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Liberty Scores 40-Unanswered Points to Roll Past Charleston Southern, 50-10
The win pushes Liberty's record to 4-3 on the year and 1-0 in Big South play. The 40-point triumph was the largest margin of victory by the Flames in a conference game, surpassing Liberty 28-point win, 34-6, over Charleston Southern in 2004.
The loss drops Charleston Southern to 3-4 on the year and 0-1 in league action. The defeat also snapped the Buccaneers' 12-game home winning streaking, which was the third-longest active FCS home winning streak in the nation.
Charleston Southern wasted little time getting on the scoreboard, opening a 7-0 edge in the opening minutes of the contest, when back-to-back short yardage passes gave the Buccaneers the game's first score. The second pass over the middle from quarterback Eli Byrd was caught by Dee Brown, who avoided several would-be tacklers for a 62-yard touchdown reception just 69 seconds into the game.
The Flames cut into the Buccaneers' lead on their first possession of the game. Liberty managed to advance the ball down inside Charleston Southern's red zone. However, Wynton Jackson was stopped on a reception over the middle at the three-yard line on third down. Liberty settled for a 20-yard field goal by Noah Greenbaum, capping off an 11-play, 59-yard drive and trimming the lead to four, 7-3, with 7:44 left in the first quarter.
Six plays into the ensuing Charleston Southern drive, cornerback Patrick Calvary picked off his Big South Conference leading fourth pass of the year and returned it 35 yards. The interception return gave 100 interception returns yards on the campaign.
Consecutive rushing plays for 10 or more yards by Liberty's running back tandem Rashad Jennings and Zach Terrell pushed the Flames into the lead. Jennings gained 13 yards on the drive's first play to set up Terrell, who found a open hole off left tackle for a 16-yard scoring scamper to give Liberty a 10-7 advantage with 4:18 left in the opening quarter. The run gave Terrell his 12-consecutive game with a rushing touchdown.
The early scoring spree continued when the Buccaneer's Nick Ellis knocked down a 37-yard field on the first play of the second quarter to complete a nine-play, 59-yard drive, knotting the score at 10 apiece.
For the third-straight possession, Liberty put points on the scoreboard. Jennings just nosed the football over the goal line for a 17-10 Liberty lead at the 10:59 mark of the second. The 10-yard scoring run was the 16th of Jennings' career in 16 games at Liberty.
The Flames had their consecutive-possession scoring streak halted late in the second when Greenbaum's 30-yard field goal attempt try was blocked by Stonewall Randolph with 3:27 left before the break. The failed 30-yard attempt snapped Greenbaum's streak of knocking down seven-consecutive field goal tries, dating back to the opening game of the season against Tusculum.
Greenbaum started a new streak in the waning seconds of the first half, when his 33-yard field goal just made over the crossbar and through the uprights with 34 seconds left, allowing Liberty to take a 10-point lead, 20-10, into intermission.
The score remained the same until midway through the third quarter, as Liberty took to the ground to add to its lead. Following a 17-yard run by Terrell set Liberty up at the CSU 29-yard line, Jennings carried the ball four-straight times to eat up the remaining yards. The final two-yard carry upped Liberty's lead to 26-10 with 9:08 left to play in the third, after Greenbaum's PAT was blocked at the line of scrimmage.
After trading a pair of three-and-out possessions, Charleston Southern took over the ball at its own eight-yard line. Four plays later, wide receiver Markus Murray was given the ball on a reverse, which he could not handle, fumbling the ball on the 17-yard line. The miscue was recovered by Liberty's Trey Jacobs, giving the Flames another scoring opportunity.
Three plays later, Terrell found an opening on the far side of the field and darted five yards into the corner of the end zone, pushing Liberty's lead to 33-10 with 4:00 left on the third quarter clock.
The four-yard run gave Terrell his 22nd career rushing touchdown, and moved him into a tie for second place on the Big South's all-time touchdown rushing list along with VMI running back Sean Mizzer (2003-06), who also finished his career with 22 rushing TDs.
The Buccaneers looked like they might finally break their scoreless string by driving to the Flames' five-yard line. Back-up quarterback Sidney Bryant rolled out for a near-side end zone pass, which Chuck Duffey picked off to end the scoring threat.
Three long pass plays allowed Liberty to quickly move down the field, including two 10-plus yard passes to tight end Chris Luck. The second pass, an over-the-shoulder catch in the far corner of the end zone on a 19-yard reception, pushed Liberty's lead to 40-10 with 11:01 left in the contest.
The Flames continued to roll late in the fourth quarter with 10 additional points. Liberty capped off a clock-eating 10-play drive with Greenbaum hitting his third field goal of the afternoon, a 27-yarder, for a 43-10 Liberty lead late in the final quarter.
On the third play of the ensuing Buccaneer drive, Flames' linebacker Ian Childress stepped in front of a Bryant pass for an interception at the Charleston Southern 14-yard line. Four-consecutive running plays by Terry Williams capped off the offensive drive, as the redshirt freshman found the end zone on a two-yard run.
The picks by Duffey and Childress were the first and second of their careers, receptively, and the 12th and 13th by Liberty this year. The Flames lead the Big South Conference in the category. Duffey becomes the eighth different player to interception a pass this season for the Flames.
Liberty finished the game rushing for 283 yards and five touchdowns to set a new season high for rushing touchdowns. The yardage marked the second time in the last three games Liberty has rushed for over 200 yards in a contest.
Over the three-game span, the Flames have rushed for an average of 283.0 yards per game and 11 total touchdowns. During the first four games of the season, Liberty rushed for a combined 572 yards and eight touchdowns, averaging 143.0 rushing yards per game.
Jennings led the way for the Flames, rushing for 131 yards and two touchdowns, giving the junior his ninth 100-yard rushing game of his career at Liberty, which is tied for fourth-best in program history along with Chip Smith (1973-76).
Jennings has rushed for 100 or more yards in four out of five games this year and in nine out of 16 contests since joining the Flames' roster last year. Terrell followed Jennings by carrying the ball 11 times, rushing for 72 yards and two scores.
Smith finished the contest by completing 11-of-22 pass attempts for 195 yards and the one touchdown pass to Luck. Wynton Jackson led all Liberty's receivers with four receptions for 54 yards.
Tim Torrence led the Flames' defensive unit with a career-high seven tackles, followed by Calvary, who had six tackles, an interception and pass break up.
The Flames will begin a three-game homestand next weekend, when they welcome future Big South Conference member Presbyterian to Williams Stadium Saturday. The contest, set for a 1 p.m. kickoff, will conclude the University's annual Homecoming Weekend.