith with the Flames' rookie getting the statistical edge as Smith completed 20-of-31 pass attempts for 315 yards and three touchdowns, while Drafts was 21-of-32 for 244 yards with two touchdown passes. Smith becomes the eighth quarterback in school history to pass for 300 yards in game and first since current assistant coach Biff Parson threw for 321 yards against South Florida on October 27, 2001.
Zach Terrell led the Flames' rushing attack with 82 yards on 27 carries before leaving the game with an injury, while Fluellen finished the contest with a career high 10 carries for 19 yards and the score.
Four different Liberty receivers finished the game with 60 or more yards receiving, with Jackson leading the way with 98 yards and two scores, while Luck finished with five receptions for 71 yards.
Defensively, linebacker Manny Rojas led the team with eight tackles, including seven solo stops, while Jason Horn finished the contest with seven tackles and a career-best two quarterback sacks.
The Flames will conclude the 2005 season next Saturday when they travel to Norfolk, Va., to take on the Spartans of Norfolk State. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. at William "Dick" Price Stadium.