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Liberty Comes Within Inches in Double Overtime Loss to William & Mary

September 15, 2007
|  Williamsburg, Va.
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Rashad Jennings scored three touchdowns against William & Mary on Saturday night.

Rashad Jennings scored three touchdowns against William & Mary on Saturday night.

The Liberty vs. William & Mary contest certainly lived up to the age-old adage that football is a game of inches, as just a few proved to be the difference in the Flames' 48-41 double overtime loss to the Tribe, Saturday evening, at Zable Stadium.

During the first overtime period, the homestanding Tribe managed to eke out just enough distance on a fourth-and-one play, giving them a new set of downs, which allowed them to force the final extra period.

However, Liberty wasn't so lucky in the second overtime, as the Flames were held for no gain in the same situation, with the spot of the ball being just a few chain links away from a first down when the game ended.

With the loss, the Flames end their five-game winning streak and fall to 2-1 on the year, while the victory raises William & Mary to the same 2-1 mark.

William & Mary looked like it was going to get on the scoreboard on its second drive of the contest. The Tribe was in field goal range, but opted to go for it on fourth-and-12 from the Liberty 26-yard line.

Jake Phillips was chased from the pocket and his pass sailed just out of the reach of R.J. Archer in the near corner of the end zone, leaving the game scoreless.

The Flames took to the ground on their next drive, rushing eight times during the nine-play drive, including a two-yard scamper to the left by Rashad Jennings, appearing in his first game of the year. The two-yard score capped off the 74-yard drive at the 2:56 mark of the first quarter, giving Liberty a 7-0 edge.

But the Tribe answered right back. DeBrian Holmes found an opening for an eight-yard rushing touchdown just 36 seconds into the second quarter, knotting the game at seven apiece.

Liberty managed to advance the ball to the tip of William & Mary's red zone on the following drive. However, the 13-play drive stalled at the 20-yard line, forcing Liberty to settle for a 37-yard field goal by Noah Greenbaum with 8:06 left to play before halftime.

William & Mary made quick work of things on the ensuing drive, as Phillips completed 3-of-3 pass attempts for 66 yards on the Tribe's 69-yard drive.

The final connection was a 27-yard strike to Cameron Dohse in the far corner of the end zone after Phillips escaped pressure from several defenders, giving William & Mary a 14-10 lead with 6:07 left to play in the half.

Liberty trimmed the lead to one point, after putting together its second 13-play drive of the opening half. Once again the Flames got inside the red zone, but had to settle for their second field goal of the game when Greenbaum knocked a 31-yarder through the uprights, 39 seconds before the intermission.

After an 18-yard kickoff return by David Caldwell and an 18-yard pass to Archer, William & Mary heaved a deep ball to the end zone, which Dohse was unable to bring down, allowing the clock to expire.

However, the Flames were whistled for pass interference on the play, moving the ball to the Liberty 26-yard line and giving William & Mary a free, untimed play, because a half cannot end on a defensive penalty.

And the Tribe took full advantage of the extra play, as Brian Pate was able to connect on a 43-yard field goal with the clock showing 0:00, giving the home team a four-point lead, 17-13, at halftime.
Liberty was forced to punt on the opening drive of the second half, but for the third game this season, the Flames' special teams unit made its presence known with a big play.

Derek Cox fielded the Zac Kolegue punt at his own 25-yard line but was struck by Dan Pope, forcing a loose ball. The football was recovered by the Flames' Pat Parziale, giving Liberty the ball at William & Mary's 19.

The Flames got their second fourth-down conversion of the night on a three-yard bruising run up the middle by Jennings to get to the seven-yard line. However, three plays later, Brock Smith's pass to the near corner of the end zone was picked off by Cox, ending Liberty's scoring threat at the 8:48 mark.

William & Mary methodically moved the ball down the field on the ensuing drive to build its lead to 24-13, with 4:14 left in the third. Holmes found an opening on the outside of the line, sweeping to the right for an eight-yard scoring run to finish off the nine-play, 80-yard drive.

Wynton Jackson nearly broke free for a touchdown on the ensuing kickoff, but his 32-yard return gave Liberty the ball on William & Mary's side of the field.

And seven plays later, Smith found Dominic Bolden open over the middle of the field on a quick slant route, pulling the Flames within five, 24-19, at the 1:48 mark of the third after the 13-yard touchdown strike.

Liberty attempted the two-point conversion to pull within three, but Jennings' run off left tackle was halted, leaving the margin at five points.

The back-and-forth scoring battle continued, as the Tribe quickly moved the ball downfield 59 yards, using nine plays to score on their next drive. Phillips completed his second scoring strike of the evening, connecting on a seven-yard pass to Elliot Mack who was just able to stay in the end zone, pushing William & Mary's lead to 31-19 with 13:28 left to play in regulation.

Liberty gained several yards on back-to-back penalties, as William & Mary tried to keep the ball out of the hands of the Flames' potent kick returners.

Liberty eventually started the next drive on the William & Mary 45-yard line and four plays later, Smith tossed a screen pass to Jennings. A few Liberty blockers led the junior running back into the end zone for the second time on the night, with the 12-yard pass play trimming the deficit to five points, 31-26, at the 12:11 mark of the fourth.

William & Mary tacked on three additional points on the ensuing drive when Pate connected on a 19-yard field goal with 7:12 left in regulation, giving the Tribe an eight-point edge, 34-26.

On the first play of the next Liberty drive, Smith was picked off for the second time of the evening, seemingly ending the Flames' hopes for victory.

Liberty's defense forced the Tribe to punt the ball away, though, giving the Flames one last chance with only 2:19 left on the game clock.

Smith quickly led the Flames downfield, completing 6-of-8 pass attempts for 50 yards, setting up Zach Terrell's three-yard run, which pulled the Flames within two.

And this time, Liberty was able to convert on the two-point attempt as Smith found Jennings wide open in the near side of the end zone, knotting the game at 34-34 with 16 seconds remaining.
Liberty, playing in its first overtime game since falling to No. 14 Coastal Carolina at Williams Stadium on Oct. 22, 2005, quickly got on the scoreboard. Jennings burst through the line of scrimmage on the second play, rushing 25 yards for the score.

And the Flames nearly ended the game on William & Mary's very first play of overtime. Pat Dickerson stepped in front of Phillips' pass to Rob Varno, but the defensive back was unable to hang on to the hot shot.

Three plays later, on a fourth-and-one, Tony Viola was able to just get the ball past the 15-yard line, giving William & Mary a fresh set of downs. On the very next play, Phillips threaded the needle and found Drew Atchinson for a 15-yard strike, just inside the pylon, to tie the game at 41-all after the first free period.

With alternating possessions in overtime the Tribe got the ball next, and William & Mary rushed six-straight times to score again. Viola took the first five attempts, accumulating 24 yards to set up a driving, one-yard play by Phillips over the pile for the go-ahead score.

Liberty managed to move the ball nine yards on its next three plays, before calling upon Jennings one more time. However, the junior, who rushed for 114 yards on his first 27 carries wasn't able to muster one more on his 28th, as William & Mary stopped the running back just inches shy of the first-down marker.

Jennings, playing in his first game of the year after sitting out the previous two due to a rule violation, posted his sixth career 100-yard game with two rushing touchdowns and a receiving score as well. Terrell followed with seven carries for 58 yards and a score.

Smith completed a career-best 25 passes on the evening, as he was 25-for-37, throwing for 203 yards and two scores.

Brandon Turner led all receivers with eight catches for 55 yards, followed by a breakout game by Jonathan Crawford, who hauled in five balls for 50 yards.

Nick Hursky led the Flames' defensive unit with 10 tackles, tallying his third-straight double-figure tackle performance of the year. Steven Ackley followed with seven tackles, including a quarterback sack on the night's first play from scrimmage.

Liberty stays on the road next weekend, when the Flames travel to Elon, N.C., to take on former Big South foe Elon. Kickoff is set for 1:30 p.m., at Rhodes Stadium.