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CTK's Big South Preview: Gardner-Webb
Audio Interview with Gardner-Webb Head Coach Steve Patton
Audio Interview with Liberty Head Coach Danny Rocco
LibertyFlames.com is here to help prepare each Flames fan for the upcoming season, providing the most in-depth coverage prior to Liberty's home opener against North Greenville on Aug. 30 at Williams Stadium.
As part of the web site's Countdown to Kickoff coverage, we will be previewing each of the six Big South foes Liberty will face this year, including future league member Presbyterian. The six-part series will give fans some much-needed insight into the foes the Flames will square off against on the gridiron this year, as Liberty looks to defend its 2007 Big South Conference championship.
Listed below are Countdown to Kickoff's previous Big South preview segments, should you be interested:
VMI Preview (Aug. 3)
Presbyterian (Aug. 9)
Charleston Southern (Aug. 12)
Stony Brook (Aug. 16)
Today, we take a look at Gardner-Webb, Liberty's final conference foe defeated en route to the program's first-ever Big South championship in 2007. The Flames downed the Bulldogs in resounding fashion to close out last year, sealing the program's first league title.
The Bulldogs are one of the most seasoned programs in the Big South coming into the 2008 campaign. Gardner-Webb returns 56 total letterwinners, the second most in the Big South, while having a conference-best 23 starters back from last year's 5-6 squad.
Gardner-Webb has nine offensive starters returning, along with 10 defensive starters coming back for another go around on the gridiron. Four out of five starting offensive linemen return, along with skilled position players that include quarterback Stan Doolittle, wide receivers Dobson Collins and Nick Melton and running backs Patrick Hall and David Montgomery.
Last year, Doolittle finished fourth in the Big South in passing, completing 144-of-239 passes (60.3 percent) for 1,475 yards and nine touchdowns. Doolittle's favorite target, first-team all-conference receiver Duvaughn Flagler, has left the program after catching 59 passes for 778 yards and nine touchdowns as a senior.
Doolittle's best returning option is Collins, a second-team all-conference honoree, who caught 51 passes for 649 yards and three touchdowns as a junior in 2007. Montgomery will be the Bulldogs' best threat on the ground, rushing for 736 yards and six touchdowns last year.
Besides Flagler, another regular Big South honoree for Gardner-Webb was Brian Johnston. The two-time Big South Defensive Player of the Year led the Big South with 24.0 tackles for a loss and ranked second with 6.0 sacks, helping the defensive lineman garner a seventh-round pick by the Kansas City Chiefs in the NFL Draft.
Looking to pick up the defensive leadership mantel will be Mario Brown, a first-team all-conference selection in 2007. The linebacker, this year's nod for Preseason Defensive Player of the Year, ranked second on the team with 107 tackles last year and fifth in the conference with 10.0 tackles for a loss (25 yards).
Brown will be aided by fellow linebacker Jeffrey Williams and cornerback Cedric McGowan. Williams actually led the Bulldogs with 120 tackles in 2007, while McGowan was the lead's top defensive backs with 16 passes defended (12 pass break-ups and four interceptions).
Gardner-Webb is one of three Big South teams to face a FBS program this year, squaring off against Georgia Tech on Oct. 11. The Bulldogs are also part of a trio of league programs only playing 11 games during a season that the NCAA allows teams to schedule 12 regular-season contests.
Following an early season match-up with Charleston Southern on Oct. 4, Gardner-Webb will close out its 2008 slate with four-straight Big South games. The fourth and final match-up will be in Lynchburg on Nov. 15, the Big South finale for both Gardner-Webb and Liberty.
The Bulldogs will certainly be looking for some revenge late in November when they enter Williams Stadium, following the Flames' 31-0 blanking of Gardner-Webb at Spangler Stadium to close out the 2007 season.
In a year which showcased the most potent offensive attack in program history, it was a stifling defense which aided Liberty's fourth shutout victory under head coach Danny Rocco. With the win, the Flames cap off the second year under Rocco with an 8-3 record and an unblemished 4-0 Big South record to claim the title. Liberty's eight wins made the 2007 squad the fifth team in program history to finish a year with eight or more victories and the first since 1997 when Liberty was 9-2.
Gardner-Webb leads the overall series, 8-5-1, making the Bulldogs the second-most faced foe in Liberty's program history. Gardner-Webb has been victorious four out of six times when visiting the "Hill City", including a 27-24 victory on Oct, 21, 2006, which was its last visit to Williams Stadium.
Game 11 – Liberty vs. Gardner-Webb
Nov. 15, 2008 (7 p.m.)
Williams Stadium (12,000) FTN, FamilyNet, MASN, WSET (TV)
Gardner-Webb Quick Facts
Location: Boiling Springs, N.C.
Colors: Scarlet and Black
Conference: Big South
Stadium: Ernest W. Spangler Stadium (9,000)
Surface: Natural Grass (Bermuda)
President: Dr. Frank Bonner
Athletic Director: Chuck Burch
Head Coach: Steve Patton (Furman '77)
Record at School: 72-47 (11 Years)
Career Record: 102-71-1 (15 Years)
Joe Pizzo - Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks
John Windham - Co-Defensive Coordinator/Defensive Backs
Travis Cunningham - Linebackers
Mike Doolittle - Defensive Line
Bryant Foster - Defensive Ends/Bandits
Chris Foster - Running Backs
Ian Cooper - Receivers
Chase Harp - Offensive Line
Player & Team Information
2007 Record: 5-6
Conference Record/Finish: 2-2/T-2nd
Offensive Formation: Spread
Defensive Formation: 4-3
Lettermen Returning/Lost: 56/14
Starters Returning/Lost: 23/8
Offensive/Defensive Starters Returning: 9/10
Offensive Starters Returning: C.J. Bryant (OL), Dobson Collins (WR), Demario Deese (OL), Stan Doolittle (QB), Patrick Hall (RB), Nick Melton (WR), David Montgomery (RB), Corey O'Daniel (OL), Kyle Webber (OL)
Defensive Starters Returning: Kenny Baker (DL), Mario Brown (LB), Daniel Cooke (DB), Kyle Hill (LB), Leon Hudson (DL), Quinnon Isom (DL), Quantavis Jackson (LB), Cedric McGowan (DB), , Dave Simpson, Jr. (DB), Jeffrey Williams (LB)
Key Web Site Links:
Athletics Web Site: www.gwusports.com
Football Web Site
2008 Coaching Staff
2008 Football Media Guide
Series Record: Gardner-Webb leads, 8-5-1
Last Meeting: Nov. 17, 2007 (Liberty, 31-0)
In Big South Games: Gardner-Webb leads, 4-2
Current Series Streak: Liberty, W1
Record in Lynchburg: 2-4
Record in Roanoke: 1-0
at Williams Stadium: 2-2
Rocco vs. Gardner-Webb: 1-1
Longest Liberty win streak: 2
Longest Liberty losing streak: 3
Biggest Liberty win: 31-0 (2007)
Biggest Liberty loss: 16-54 (1976)
Last Liberty home win: 27-17 (2004)
Last Liberty road win: 17-9 (2004)
Record in Boiling Springs, N.C.: 2-4-1
at Spangler Stadium: 0-2
Patton vs. Liberty: 6-4
Longest Gardner-Webb win streak: 3
Longest Gardner-Webb losing streak: 2
Biggest Gardner-Webb win: 54-16 (1976)
Biggest Gardner-Webb loss: 0-31 (2007)
Last Gardner-Webb home win: 21-16 (2005)
Last Gardner-Webb road win: 27-24 (2006)
10/2/76 – L - 16-54 - Boiling Springs, N.C.
10/1/77 – L - 7-22 - Lynchburg, Va.
9/30/78 – T - 30-30 - Boiling Springs, N.C.
9/29/79 – W - 29-32 ! - Roanoke, Va.
10/18/80 – W - 15-14 - Boiling Springs, Va.
10/3/81 – L - 9-14 - Lynchburg, Va.
9/16/00 – W - 19-8 - Lynchburg, Va.
10/20/01 – L - 25-29 - Boiling Springs, N.C.
10/5/02 – L - 21-31 * - Lynchburg, Va.
10/11/03 – L - 17-27 * - Boiling Springs, N.C.
10/2/04 – W - 17-9 * - Lynchburg, Va.
10/29/05 – L - 16-21 * - Boiling Springs, N.C.
10/21/06 – L - 24-27 * - Lynchburg, Va.
11/17/07 – W - 31-0 * - Boiling Springs, N.C.
* - Big South Conference game
! - Forfeit
Bulldogs Players to Watch
Note: Information provide courtesy of the Big South Conference football media guide
LB, Sr., 6-2, 230
Notes: Preseason FCS All-America linebacker (2008) … 2007 FCS All-America selection … two-time first-team All-Big South … recorded his second 100-tackle performance in as many seasons as a starting linebacker … Preseason All-America choice who lived up to the advance billing … averaged 12.0 hits per game in league play … recorded 104 total tackles, 10.0 tackles for loss and a pair of sacks … had five double-figure tackling games … named Big South Defensive Player of the Week following a seven-hit effort at Mississippi State … has 210 tackles combined over the past two years as a starting linebacker.
WR, Sr., 6-2, 175
Notes: 2007 Second-team All-Big South … one of the league's fastest players … started all 11 games for the Bulldogs in the X slot … caught a career-high 51 passes for 649 yards and three touchdowns … finished third in the Big South in total receptions … had a pair of 100-yard games … caught 10 passes vs. Charleston Southern … had 94 yards receiving at Mississippi State, and a 27-yard run … had 10 plays of 25 yards or longer on the season … also averaged 8.1 yards per return on 14 punt returns, with a long return of 27 yards.
OL, Sr., 6-4, 300
Notes: Three-time All-Big South first-team selection … Preseason FCS All-American (2008) … graded out at the top among GWU offensive lineman, averaging better than 76 percent on the year … was a force at times as a run blocker and pass blocker … second on the team in knockdowns, averaging six per game … was nominated for national offensive lineman of the week following the Mississippi State game … had seven knockdowns and did not allow a sack from his left tackle post against MSU … allowed just two sacks all season.
FS, Sr., 6-1, 210
Notes: Three-time All-Big South selection (2005, 2006, 2007) at free safety … has 231 career tackles … continued his strong effort at free safety in 2007 … has started all 33 games of his GWU career … had 65 hits and an interception this season … was more effective than ever against the run, recording 3.0 tackles for loss and a sack as well … made 10 stops (eight solo) at VMI … had seven hits vs. #5 Appalachian State … a two-sport star who is on track to become the first known athlete in Division I history to record at least 250 tackles, 200 base hits and 75 stolen bases for a career … has 184 hits and a GWU-record 68 steals in his three-year baseball career.