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Jackson Shines in Liberty's 35-14 Win over Shippensburg
The attendance figure marked the sixth-largest crowd in program history and is the fourth time in eight home games under head coach Danny Rocco, Liberty has surpassed the 12,000 mark in home attendance.
With the victory, the Flames push their record to 2-0 on the year, accounting for the second time in the last 10 years, Liberty has started the year 2-0. Both have come under Rocco's direction. The loss drops Shippensburg to 0-2 on the season.
For the second-straight game, the Flames opened the game by scoring on their initial drive. The eight-play drive saw Zach Terrell eat up 55 of the 80 yards on the ground, including a sweeping play to the left side of the field, allowing the running back to find the end zone just 2:50 into the game, to give Liberty an early 7-0 edge.
The Red Raiders quickly answered back on the ensuing drive. Gabe Maiocco capped off a 6:29, 12-play drive by completing a 15-yard pass play to Mike Harris, as the wide receiver caught the sideline pass and found the corner of the end zone at 5:41 to knot the score at 7-7.
Later in the first quarter, the Flames halted Shippensburg on a three-and-out series, punt after a three-and-out series. Shippensburg punter Kyler Ford pinned Liberty's Wynton Jackson near his end zone; however, for the second week in a row, the Big South preseason return specialist broke a few tackles, returning the kick 88 yards for a score.
The 88-yard return was the second longest in program history, ranking only behind Andrew McFadden's 93-yard return against Delaware State on Sept. 23, 2005.
The score remained 14-7 until late in the second quarter when Maiocco completed a pass downfield to Howard Chavous. But the wide receiver was struck by Liberty safety Ryan Greiser, forcing Chavous to cough the ball up, which Greiser recovered at near midfield.
Three plays later, Brock Smith found Jackson open over the middle of the field. The senior leaped over several defenders into the end zone, completing a 22-yard pass play, giving Liberty a 14-point lead, 21-7, at the 2:43 mark.
After the fifth three-and-out series of the evening, Smith completed a pass to Jackson on the Liberty logo at the 50-yard line, and after avoiding one defender, the wide out raced to the end zone, staking Liberty to a 28-7 lead at the break.
Neither team could add to their point total in the third quarter, but Shippensburg was able to cut Liberty's lead in half midway through the fourth quarter.
The Red Raiders pieced together the contest's longest drive at 14 plays (6:44), culminating with a five-yard pass play from Maiocco to Dave Wilkerson at the 8:16 mark.
Shippensburg continued to push the Flames on the ensuing drive, as the Red Raiders' defense forced Liberty to punt after just three plays.
The Red Raiders got the ball to midfield; however, Patrick Calvary stepped in front of a Maiocco pass and returned it 61 yards for a touchdown, sealing the victory for the Flames.
Terrell led the Flames' ground attack, rushing for 129 yards on 24 carries and a touchdown. The junior's 129 yards pushed him over the 1,600 career rushing yards mark, moving him into eighth place on the Big South's career rushing list. The game also was the eighth straight in which the running back has found the end zone on the ground.
Smith finished the evening by completing 11-of-17 pass attempts for 170 yards and two touchdowns. Maiocco posted similar numbers for the Red Raiders, completing 17-of-33 passing attempts for 172 yards and two scoring strikes.
Brandon Turner led the Flames in total receptions (four for nine yards), but Jackson made the most of his catches, tallying three for 106 yards and two scores.
Jackson's punt return for a score continued a Liberty streak. The return accounted for the fifth-straight game Liberty has scored a touchdown by virtue of their special teams.
Senior linebacker Stevie Ray Lloyd paced the Flames' defensive effort finished with 12 tackles, tying a career high. Nick Hursky followed with his second-straight, double-figure night, 11 stops, and newcomer Kent Hicks made his mark with 10 tackles out of the defensive backfield.
After this season-opening, two-game homestand, Liberty now takes to the road for five out of the next six weeks. Liberty begins the run by traveling across the Commonwealth to face William & Mary on Saturday evening at 7 p.m.