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Liberty Thrills Homecoming Crowd with Convincing 48-14 Victory over Presbyterian
The second-straight week and the fourth time this year, Liberty's offense posted a 40-point showing, as the Flames thrilled a packed Williams Stadium with a resounding 48-14 victory over Presbyterian, Saturday afternoon.
The win pushes Liberty's record to 5-3 on the year and marks the Flames six-straight home win, dating back to last year. The loss ends Presbyterian's four-game winning streak, dropping the Blue Hose's record back to 5-4.
The game, which was played in front of 15,307 fans, marking the second-largest crowd in Williams Stadium history, pushed Liberty's all-time record to 23-12 in Homecoming contests. The attendance figure ranks just shy of Liberty's all-time attendance mark of 15,631, set during last year's Homecoming game against William & Mary on Oct. 14.
Liberty wasted little time starting the scoring barrage, opening the game with three points on its initial drive of the afternoon. A 24-yard kickoff return by Chris Stokes gave Liberty prime field position, starting the drive near midfield.
The Flames managed to get inside the Blue Hose's 20-yard line, but had to settle for a 34-yard field goal by Noah Greenbaum, staking Liberty to an early 3-0 lead at the 11:23 mark of the first quarter.
After forcing Presbyterian to punt following a three-and-out series, Liberty used back-to-back 10-yard plays to Wynton Jackson to set up a second field goal. The first Jackson play was a 13-yard crossing pass from Brock Smith, followed by the wide receiver taking a hand off on a reverse for an 18-yard gain.
But the Jackson connection was halted later on during the drive, as Smith looked the senior's way on consecutive passing plays, which resulted in incomplete passes.
Greenbaum knocked down a 44-yard field goal with 7:24 left in the first, marking Liberty's longest field goal since Scott Kiovsky hit a 45-yarder against VMI during the Flames' Homecoming victory over the Keydets, 31-28, on Oct. 4, 2003.
The score remained the same until the second quarter when Rashad Jennings found an opening and ran nine yards, giving Liberty a 13-0 lead with 9:59 left before halftime. The 15-play drive used up 6:36 on the game clock and marked Liberty's longest drive of the season.
The Flames managed to add an additional seven points during the waning seconds of the half, after gaining possession of the ball thanks to a Vince Redd interception, Liberty's Big South leading 14th interception of the season.
With 44 ticks left on the first half game clock, Smith dropped back and caught Dominic Bolden open on a slant back towards the middle of the end zone, allowing Liberty to claim a 20-0 halftime edge.
After mustering up just 86 total offensive yards in the first half of the game, Presbyterian nearly doubled the amount on its opening drive of the second half. The Blue Hose pieced together an 85-yard, 12-play drive with all but four yards coming by virtue of their potent passing attack.
Presbyterian, who entered the game averaging 354.9 passing yards per game, saw quarterback Grayson Miller complete 5-of-10 passing attempts, including a quick slant to Justin Durant for a 13-yard score, trimming Liberty's lead to 13 points, 20-7.
However, the Flames quickly answered back when Jennings broke free for a career-best carry of 64 yards for a score. The run, the second of the ensuing drive, was one yard better than his 63-yard scamper at Toledo earlier this year and pushing Liberty's lead to 27-7 at the 11:30 mark of the third.
The back-and-forth scoring battle continued when S.J. Worrell capped a quick five-play, 75-yard drive with a two-yard touchdown run, cutting the Flames' lead back to 13, 27-14, with 9:59 left in the period. The drive was keyed by a 35-yard pass over the middle from Mullins to Terrance Butler.
The Flames decided to keep the ball on the ground on the ensuing drive, using the running back tandem of Jennings and Zach Terrell. Jennings carried the ball five times for 27 yards, setting the stage for Terrell's three-run burst up the middle for a score with 7:06 left in the third.
The run, which pushed the score to 34-14, gave Terrell his 23rd career rushing touchdown, which puts him in sole possession of second place on the Big South all-time career rushing touchdowns list. It also gave the junior his 13th-straight game with a rushing touchdown.
The Flames tacked on two additional fourth quarter touchdowns, thanks to a pair of lengthy passing plays by Smith. The first was a 27-yard strike to Brandon Turner with 11:59 left in the fourth, when the senior extended his arms over several defenders to make the catch in the far corner of the end zone.
Late in the fourth quarter, the Flames faked a run play and Smith found Chris Luck open on the near side line and the senior tight end scampered uncontested to the end zone for a 68-yard touchdown strike with 2:30 left to play.
For the third time in the 35-year history of the program, Liberty okay rolled up 40 points, in four contests, during the same season. The Flames also accomplished the feat during the 1979 and 1994 seasons.
The Flames finished the contest with 529 total offensive yards, its second-highest mark of the year, ranking only behind Liberty's 591 yards against St. Francis, Pa.
Liberty's defense kept the Blue Hose passing attack in check, holding Presbyterian to 281 yards, over 100 yards below its season average.
Jennings rushed for a career-high 194 yards and added two touchdowns to lead the Flames' 248-yard rushing attack. Presbyterian's rushing leader was Worrell, who finished with 51 yards and a rushing touchdown.
Smith completed 19-of-25 passes for 281 yards, while tying a career high with three touchdown passes. The junior also passed for three scores against Charleston Southern in 2005 and St. Francis earlier this year.
Mullins led Presbyterian as he completed 28-of-46 passing attempts for 296 yards. Starting quarterback Tim Webb was knocked out of the game in the second quarter, completing 6-of-8 attempts for 36 years before the injury.
Jackson caught nine passes for 75 yards to pace Liberty's receivers, while Butler posted a 100-yard receiving game for Presbyterian by catching 10 passes for 106 yards.
Both teams had players eclipse the double-figure tackle total. Senior linebacker Stevie Ray Lloyd paced Liberty with 11 tackles, followed by a career-high 10 tackles by Colin Dugan. The Blue Hose were led by Antwan Thomas' 11 stops, followed by Antonie Carter with 10 tackles.
Liberty returns to Big South Conference action next weekend when the Flames play the middle game of a three-game homestand. Liberty hosts defending conference champion Coastal Carolina in the contest, with kickoff set for 3:30 p.m. at Williams Stadium.