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Flames Fall To Spartans, 34-17, In Season Finale
The Flames quickly moved the ball downfield on the opening drive for a touchdown, but weren't able to keep their offense going over the rest of the game as Liberty dropped a 34-17 decision to Norfolk State in its season finale, Saturday afternoon, at Dick Price Stadium.
The outcome marked the 10-straight loss for the Flames, setting a new school record for consecutive losses and ends the Flames' season at 1-10 to account for the most losses in a season in the 32-year history of the football program.
Liberty wasted little time as the Flames scored on the fourth play of the game as Brock Smith completed a 21-yard pass to Dominic Bolden as the rookie wideout caught the pass just on the backline of the endzone to give Liberty a 7-0 lead with 12:50 mark.
The key play of the drive was on the first of the game as Smith handed the ball off to Marcus Hamilton, but the running back pitched it back to the quarterback who completed a ??-yard flea-flicker pass to Brandon Turner to get the Flames into Spartan territory.
The Flames stopped the Spartans on the ensuing drive and forced Norfolk State (4-7) to punt the ball away, but the punt clicked a Liberty player and the Spartans recovered the ball on the Liberty two-yard line. And three plays later, Daryl Jones was able to find a hole in the line for a two-yard touchdown run at the 8:39 mark, but Norfolk State was not able to tie the game as Manny Rojas was able to block the PAT attempt to keep the score at 7-6.
Later in the opening period, the Spartans were able to take the lead as Brandon Brooks threaded the needle to found Derrick Brooks in double coverage for a 42-yard touchdown pass to complete a six-play, 53-yard drive, while Brooks found Jonathan Allen for a two-point conversion reception to give Norfolk State a 14-7 lead with 4:51 left in the first quarter.
A Norfolk State punt pinned the Flames deep in their own territory on Liberty's first drive of the second quarter and the Flames attempted another trick play on an end-around play between Bolden and Smith but the ball was mishandled and fumbled, while NSU's Samuel Lawson picked up the miscue and returned the fumble five yards for a touchdown. Antonio Gomez's PAT attempt sailed wide to the right, leaving the score at 20-7 at the 10:35 mark.
The Flames were able trim into the Spartan's lead with a 27-yard field goal by Ben Beasley with 6:35 left before halftime, completing an eight-play, 68-yard drive to cut the lead to the 20-10 intermission score.
Neither team scored during the third quarter as the period saw three turnovers by fumbles and one by an interception with the interception setting up the game's next score as a deep pass by Smith downfield was picked off by Dustin Johnson with 2:28 left to play in the third. Nine plays later, Monte' Anthony found a hole in the line and scored from 13 yards out with a rushing touchdown 56 seconds into final period, pushing the Spartans' lead to 27-10.
The Flames trimmed the lead back to 27-17 with 5:25 left to play as Ryan Greiser recorded his first career touchdown with a two-yard run, but eight plays later, the Spartans sealed the victory with a 14-yard touchdown run by Terrell Johnson with 45 seconds left on the clock.
Despite missing most of the second half with an injury, Zach Terrell was able to finish the game with a team-best 53 yards rushing on 10 carries, enabling the converted quarterback to become the school's all-time leading freshman rusher by finishing his rookie year with 668 yards. The previous record was held by Dre Barnes who rushed for 654 yards as a freshman during the 2001 season.
Smith, who was hampered all day by a pressuring Spartan's defense, finished the contest just 9-of-28 with 217 yards passing and a score. Bolden became the third player this season and the 41st player in school history to post a 100-yard receiving game with three catches for 104 yards, including his first career touchdown to start of the game.
Senior punter Noah Crouch finished his career on a high note by averaging 41.6 yards on five punts (208 total yards), marking the seventh time this year that the punter has averaged 40 or more yards in a game and the 18th time in his career to finish fifth all-time in school history in punting average (38.1) and 7,299 total punting yards.
Defensively, Nick Hursky led the Flames with a season-high 19 tackles, marking his fourth double-figure tackle game of the year, while Jason Horn and Steve Ackley followed with 10 stops each.
The loss brings to a close the 2005 season and the Ken Karcher era at Liberty as it was announced by the University on Friday that the six-year head coach would be released from his position as head coach at the end of the season.