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Game Day Central: James Madison
No. 6/7 James Madison at No. 24/25 Liberty
Sept. 26, 2009
Hall of Fame Weekend
Williams Stadium (12,000)
Kickoff: 7:05 p.m. (EST)
Live TV Coverage:
FamilyNet – Atlanta, Ga. (Channel – National)
WTLU – Lynchburg, Va. (Channel – 50)
WRTV – Lynchburg, Va. (Channel – 13.2)
WGGN – Sandusky, Ohio (Channel – 52)
KCFT – Anchorage, Alaska (Channel – 35)
WAAY – Huntsville, Ala. (Channel – 31)
WBGR – Glenburn, Maine (Channel – 33)
WWMB – Florence, S.C. (Channel – 21)
WPDE – Myrtle Beach, S.C. (Channel 15)
WHSV – Harrisonburg, Va. (Channel 3)
Delayed TV Coverage (Two-Hour Delay/9 p.m.):
JCTV – Santa Anna, Calif. (Channel – National)
DirecTV (Channel 372)
Dish Network (Channel 260)
Replay TV Coverage (Sept. 28, 11:30 p.m.):
MASN – Baltimore (Channel – National)
DirecTV (Channel 640)
Dish Network (Channel 432)
Radio Coverage (Virginia/North Carolina Radio Network)
Flames Sports Network (Radio)
88.3 – Lynchburg, Roanoke, Danville, Va.
Additional Available Networks:
89.5 – Berryville, Va.
103.5 - Clifton Forge, Covington, Va.
95.3 – Culpeper, Va.
89.5 – Winchester, Va.
95.9 – Gainesville, Va.
89.7 - Aquia Harbor, Woodbridge, Dale City, Va.
101.9 – Wytheville, Va.
101.5 – Harrisonburg, Va.
106.5 – Pulaski, Radford, Dublin, Va.
103.7 - South Boston, Va.
96.7 – Charlottesville, Va.
100.3 – Waynesboro, Va.
106.9 – Midlothian, Va.
107.5 - South Hill, Va.
105.1 – Marion, Va.
105.5 - Durham, N.C.
102.5 - Winston - Salem, N.C.
103.7 - Roxboro, N.C.
95.1 - Burlington - Graham, N.C.
98.5 - Creedmoor, N.C.
FSC Game of the Week:
1530 – Cincinnati, Ohio
Two of the nation's top ranked programs will take to the turf inside Williams Stadium, Saturday night, when No. 24/25 Liberty hosts No. 6/7 James Madison in a clash of Commonwealth programs.
Both teams are coming off victories, last Saturday night, as Liberty used 16 first-half points to secure a 19-13 win over Patriot League contender Lafayette on the road. The Dukes opened the home portion of their 2009 slate with a four-touchdown victory over a Big South foe, when James Madison rolled to a 44-16 win against VMI.
Series with the Dukes
Today's matchup with James Madison will renew an old rivalry, as Liberty and James Madison have met on the gridiron 14 previous times with the Dukes holding a 9-5 series edge. Liberty and James Madison met 11 times over a 13-year span (1980 to 1992), while also meeting three times earlier this decade.
James Madison has won the most recent meetings in the series, including a 48-6 victory in the last meeting on Aug. 30, 2003, in Harrisonburg, Va. Liberty is 2-4 against at home the Dukes and 3-5 when traveling to Harrisonburg, Va.
10/11/80 L 14-30 Harrisonburg, Va.
9/26/81 L 14-36 Lynchburg
9/24/83 L 35-44 Harrisonburg, Va.
9/22/84 L 43-52 Lynchburg
9/21/85 W 9-3 Harrisonburg, Va.
9/20/86 W 17-7 Lynchburg
10/1/88 L 28-31 Harrisonburg, Va.
9/30/89 W 19-14 Lynchburg
9/8/90 W 22-19 Harrisonburg, Va.
11/2/91 L 34-35 Lynchburg
11/7/92 W 34-31 Harrisonburg, Va.
9/9/00 L 7-38 Harrisonburg, Va.
11/23/01 L 7-14 Lynchburg
8/30/03 L 6-48 Harrisonburg, Va.
A Familiar Foe
Today's game with James Madison marks the 15th meeting in the series between Liberty and James Madison. In the 37-year history of Liberty football, the Flames have only faced two other opponents more times, as Liberty has squared off against Charleston Southern 16 times and Gardner-Webb 15 times.
Liberty will have a chance to expand its rivalry with James Madison over the next three years, as the Dukes and the Flames are just beginning a four-year agreement between the programs. James Madison is slated to return to Williams Stadium next year, before the series travels to Harrisonburg, Va., in 2011 and 2012.
FCS Game of the Week at LU
For the fourth year in a row, WCKY, 1530 AM out of Cincinnati, Ohio, will be traveling the country, covering the top FCS games in the country as part of the stations FCS Game of the Week program. On Sept. 26, the broadcast crew of Frank Santore (play-by-play), Dan Buchanan (color commentator) and Dave Eddy (sidelines) will be inside Williams Stadium, broadcasting Liberty's matchup with No. 6/7 James Madison, in a showdown between a pair of Top 25 programs, in Liberty's first-ever appearance on the FCS Game of the Week.
JCTV Jolts Television Coverage
On Sept. 18, Liberty Athletics announced a new television partnership with JCTV, a division of the Trinity Broadcasting Network. The deal expanded the Flames Sports Network's (FSN) television coverage by more than 90 million homes around the nation. JCTV will be carrying Liberty's first five home games on its network, showing Liberty's game on a two-hour tape-delayed basis. JCTV can be seen around the country on most cable networks and around the world on DirecTV (Channel 372) and Dish Network (Channel 260).
Prior to the agreement with JCTV, FSN's television coverage was reaching roughly 40 million homes around the country. FSN's television partners also include networks and stations such as FamilyNet, MASN, WTLU, WRTV, WGGN, KCFT, WAAY, WBGR, WWMB and WPDE.
Wrangling with Ranked Foes
Liberty enters today's matchup with No. 6/7 James Madison having won its last three games against nationally ranked FCS opponents. In 2006, Liberty defeated No. 24 Charleston Southern (34-20/home), while the Flames reeled off wins over No. 23 Youngstown State (31-28/road) and No. 12 Elon (26-3/home) last season. Since 1983, Liberty has posted an overall 10-39 record against nationally ranked FCS programs, with the Flames' victory over Elon last year marking the highest ranked FCS opponent Liberty has ever defeated.
Rocco against the Rank and File
Head coach Danny Rocco has been Liberty's most successful coach against nationally ranked opponents, as the skipper is 3-1 against ranked FCS opponents since taking over the program in 2006. Rocco was 1-1 against ranked opponents during his first season at Liberty (lost to No. 22 Coastal Carolina/26-28 and won over No. 24 Charleston Southern/34-20), followed by a 2-0 showing against ranked foes in 2008 (won over No. 23 Youngstown State/31-28 and won over No. 12 Elon/26-3).
Tangling with the Top 10
Liberty's matchup with James Madison will mark the 13th time in program history Liberty has squared off against a Top 10 ranked FCS program. Liberty is winless in 12 previous contests against ranked Top 10 teams, having faced programs ranked No. 2 (Western Illinois/1988), No. 3 (Troy State/1993, Hampton/1998 and Appalachian State/1999), No. 4 (Youngstown State/1993 and Appalachian State/2002), No. 5 (Appalachian State/2001), No. 6 (Furman/1991), No. 7 (Appalachian State/1987 and Youngstown State/1990), No. 9 (North Carolina A&T/1993) and No. 10 (Appalachian State/2000).
Liberty enters today's matchup with James Madison with a 32-28 overall record against teams from inside the Commonwealth of Virginia. Of the 11 Virginia-based teams Liberty has previously faced, St. Paul's is the team Liberty has had the most success against (6-0), followed by James Madison (5-9) and VMI (5-3).
Liberty vs. Virginia Opponents
James Madison 5-9
Norfolk State 3-1
St. Paul's 6-0
Virginia State 2-0
Virginia Union 2-0
William & Mary 0-4
Previous Bouts with the CAA
Liberty enters today's matchup with James Madison having posted a 13-29 record against the current membership of the Colonial Athletic Association. Liberty has squared off against six current CAA teams, having previously faced Hofstra (1-7), James Madison (5-9), Maine (0-1), Towson (6-5), Villanova (1-3) and William & Mary (0-4). Liberty's last game against a CAA foe came in 2007, when the Flames suffered a 48-41 overtime setback at William & Mary on Sept. 15.
Home Sweet Home
On Sept. 12, the Flames welcomed North Carolina Central to Williams Stadium, a facility Liberty has called home for the past 20 seasons. The on-campus facility was opened on Oct. 21, 1989, when the Flames rallied for a 37-19 victory over Towson State. Liberty has since won 65.8 percent of its games in the stadium, having posted a 73-38 record at the on-campus facility. In 2007, the Flames went undefeated at home for the second time in program history, posting a school-record 6-0 mark, en route to their Big South title run.
Thanks to soaking rains in the greater Lynchburg area two days prior to Liberty's match-up with Gardner-Webb on Nov. 15, 2008, the Flames had their "sellout" streak snapped, as 10,636 saw Liberty seal up its second straight Big South title. Prior to the contest, Liberty had filled Williams Stadium beyond capacity 11 straight times. Since head coach Danny Rocco has arrived at Liberty, the Flames have filled Williams Stadium beyond capacity 14 out of 20 games. Liberty has posted a 17-3 record during those contests, averaging 13,002 fans per home game.
The Flames played their home opener before a Williams Stadium and Big South Conference home record 16,112 fans on Sept. 12. The largest home attendance figure in program history bested the previous high of 15,631 fans during Liberty's Homecoming game against William & Mary on Oct. 18, 2006.
Noting the Numbers
Following a record-setting attendance figure in its home opener, Liberty returned to the top of the ranks among the nation's leaders in FCS home attendance. Liberty currently ranks No. 4 nationally in filling stadium capacity (134.27 percent), No. 10 in average home attendance (16,112) and No. 20 in total home attendance (16,112).
Eight is Great
The Flames played their game against North Carolina Central in front of a record-setting 16,112 fans, which marked the eighth single-highest attended NCAA FCS game during the weekend of Sept. 12 (out of 58 home FCS games). Overall, the game ranks No. 21 in home attendance among all home FCS games in 2009.
Rocco Is Better Against the Best
Despite a 13-point loss to West Virginia on Sept. 5, the Flames are still showing marked improvement under head coach Danny Rocco against the nation's elite programs. Since taking over the program, Liberty has dropped its three games against FBS programs by a combined 34 points (Wake Forest/34-14, Toledo/35-34, West Virginia/33-20). Prior to Rocco's arrival on Liberty Mountain, Liberty lost its last FBS contest by 59 points, in a 59-0 shutout against Connecticut on Sept. 10, 2005.
Back Against the Best
The Flames 2008 schedule snapped a near-decade run against the nation's top level of collegiate football, as Liberty had faced a FBS opponent in nine-straight seasons in a row. Prior to 2008, the last time Liberty did not have a FBS opponent on its slate was in 1998.
During the nine-year run, Liberty faced programs such as South Florida, Marshall, UCF, Akron, Toledo, Bowling Green, Kent State, Connecticut and Wake Forest. Liberty has posted a victory over FBS opponent before, as the Flames shocked Eastern Michigan, 25-24, in Ypsilanti, Mich., on Oct. 14, 1989, for Liberty's only victory over a FBS program.
The Flames are slated to continue their run against FBS foes in years to come, as Liberty has Ball State (2010), N.C. State (2011), Wake Forest (2012), Kent State (2013), Virginia (2014) and Virginia Tech (2015) currently on future schedules.
Saturday Night Lights
Under head coach Danny Rocco, the Flames are 13-3 in night games. Since 1976, Liberty has compiled a 55-65-3 record in night games.
In Broad Daylight
Under head coach Danny Rocco, the Flames are 13-8 in games played during the day. Since 1976, Liberty is 115-115-1 in day games.
Natural Versus Artificial Surfaces
Under head coach Danny Rocco, the Flames are 20-8 on artificial turf and 6-3 on natural grass. Overall, Liberty is 97-108-4 on natural grass and 80-76 on artificial turf. The Flames play their home games at Williams Stadium, which has an artificial surface, as new state-of-the-art FieldTurf was installed prior to the start of the 2006 season. Liberty has posted a 17-3 record at home since the new type of surface was installed.
The Flames enter today's game having posted a 3-5 record in overtime games. Liberty's last overtime game came on Sept. 15, 2007, when the Flames dropped a 48-41 decision to William & Mary in double overtime in Williamsburg, Va.
Liberty has only played two of its eight overtime games away from Williams Stadium. Liberty's first extra-period game was a 34-28 road loss to Morgan State on Sept. 21, 1996. Liberty's last victory in an overtime contest came on Nov. 22, 2003, when it closed out the 2003 campaign with a 49-42 win over Hofstra.
Raising Up No. 71
Prior to the start of the Flames' contest against Tusculum on Sept. 1, 2007, Liberty ceremonially honored founder Dr. Jerry Falwell, who had passed away the previous May, by starting a new game day tradition. Members of the University Police force raised a No. 71 flag underneath the Liberty Flames flag above the South end zone, just prior to the team taking the field, bringing the 14,925 fans in attendance to their feet. The new tradition has become a permanent part of the Flames' pregame ceremonies at all home football games. A different person/group receives the honor of raising the flag at each game.
Members of Liberty's inaugural Athletics Hall of Fame class are receiving the honor during today's game with James Madison.
Back in the Big South
Liberty is beginning its eighth season of competition in Big South Conference action, and is slated to open conference play against Coastal Carolina on Oct. 17. Since beginning league play in 2002, Liberty has posted an 18-10 Big South record, thanks to perfect championship seasons in 2007 (4-0) and 2008 (5-0), while posting back-to-back 3-1 records in 2003 and 2004.
Liberty series records against Big South schools since 2002
Charleston Southern 6-1
Coastal Carolina 3-3
Stony Brook 1-0
Note: Elon was a member of the Big South in 2002, with Elon defeating Liberty.
Defending Their Own House
Under head coach Danny Rocco, the Flames have won 17 out of 20 home games, meaning Liberty has won 85 percent of its home contests under the skipper who is in his fourth year at the helm of the program. Liberty was 4-2 under Rocco at home in 2006, a perfect 6-0 in 2007 and 5-1 under Rocco in 2008.
One for the Record Books
Liberty's 2008 season will long be remembered as one of the greatest in program history, as Liberty reached the 10-win plateau for the first time since the program's inception in 1973. Prior to the 2008 season, Liberty had reached the nine-win mark just twice in nearly four decades of football action (1997/9-2 and 1979/9-1-1).
Rocco Draws National Attention
Head coach Danny Rocco's efforts in 2008 did not go unnoticed on the national scene, as the three-time Big South Coach of the Year recipient saw his name listed among the nation's elite in 2008. Besides picking up his third-straight conference coach of the year honor, Rocco was a Top 5 finalist in the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year contest in the I-AA category. Rocco also became the second coach in Big South history to be named to the Eddie Robinson Award list, as he was one of 20 coaches up for the top FCS coaching honor in the country.
Rocco Dominates the Big South
Since taking over the Flames program, head coach Danny Rocco has posted an 11-2 record against Big South opponents during his first three years at Liberty. The skipper dropped his first two Big South games by a combined five points, but has reeled off 11-straight wins to set a new Big South standard. Under Rocco, Liberty has outscored its Big South foes, 456-211, outscoring league competition by more than 18 points per game.
Righting the Ship Quickly
The Flames continued a trend on Sept. 12, when they quickly erased a loss to West Virginia the following week with a 25-point victory over North Carolina Central. Under head coach Danny Rocco, the Flames have only lost consecutive games four times. Liberty dropped four-straight games in 2006 and suffered back-to-back setbacks to William & Mary and Elon in 2007. The Flames only lost two games in 2008 and they were not in successive weeks.
Winning in Style
The Flames captured their first victory of the season on Sept. 12, picking up a 35-10 victory over North Carolina Central. The victory marked the 11th time under head coach Danny Rocco the Flames have won a game by 25 or more points, meaning 42.3 percent of Liberty's victories under Rocco have been by 25 or more points (11-of-26).
Twice as Nice
Liberty's victory over VMI on Nov. 8, 2008, coupled with Gardner-Webb's loss to Coastal Carolina the same weekend, gave the Flames the Big South Conference title for the second straight season. Liberty is one of three programs in league history to win consecutive titles. Gardner-Webb hoisted back-to-back trophies in 2002 and 2003, while Coastal Carolina reeled off three straight championship seasons in 2004, 2005 and 2006.
Third and Climbing
In just three seasons, head coach Danny Rocco has quickly moved into third place on the Flames' all-time coaching ranks with 26 victories. Ranking ahead of Rocco are Tom Dowling with 33 wins (33-38-2) and Sam Rutigliano, who is the winningest coach in program history (67-53).
Liberty scored 16-unanswered points in the first half of last weekend's game against Lafayette, en route to a 19-13 road victory over the Leopards. The victory gave the Flames a win in seven of their last nine road games. Liberty's only road losses over the last two seasons were to Presbyterian (31-28 in 2008) and West Virginia (33-20 in 2009).
Taking a Peek at the Polls
Liberty's six-point road victory over Lafayette last weekend, helped the Flames secure a place in both the FCS Coaches and Sports Network polls. For the third-straight week, Liberty remained ranked No. 24 in the FCS Coaches poll, while the Flames just edged out Florida A&M by two votes to grab the No. 25 spot in the Sports Network poll.
Flying High at Year's End
Liberty's 10-2 record in 2008 and second-straight Big South title enabled the Flames to finish the year ranked No. 14 in the Sports Network poll and No. 15 in the FCS Coaches poll. The Sports Network ranking was the highest end-of-the-year national listing in program history. In 2008, Liberty spent a program-record, 10-straight weeks inside the national Top 25 listings.
Over the final nine games of 2008 and 11 out of the last 12 times the Flames took to the field, Liberty racked up 400 or more total offensive yards. Liberty finished the year ranked No. 9 nationally among FCS program by averaging 446.67 total offensive yards per game. Liberty set a new program standard by tallying 5,360 total offensive yards in 2008, besting the previous school record of 4,856 yards set in 1994.
A Decisive Number
The Flames' prolific offense in 2008 allowed Liberty to finish the season ranked No. 17 in the nation in scoring offense (33.67 points per game). The 30-point mark seems to be the key number for a Flames victory, as Liberty is 20-2 under head coach Danny Rocco when Liberty scores more than 30 points in a game. The Flames are 6-9 under Rocco when Liberty fails to reach the 30-point threshold.
Finding A Way with Fewer Points
Liberty finished the Lafayette game with 19 points on its side of the scoreboard, tying for the fewest points scored by the Flames in a victory under head coach Danny Rocco. Liberty captured a 19-16 victory over Western Carolina, last year, on Sept. 13 in Cullowhee, N.C.
Don't Forget About the "D"
Despite Liberty's gaudy offensive numbers over the past two-plus seasons, the Flames' defense has played a significant factor in the team's success, bringing a smile to head coach Danny Rocco's face, as he is a 20-plus year defensive coaching veteran. Since 2006, Liberty has held its opponents to an average of 18.8 points per game, bolstered by Rocco's first season when the Flames allowed a program-record low 172 points (15.6 points per game, which ranked No. 12 nationally in scoring defense).
Two Touchdown Favorites
Since taking over the program in 2006, head coach Danny Rocco's Flames have outscored their opponents by an average of 13.8 points per game. Liberty has scored 1,206 points (32.6 average points per game), while allowing 697 points (18.8 average points allowed per game).
Déjà Vu all Over Again
During Week 3 of Liberty's 2008 season, the Flames traveled to Cullowhee, N.C., to face Western Carolina, and captured a 19-16 road victory over the Catamounts. The following weekend, the Flames faced a Top 25 team, knocking off No. 23 Youngstown State, 31-28.
During Week 3 of the 2009 campaign, the Flames dented the scoreboard for 19 points once again, enabling Liberty to secure a 19-13 road victory over Lafayette. And once again, Liberty finds itself up against a Top 25 program in No. 6/7 James Madison this weekend at Williams Stadium.
Fourth Quarter Fanatics
Matt Bevins knocked down a 37-yard field goal with 4:20 left to play in the fourth quarter against Lafayette last weekend, giving Liberty three more fourth-quarter points in 2009. This season, the Flames have scored 41.9 percent of their total points scored the final quarter of the game.
Quarter-by-Quarter Scoring Under Rocco
Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 OT Total
2006 68 88 49 54 - 259
2007 130 129 120 83 7 469
2008 112 132 94 66 - 404
2009 10 23 10 31 - 74
Total 320 372 273 234 7 1,206
Pct. 26.5 30.8 22.6 19.4 0.1
Moving Those Chains
One of the busiest crews on the field during a Liberty football game in 2008 was the "chain gang." Liberty finished the campaign ranked No. 3 nationally in third-down conversion rate, moving the chains 50.98 percent of the time on third-down plays. The high conversion rate allowed Liberty to set a new program record with 258 first downs last season.
Under head coach Danny Rocco, Liberty has converted on 46.1 percent of third-down plays (213-of-462). During the first two games of 2009, Liberty struggled to move the chains, converting on 7-of-24 third-down plays. Against Lafayette, Liberty showed improvement, finishing the game 9-of-17 on third-down plays.
Diversifying their Downs
The Flames finished the Lafayette game with 22 first downs, including 10 first downs by rushing plays and 11 more first downs by taking to the airways. The contest marked the sixth time under head coach Danny Rocco that the Flames have finished a game gaining double-digit first downs on both rushing and passing plays. Under Rocco, 50.8 percent of Liberty's first downs have come via rushing plays (370), 40.9 have come via the passing game (298) and 8.2 percent by penalties (50).
Head coach Danny Rocco has rolled the dice on fourth-down plays during all three of Liberty's games in 2009, and each time it has led to the Flames putting points on the scoreboard. During the Flames' season opener at West Virginia, Liberty converted on two fourth-down plays, which kept drives alive and eventually led to touchdowns.
The Flames added a third fourth-down conversion in their game against North Carolina Central on Sept. 12, on a drive which gave Liberty the lead for good in the game. Last weekend, Mike Brown called his own number on a fourth-and-goal play on Liberty's first drive, scoring from one yard out.
Liberty is one of 15 FCS teams in the nation to be perfect on fourth-down plays and ranks second in total fourth-down conversions. Last year, Liberty ranked No. 74 in the nation in fourth-down conversion (4-of-10/40.0 percent).
Racking it Up for Rocco
Head coach Danny Rocco has brought a high-powered offense to Liberty, as the Flames have scored an average of 32.6 points per game since Rocco took over the program. The figure ranks almost a full touchdown ahead of the next highest scoring coach in program annals, as Sam Rutigliano's crew was able to score 26.7 points per game during his 11-year tenure.
Coach Avg. Points/Games
Danny Rocco 32.6 1,206/37
Sam Rutigliano 26.7 3,205/120
Rock Royer 24.2 145/6
Tom Dowling 20.9 1,524/73
Morgan Hout 20.8 1,040/50
Ken Karcher 20.6 1,382/67
John Cartwright 20.2 565/28
Halftime Help Uncommon
During the first two games of the season, the Flames trailed heading into the locker room at halftime. The back-to-back outings mark the seventh and eighth time under head coach Danny Rocco where Liberty has trailed at halftime (out of 37 games). Under Rocco, Liberty has led in 25 games (67.6 percent), while the score has been tied four times (11.4 percent). Liberty did rally to beat North Carolina Central on Sept. 12, marking the second time in eight games that Liberty overcame a halftime deficit to win under Rocco.
Getting Back to Their Basics
Liberty gained 70.4 percent of its 328 total offensive yards on the ground against North Carolina Central on Sept. 12. The Flames rushed for 231 yards on 34 carries, averaging 6.8 yards per rushing play. The 231 yards marked the 16th time in 37 games Liberty has rushed for 200 or more yards under head coach Danny Rocco.
Four Times as Fun
The Flames kept the ball on the ground against North Carolina Central on Sept. 12, scoring four of their five touchdowns in the game on rushing plays. The four rushing touchdowns against the Eagles marked the 10th time Liberty has rushed for four or more touchdowns in a game under head coach Danny Rocco.
Running with the Flames
The Flames have been one of the nation's top FCS programs over the past seven seasons, as Liberty has ranked among the Top 30 rushing teams in the nation six out of the last seven years. During the time span, the Flames have surpassed the 2,000-yard mark six out of seven years and have averaged 2,167 rushing yards per season. In 2008, Liberty rushed for 2,562 yards and ranked No. 13 nationally in rushing yards per game (213.5).
Liberty had four different running backs find their way into the end zone against North Carolina Central on Sept. 12. The Flames have scored a rushing touchdown in 32-straight games and in 35 out of 37 games under head coach Danny Rocco.
Stopping the Run
Liberty was one of the nation's top FCS programs in terms of rushing defense in 2008, finishing the year ranked No. 35 nationally in the statistical category by allowing 125.92 rushing yards per game. The figure was good enough to best a school record, bettering the 2002 squad, who held opponents to 128.5 rushing yards per game.
During the past two weekends, the Flames have held North Carolina Central (43 yards) and Lafayette (70 yards) below the team rushing century mark. Under head coach Danny Rocco, the Flames have held an opponent under the 100-yard rushing mark in 18 out of 37 games.
Much Fewer Flags
Liberty was whistled for nine penalties for 80 total penalties yards in its opener against West Virginia. The outing marked just the sixth time since 2006 Liberty has tallied nine or more infractions in a game. Over the past two weekends, Liberty has dramatically trimmed back its penalty total, finishing the North Carolina Central with three infractions for 32 yards and the Lafayette contest with two penalties for 20 yards.
Taking Better Care of the Ball
During the 2008 season, Liberty finished nine out of 12 games with a positive turnover margin, enabling the Flames to finish the year ranked No. 21 nationally in the statistical category (+0.67). Head coach Danny Rocco has tried to instill the importance of taking care of the ball on his youngsters, as Liberty ranked No. 7 in turnover margin in 2007 (+1.27 per game) and No. 20 in 2006 (+0.55 per game).
Winning the Turnover Battle
West Virginia is one of eight teams to finish a game coached by Danny Rocco with fewer turnovers than the Flames. Liberty turned the ball over once on an interception, while West Virginia never coughed the ball up. Since 2006, Liberty has a +32 turnover figure as compared to its opponents, as Liberty has committed 40 turnovers, while forcing 72 giveaways (+0.86 turnover margin).
Against Lafayette last weekend, the Flames finished the game without giving the ball away, marking the 13th time in 37 games Liberty has finished a Danny Rocco-coached game without a turnover.
Bearing down Back-to-Back Times
Liberty finished the Lafayette game by holding the Leopards to 286 total offensive yards, marking the second-straight time Liberty's defense has held an opponent under the 300 total offensive yard mark. On Sept. 12, Liberty's defensive unit gave head coach Danny Rocco his fourth fewest total offensive yards allowed, when the Flames surrendered 213 total offensive yards. The Flames have now held an opponent under the 300 total offensive yard mark 16 times under Rocco (out of 37 games).
Taking a Look at TOP
The Flames kept control of the game clock against Lafayette last weekend, finishing the contest with a 7:28 time of possession advantage (33:44 to 26:16). The TOP margin was the fifth highest under head coach Danny Rocco and marked the 20th time in 37 games under the skipper the Flames have won the clock battle in a contest.
Picking off Passes
Liberty finished the North Carolina Central game with two interceptions, as Wes Cheek and Brandon Robinson each picked off passes. Cheek added another interception against Lafayette last weekend, returning the errant pass 20 yards. Since head coach Danny Rocco took over the program, Liberty has intercepted 41 passes in 37 games, resulting in 421 interception return yards, and had two or more interceptions 13 times.
Closing the Year with a New Standard
Liberty finished the last four games of 2008 without throwing an interception, tying a program record. The Flames were one of the most careful passing teams in the country in 2008, ranking No. 7 nationally in passing efficiency (158.81). Under head coach Danny Rocco, Liberty's quarterbacks have thrown just 19 interceptions in 37 games (0.51 per game), including just one in 2009 (against West Virginia).
Streeter Streamlines the Passers
Under quarterback coach and now offensive coordinator Brandon Streeter, Liberty has been one of the most effective passing units in the country of late. Since joining head coach Danny Rocco's staff, Streeter has seen his quarterbacks throw at a 62.9 completion percentage clip, completing 544-of-864 passing attempts for 7,128 yards and 48 touchdowns. During the span, Liberty averaged 192.6 passing yards per game and had a pass efficiency rating of 147.44 since 2006.
Big Shoes to Fill
The quarterbacking tandem of Tommy Beecher and Mike Brown have been tasked with the lofty goal of trying to replace one of Liberty's best quarterbacks. Brock Smith, who is a student assistant on this year's staff, finished his days in a Liberty uniform by ranking third in passing yards (7,036) and second in passing touchdowns (50) and completion percentage (60.0) in program history. The left-handed hurler also finished his career as the program's all-time leader in passing efficiency (148.1), nearly 16 points higher than Robby Justino's mark of 132.6.
A QB's Best Friend
After allowing three sacks in its season opener against North Greenville, the Flames offensive line banded together to allow just five sacks over the final 11 games in 2008. Liberty finished the year ranked No. 3 nationally in sacks allowed (.67). All in all, the Flames have allowed less than a sack per game (0.81/30 in 37 games) since head coach Danny Rocco took over the program in 2006.
Liberty allowed three sacks in its season opener against West Virginia, but has since rebounded, not allowing a quarterback sack in the last two games against North Carolina Central and Lafayette. Under Rocco, Liberty has finished 17 out of 37 games without allowing a sack.
Targeting Their Leader
The Flames continually pestered North Carolina Central quarterback Michael Johnson, getting to the hurler and sacking him four times for a loss of 30 total yards on Sept. 12. The four sacks marked the fifth time under head coach Danny Rocco the Flames have finished a game with four or more sacks (four times with four sacks and once with five sacks). Under Rocco, the Flames have averaged 1.92 sacks per game (71 total) for an average loss of 15.1 yards per game (557 total yards lost on sacks).
Leaving Lofty Numbers
Rashad Jennings posted numbers in 2008 which many never be broken at Liberty, as the now NFL running back rushed his way into the record books in 2008. During his senior campaign, the bruising tailback rushed for a program and Big South record 1,500 yards and 17 touchdowns. In just three seasons with the program, he rushed for 3,633 yards and 42 touchdowns, with his touchdown total setting a new program mark. All in all, he rushed for 100 or more yards in 21 out of 33 games with the Flames.
Joining the Nation's Elite
Last April, running back Rashad Jennings heard something no Liberty Flames had heard in 20 years, as the running back was selected in the NFL Draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the seventh round. Prior to Jennings' selection, the last Flame to be picked in the NFL draft came in 1990 when Eric Green was taken in the first round by the Pittsburgh Steelers (21st overall pick), followed by Donald Smith going to the Minnesota Vikings in the 10th round later in the same draft.
Playing at the Top Level
During the first weekend of September, two of Liberty's former standouts made the cut at the highest level of competition, as Rashad Jennings and Sam Gado received word they were on a 53-man NFL roster. Jennings, who was drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars last April, was one of eight draftees by the Jaguars to make their squad. Gado made the cut on the St. Louis Rams' roster, marking the 2005 Liberty graduate's fifth different stint on a NFL roster.
The Ideal Job
If you were looking for the "cushy" job on the Flames roster in 2008, you would have found it in the area of punting. Liberty finished the year ranking fourth in the country in fewest total punts. The Flames were forced to punt the ball away 33 times over 12 games (2.75 times per game). Fewer punts means Liberty's offense was successful, but it has hurt its punting game, as Liberty ranked second to last among FCS programs in net punting (averaging 25.64 yards gained by punting).
Red Zone Rapport
Liberty currently ranks among the Top 40 teams in the nation in Red Zone Offense, scoring on an average of 72.7 percent of their trips inside the opponent's red zone. Of Liberty's eight trips inside its opponents' 20-yard line, Liberty has scored six touchdowns and kicked two field goals. Since 2006, Liberty has added points to the scoreboard 81.1 percent of the time under head coach Danny Rocco (133-of-164 Red Zone opportunities).
Fresh New Faces
Liberty has one of its younger teams since head coach Danny Rocco took over the program in 2006. Of the various players listed on the Flames' current depth chart leading into the James Madison game, eight are true freshmen and 37 have underclassmen status.
New to the Starting Line-Up
Liberty graduated 24 seniors last year, leaving several holes for head coach Danny Rocco to fill in his 2009 line-up. Of the 22 players who took to the field for the first offensive and defensive snap of the Flames' matchup with West Virginia on Sept. 5, seven were listed as starters on Liberty's line-up in their opener against North Greenville in 2008 (LG – Bryan Mosier, RT – Josh Weaver, FB – Derek Bishop, DE – Trey Jacobs, SLB – Ian Childress, JLB – Chad Brown, LS – Chris Rocco).
The Largest Crowd Ever
Liberty played its first game of the 2009 season in front of a near sellout in Milan Puskar Stadium up in Morgantown, W.Va., (60,000 capacity), as the contest's official attendance was listed at 57,950. The figure marked the largest crowd a Liberty football team has played in front of, besting the previous record of 40,000 fans for Liberty's match-up with Connecticut in 2005.
Needing to Replenish the Points
Head coach Danny Rocoo will certainly be looking for several younger players to step up in 2009 and try to fill holes left open by 24 graduated seniors from last season. All in all, five of the Flames' top scorers from last year graduated and a total of 66.8 percent of the offensive production from last year's squad will not be on the field this season. Liberty's top two returning scorers are a pair of kickers, Matt Bevins (56 points) and Ben Shipps (33), followed by Mike Brown, who scored 18 points during his first year on the field.
The Ground Game Is Good
The Flames have scored six of their nine touchdowns on the year via the ground game, rushing for four touchdowns against North Carolina Central, while adding singular scoring runs against West Virginia and Lafayette. Liberty has finished 35 out of 37 games under head coach Danny Rocco with at least one rushing touchdown. Since 2006, Liberty has rushed for 90 touchdowns under Rocco, averaging 2.4 rushing touchdowns per game during the three-time Big South Coach of the Year's tenure.
Special Special Teams
Liberty's special teams certainly played a part in the success of the team against West Virginia on Sept. 5, as the Flames continually pressed toward Mountaineer territory by averaging 23.0 yards per kickoff return. Great special teams play from the Flames is certainly nothing strange on Liberty Mountain, as the Flames finished 2008 ranked No. 12 nationally in punt returns (14.61 average yards per return) and No. 21 in kickoff returns (22.05 average yards per return). Liberty's specialists also tallied three returns for a score last season, retuning one kickoff and two punt returns for touchdowns.
Keeping Them Out of the Backfield
During the 2008 season, the Flames kept their opponents from recording three or more tackles for a loss in eight out of 12 games. Liberty finished the season ranked No. 4 nationally in fewest tackles for a loss allowed, as the Flames allowed just 3.58 TFLs per game en route to a 10-2 season.
The Big South's Best
During the first three weeks of the season, the Flames have had one of their players honored by the Big South each week. Mike Brown has been named Big South Offensive Player of the Week twice, week one as a wide receiver and week three as a quarterback, while running back Aldreakis Allen was the league's top rookie in week two to take home Freshman of the Week honors.
Brown Listed Among the Best
With his 157 receiving yards against West Virginia on Sept. 5, Mike Brown became the 44th player in program history to eclipse the 100-receiving yard mark in a game. His 157 receiving yards is the 18th best single-game performance in program history and the seventh best in the past 10 years.
Summers Shines at Lafayette
Chris Summers had a breakout performance against Lafayette, one that left his mark on the record books. The sophomore, who came into the game with five career receptions for 58 yards, caught 14 passes for 138 yards and his first collegiate touchdown versus the Leopards. The 14 receptions is tied for the Big South record for receptions in a game (along with 14 by Duvaughn Flagler against Wofford) while the figure ranks just behind Liberty's all-time record of 15 receptions by Josh Stofle against South Florida in 2001.
Coming Fast and Furious
Coming into the season, head coach Danny Rocco had not seen one of his players finish a game with double-figure receptions. Wynton Jackson was the last Flame to accomplish the feat with 12 catches for 100 yards against Youngstown State on Sept. 17, 2005.
Now, the double-digit games are coming in bunches. Mike Brown accomplished the feat with 11 receptions for 157 yards against West Virginia, while Chris Summers hauled in 14 receptions for 138 yards against Lafayette last weekend.
A Purpose-Driven Player
Mike Brown was the largest ground gainer for either team on Sept. 5, as the sophomore finished the West Virginia game with 271 all-purpose yards (157 receiving, nine rushing and 107 kickoff return yards). The lofty figure is tied for the fifth-highest, single-game, all-purpose yardage total in program history, as Brown now shares the mark with Johnny Shepherd, who first hit the figure against Gardner-Webb on Sept. 30, 1978.
Welcome to the Club
B.J. Hayes joined an exclusive club on Sept. 12, when he rushed for 129 yards on 11 carries. The stellar effort in Liberty's home opener allowed the sophomore to become the 30th player in program history to rush for 100 or more yards in a single game.
Big Time Gain for B.J.
During the fourth quarter of Liberty's home-opening victory over North Carolina Central, B.J. Hayes broke free for a 74-yard touchdown run to help swing the momentum in the favor of the Flames. The lengthy run was the sixth longest rushing touchdown in program history and is tied for the 10th longest rushing play in Big South history.
Mike Makes It Happen
Mike Brown started his second game of the year at one of Liberty's wide receiver positions against North Carolina Central, on Sept. 12. However, the sophomore was called upon to take over for quarterback Tommy Beecher in the second quarter and finished the game by completing 10-of-12 passing attempts for 71 yards. Prior to the game, Brown had completed just 2-of-4 career passing attempts for 25 yards.
No Sophomore Slump Here
Proving his outing against North Carolina Central was no fluke, Mike Brown had a banner day in his first start under center for the Flames. Against Lafayette, the sophomore completed 29-of-36 pass attempts for 242 yards and his second career touchdown pass.
The 29 completions are tied for the sixth most in the program's single-game history and rank No. 10 on the Big South's single-game list. Brown's 80.6 completion percentage is now the No. 6 mark in Big South history.
Nearly Perfect Passing
In his first career start at quarterback, Mike Brown nearly went to the locker room with a perfect completion percentage. The sophomore completed his first 10 passing attempts for the game and did not miss until a incorrectly run route by Ervin Garner forced the Flames to punt the ball away.
Noting the National Attention
Following a performance the sophomore will not quickly forget, Mike Brown not only garnered attention from the Big South Conference, but the versatile athlete was a two-time national honoree on Monday. He was one of four players named to the College Sporting News All-Star list, while being named the Sports Network's national Offensive Player of the Week. Brown finished the Lafayette game with a career-best 330 total offensive yards and played a part in 56 of the team's 73 offensive plays (20 rushing attempts and 36 passing attempts).
First Time Fun for All
Mike Brown and Dominique Jones had career firsts on the same play, when the quarterback found his tight end open for a one-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter to give Liberty the lead for good against North Carolina Central on Sept. 12. The scoring play was the first passing touchdown of Brown's career and the first receiving touchdown of Jones' days on the gridiron. The six points scored on the touchdown equaled the point total the former men's basketball player tallied during his two-year career with the men's basketball program (six points in 18 career games).
Tough Tandem to Replace
Last year, Liberty had two of its better wide receivers in program history playing together. Dominic Bolden finished the year by tallying 1,056 receiving yards (second highest in program history), while Jonathan Crawford ended the year with 713 receiving yards. The tandem's combined 1,769 receiving yards was the second-highest pair in program history, ranking just behind Fred Banks (1,029) and Kelvin Edwards (763) combined yardage of 1,792 yards by the pair of eventual NFL wide receivers.
Matt Missed the Mark
Matt Bevins missed a 24-yard field goal at the 10:43 mark of the first half, as his attempt hit the right upright and kept the Flames from denting the scoreboard on their first drive against North Carolina Central on Sept. 12. The missed kick snapped a successful field goal streak for the sophomore, as Bevins had knocked down seven-straight field goal attempts dating back to last year. During his career at Liberty, Bevins has successfully hit 16-of-22 field goal attempts (72.7 percent).
Doncel Dominates the Eagles
Doncel Bolt had a career day against North Carolina Central, on Sept 12, as the middle linebacker finished the game with a career-best nine tackles (two solo and seven assisted). He also added an assisted sack and a quarterback hurry. The junior came into the game with 23 career tackles in 13 career appearances.
A Consistent Captain
For the second-straight week, outside linebacker Wes Cheek finished a game with eight tackles, as he had two solo and six assisted stops against North Carolina Central, on Sept 12. Last weekend, Cheek led Liberty's defensive attack again with seven stops, including his second interception in two weeks and the third of his career. Cheek, who converted to linebacker from running back two years ago, is the Flames' leading tackler with 23 stops on the season.
Loving Those Linemen
Liberty's stout defensive line played a big part in the Flames picking up their first victory of the year against North Carolina Central on Sept. 12. Asa Chapman, the Flames' starting nose guard, recorded a career-best seven assisted tackles against the Eagles after coming into the game with 11 career tackles in 12 career appearances. Chapman's fellow lineman Daryl Robertson followed with a career outing of his own, finishing the game with 1.5 tackles for a loss (eight yards), a sack (seven yards) and two quarterback hurries.
Chris Rocco finished the Lafayette game with two of Liberty's four pass breakups on the evening. The pair of disturbances gives the senior 10 pass breakups on his career. Rocco and his backfield teammate Tim Torrence are the Flames' leading active career tacklers, as Torrence comes into the James Madison game with 122 stops, just ahead of Rocco's 120 career tackles. Torrence ranks three career breakups behind Rocco (seven).
Big Time Block
Senior Trey Jacobs snuck around several offensive linemen to get his hands on the football against Lafayette, blocking an attempted 23-yard field goal by the Leopards (their only field goal attempt of the game). The batted down ball gave the senior five career blocked kicks, leaving him two shy of the program record of seven head by Donald Smith, who played for the Flames from 1986-89 before being drafted by the Minnesota Vikings in the 10th round of the 1990 NFL Draft.
Honoring the Best of the Best
Last April, The Liberty University Athletics Department announced that it would be starting its inaugural Hall of Fame to honor its top student-athletes, coaches and administrators.
Today, the inaugural class will be honored during special presentations during the first and third quarters of Liberty's game against James Madison.
The seven-member class includes Dr. Jerry Falwell (founder), Arthur L. Williams (athletics financial supporter), Sid Bream (baseball), Kelvin Edwards (football), Karl Hess (men's basketball), Elena (Kisseleva) Bengds (women's basketball) and Bob Bonheim (wrestling and football coach).
The inductees were honored, last night, at the Athletics Hall of Fame banquet, held at Lynchburg's Holiday Inn Select. More than 100 people filled the banquet hall, celebrating the accomplishments of some of Liberty's most revered athletics pioneers.