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Offense Stays in Stride with 37-24 Victory over Three-Time Defending Big South Champions
With the victory, the Flames improve their record to 6-3 on the year and move into a two-way tie with Gardner-Webb for the top spot in the conference. Both squads have a 2-0 league mark. The loss drops Coastal Carolina's record to 3-6 on the season and 1-1 in Big South play.
The game played in front of 14,411 fans, marks the fourth-largest home attendance in stadium history. It also is the third time this year Liberty has had a home game with a crowd of more than 14,000 fans.
Liberty wasted little time getting on the scoreboard, as the Flames scored on the third play from scrimmage. Following a 38-yard kickoff return by Dominic Bolden, Zach Terrell rushed 37 over the left tackle, giving the Flames possession inside the Chanticleer's red zone.
Two plays later, Rashad Jennings found a hole open up the middle, rushing 15 yards to the end zone, staking the homestanding Flames to an early 7-0 lead just 85 seconds into the contest.
The score remained the same until the waning minutes of the opening quarter. Liberty capped off a nine-play, 69-yard drive with Noah Greenbaum's conference-leading 13th field goal of the year. The senior sent a 22-yarder through the uprights at 1:14, extending Liberty's lead to 10-0.
After stopping the Chanticleers on a fourth-and-two play deep in Liberty territory, Liberty regained possession and marched 70 yards to push its lead to 17-0. After keeping the ball on the ground for five out of six plays, Brock Smith rolled left and found Chris Stokes open for a seven-yard touchdown reception with 9:20 left before halftime, the first touchdown of the senior fullback's career.
The Chanticleers started to get their offense going on the ensuing drive, piecing together their longest drive of the afternoon. On the 13th play of the drive, Will Richardson found Big South Preseason Offensive Player of the Year Jerome Simpson open for a nine-yard reception to trim Liberty's advantage to 10 points, 17-7, at 3:39.
After being pinned deep by an intentional grounding call on the first play of its next drive, Brandon Turner gave the Flames some much-needed breathing room, as the senior wide receiver broke free for an 86-yard reception, the second longest play in Big South history.
On the next play from the Coastal four-yard line, Zach Terrell busted up the middle for a four-yard touchdown run, giving the junior his 14th-consecutive game with a rushing touchdown and Liberty a 23-7 lead at halftime.
Liberty dominated the first half of play, rolling up 349 total offensive yards during the first 30 minutes of action, while holding the Chanticleers to 133 yards. 215 of those 349 yards came by virtue of Smith's arm, as the quarterback completed 8-of-12 passing attempts.
A 49-yard kickoff return to open the second half gave the Chanticleers a prime opportunity to clip into Liberty's 16-point lead. However, the second-half opening drive stalled at the Liberty 21-yard line, leaving Coastal Carolina to settle for a 38-yard Justin Durham field goal to cut the lead to 13 points, 23-10.
Later in the third quarter, Liberty pushed its lead to 20 points. Jennings rushed eight times during a nine-play drive, including a one-yard bolt up the middle to cap off the drive for a 30-10 Liberty lead with 7:33 left on the game clock.
On Liberty's next possession, the Flames kept to the ground again. Jennings finishing off an eight-play, 72-yard drive with a six-yard burst off right tackle to give Liberty a 37-10 lead with 50 seconds left in the period.
Coastal Carolina amassed nearly half of its offensive production for the evening during the final 15 minutes of play. The Chanticleers scored 14 of their 24 points in the period and tallied 144 of their 315 total offensive yards.
The first score of the fourth came on a 27-yard strike from back-up quarterback Sean Forston to Simpson with 7:56 left to play on the game.
After blocking a 49-yard Liberty field goal attempt, Coastal Carolina regained possession and drove 10 plays to the end zone. The 10th and final play of the drive was a one-yard touchdown run by Arthur Sitton with 1:43 left in the game.
Liberty finished the game with 527 total offensive yards, while holding Coastal Carolina to 315 total yards. Liberty's offensive outburst was evenly spread, finishing the game with 262 rushing yards and 288 yards through the air.
Liberty, who entered the game ranked No. 4 nationally by averaging 41.0 points per game, surpassed the school's points scored in a season mark on the evening. The 1997 team posted 356 points en route to a 9-2 mark, while Liberty has racked up 365 points during its first nine games of the 2007.
Jennings posted his fifth-consecutive 100-yard game and sixth of the season, rushing for 172 yards and three touchdowns. Terrell rushed for 45 yards and a score. Mike Tolbert, who ran for a career-high 244 yards against VMI last week, was held to 82 yards on 13 carries.
Smith posted his second-straight 250-yard passing game, completing 11-of-15 passing attempts for 265 yards and a touchdown. Richardson threw for 75 yards as he completed 9-of-15 attempts, before Forston finished off the game with 27 yards passing on his one touchdown toss.
Simpson led all receivers by catching caught six passes for 54 yards and two touchdowns, allowing the senior to become the first receiver in Big South history with 40 or more touchdown receptions (41). Turner led the Flames with two receptions for 96 yards.
Defensively, Ryan Greiser and Vince Redd tied for the team lead with 11 tackles apiece. The 11 stops by Greiser tied a season high for the defensive back, while Redd's 11 tackles, which included 2.5 sacks, was a new career high. Coastal Carolina's defense was led by D.J. Rice, as the linebacker finished the contest with nine tackles.
The Flames will close out a three-game homestand next weekend when they welcome in-state rival VMI for a Big South battle at Williams Stadium on Saturday. Prior to the 1 p.m. kickoff, the football program will honor its 20-member senior class on Senior Day.