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LU Wins Ninth-Straight Home Game to Open 2008
Liberty extended its FCS nation-leading home winning streak to nine-straight games, opening the year with a 49-10 win over visiting North Greenville, Saturday evening, at a packed Williams Stadium.
With the victory, Liberty opens the year with a 1-0 record and moves its mark to 20-2 in its last 22 home-opening contests. The win was Liberty's third-straight by 30 or more points and fifth time in the last six games. The loss drops North Greenville to 0-1 on the season.
The victory also pushes Liberty's overall winning streak to six games, dating back to last year. The run is tied for third longest in program history and the longest since the Flames won six straight during the 1992 and 1993 seasons.
The game was played in front of 15,311 fans, which ranks as the second-largest crowd to attend a Liberty home game and the largest to ever see a Flames victory. The figure only ranks behind Liberty's 2006 contest against William & Mary, when 15,631 fans packed Williams Stadium for the Flames' annual Homecoming contest.
Early-game jitters plagued both squads with a pair of miscues leading to two turnovers on each squad's opening possession. Liberty won the coin toss and elected to receive, but on the 10th play of the drive, quarterback Brock Smith was sacked by Emmanuel Davis at the North Greenville 30-yard line, and the lost ball was picked up by Johnell Bell.
Not to be outdone by the Crusaders, Liberty's defense made its presence known six plays later. North Greenville passer Richard Harb tried to find an open receiver over the middle, but the Flames' Ryan Greiser tackled him just as he was trying to catch the ball, which caromed into the arms of Tim Torrence for his first career interception at Liberty's 39-yard line.
Eight plays later, Zach Terrell, who was moved to wide receiver in the offseason, found a way to continue his amazing rushing touchdown streak. The senior took a pitch from Smith and found the end zone 15 yards later for a score. The scoring burst gave Terrell his 17th-consecutive game with a rushing touchdown and lifted Liberty to a 7-0 edge with 3:01 left in the first.
Liberty's defensive backs made their second big play of the game, when Chuck Duffey stepped in front of a Harb pass at the North Greenville 36-yard line and returned it 27 yards, deep into the Crusaders' red zone.
Big South Preseason Player of the Year Rashad Jennings was handed the ball three-straight plays. On the third run, the senior found a hole over the left tackle for a two-yard rushing touchdown, giving Liberty a 14-0 lead with 1:19 left in the opening period.
On the second play of the second quarter, Harb was picked off again, this time by Greiser at the 40-yard line. Nearly three minutes later, Jennings took his third handoff of the drive and found the end zone for a six-yard rushing touchdown to push the Flames' lead to 21-0, 12:00 before halftime.
After the first three-and-out series of the game, Liberty quickly added to its lead with its first big offensive play of the game. Smith dropped back in the pocket at midfield and found Dominic Bolden open in the near corner of the end zone for a 48-yard scoring strike, extending the Flames' advantage to 28-0 with 9:25 left in the first half.
The North Greenville offense pieced together its first sustained drive of the first half, following the touchdown pass, getting inside Liberty's red zone.
However, the drive stalled at the seven yard line after a four-yard tackle for a loss by defensive captain Nick Hursky. The Crusaders had to settle for a 24-yard Michael Sears field goal to put the visitors on the scoreboard, 28-3, with 2:07 remaining before the intermission.
Liberty maintained its 28-3 advantage entering the locker room, but quickly added to its lead in the third quarter.
After gaining possession of the ball following a three-and-out series, Liberty extended its advantage when Smith found Jonathan Crawford open for an 18-yard scoring strike at the 12:16 mark of the third, sealing the victory for the homestanding Flames.
Liberty managed to score two more times the rest of the game, highlighted by a 76-yard kickof return for a touchdown by Crawford midway through the third quarter.
Liberty rolled up 440 total offensive yards on the night, averaging 7.7 yards per play. The Crusaders finished the game with 247 total offensive yards, averaging 3.4 yards per play. The Flames led an even offensive attack, rushing for 241 yards and passing for 261. North Greenville predominantly passed during the game, amassing 178 yards in the air to 69 yards on the ground.
Penalties plagued the contest, as Liberty was whistled for 13 infractions for 136 yards to account for the most penalty yards under third-year head coach Danny Rocco.
Jennings posted his 13th career 100-yard rushing game, hitting the mark on the nose on 13 carries. The senior found the end zone twice during the contest, marking his 11th career multiple-touchdown game and the sixth time in the last seven contests. Terrell followed by rushing eight times for 70 yards and his 27th career rushing touchdown.
Smith had pinpoint accuracy on the evening, completing 14-of-17 pass attempts for 171 yards and two touchdowns. Spencer Landis saw considerable time in the second half, completing 3-of-4 passing attempts for 28 yards.
Bolden led eight different receivers, posting his first collegiate 100-yard game by catching five passes for 100 yards. Crawford followed by matching Bolden with five receptions for 44 yards. Both receivers finished the game with touchdown receptions.
Chad Brown lead a near 100 team tackle total in the game (95 for Liberty), finishing the contest with a career-best seven stops. The linebacker duo of Patrick Bannon and Nick Hursky ended the game with six stops apiece.
The Flames will close out their season-opening, two-game homestand next weekend when they host Glenville State at Williams Stadium for a 7 p.m. contest. Liberty will look to make it four in a row in the all-time series against the Pioneers before taking to the road for three-straight road games.