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Brown Propels Flames over Bucs in BSC Opener
Reigning Big South Offensive Player of the Year Mike Brown made a push to retain the title Saturday afternoon, as the junior was responsible for five of Liberty's six touchdowns. The play of the quarterback helped No. 24 Liberty open up conference play with a 44-20 victory over Charleston Southern in front of a Homecoming crowd of 18,587 fans.
With the victory, the Flames (4-2, 1-0 BSC) began their push toward a fourth-straight Big South Conference title and the league's first-ever automatic berth to the NCAA FCS Playoffs. The loss, Charleston Southern's second in a row, drops the Buccaneers to 2-3 on the season and 0-1 in Big South Conference play.
Neither team could get much going early, as Liberty nor Charleston Southern posted points during a scoreless first quarter, combining for 147 yards of total offense. However, on the last play of the opening 15 minutes, Liberty struck on for a 35-yard screen play from Brown to SirChauncey Holloway, where the running back was brought down at the five-yard line.
Four plays later, Brown rolled out on a fourth-and-goal from the one and found Holloway open in the end zone, giving Liberty a 7-0 lead at the 13:34 mark of the second quarter. The one-yard pass to near corner of the end zone was the first receiving touchdown of the sophomore's career.
The score remained the same until the midway point of the second quarter, when the Flames pieced together their longest drive of the first half. Brown completed 3-of-4 passing attempts, picking up all but three yards via the passing game on the 77-yard drive.
The last play was a 40-yard sideline pass, with Brown finding wide out Pat Kelly open on the far side of the field for his second touchdown reception of the season. The 40-yard scoring play gave Liberty a 13-0 advantage at 7:01, as Matt Bevins missed the point-after attempt.
Both teams were able to tack on additional points during the waning minutes of the opening period, starting with Charleston at the 1:40 mark.
Back-up quarterback Andrew Trudnowski, who took over for an injured A.J. Tuscano, led Charleston Southern to its first scoring drive in six tries. The senior was a perfect 4-of-4 on the 10-play, 80-yard scoring drive, with all four of his receptions going for 10 or more yards.
The last was a 13-yard pass to Anthony Chalmers in the right corner of the end zone, trimming Liberty's lead to 13-7 just under the two minute mark.
However, the Buccaneers did leave enough time on the game clock for the Flames to score before the halftime horn sounded.
A quick nine-play, 66-yard drive, that used only 1:16 on the game clock, was aided by a 43-yard reception by Gabe Henderson to the Charleston Southern 21-yard line.
A pair of quarterback keepers by Brown allowed Liberty to get to the eight-yard line, but Charleston Southern was able to defend Chris Summers on the third down play.
The junior, who came into the game as the national leader with eight touchdown receptions, was well defended in the end zone, forcing the Flames to settle for a 26-yard Bevins field goal.
Brown continued to be Liberty's No. 1 option during the opening 30 minutes of play, as the junior finished the first half with 221 of the team's 238 total offensive yards. The quarterback carried the ball eight times for 18 yards, while completing 12-of-20 pass attempts for 203 yards and two scoring passes.
Holloway was Brown's first option during the opening half, catching three passes for 46 yards, followed by Kelly's two catches for 56 yards.
Toscano (7-of-11) and Trudnowski (4-of-4) finished with 107 of their team's first half total offensive yards, as the pair of quarterbacks threw for 46 and 61 yards, respectively. DeMarcus Moon was Charleston Southern's top rusher, carrying the ball five times for 37 yards.
The Buccaneers came out of the locker room and methodically put together the day's longest scoring drive to pull within two points, 16-14, following a 15-play, 80-yard drive that chewed up 7:58 on the game clock.
Trudnowski continued to remain efficient, as the senior completed 6-of-7 passing attempts on the drive for a total of 65 yards. The final pass was a 22-yard scoring strike to B.J. Hackworth with 7:02 left to play in the third quarter.
Two plays later, Brown was intercepted for the second time on the day by Charles James, giving Charleston Southern the ball at Liberty's 34-yard line.
The Buccaneers got the Flames' two-yard line, before Kyle O'Donnell forced Trudnowski to fumble the ball at the line of scrimmage and recovered the ball for the turnover. The fumble was Trudnowski's second turnover of the game, giving the Flames the ball back.
Both teams turned the ball over on each of their next drives, as Brown was intercepted by James for the third time, followed by a Chris Mayo sack of Trudnowski, forcing a fumble that was recovered by Demetrius Ward.
Liberty made good on the second-straight Charleston Southern giveaway, when Brown called his own number for a seven-yard scamper to push Liberty's edge to 24-13 at the 12:06 mark of the fourth quarter.
The eighth and final turnover of the game led to Liberty's next score, as Brent Vinson intercepted Trudnowski and returned the errant pass 15 yards. Holloway carried the ball the next three plays, scoring on the third from 13 yards out to push Liberty's lead to 30-14 with 6:48 left in the game.
The final six-plus minutes saw the team combined for 21 points, starting with a 19-yard touchdown run by Brown with 2:29 left in the contest.
The Buccaneers answered right back, as Gerald Stevenson returned the ensuing kickoff 100 yards for a score, trimming Liberty's advantage back to 17 points, 37-20.
With the return, Stevenson became the second player in Big South history to return a kick the length of the field for a score, as Gardner-Webb's David Montgomery did so against the Flames last year on Nov. 14, 2009.
Liberty tacked on the game's final tally, when Brown found Summers open in the end zone for the junior's national leading ninth touchdown of the year. The 29-yard strike gave Liberty, its final 24-point cushion, 44-20, with 28 ticks left on the clock.
Charleston Southern, who came into the game as the lone team in the league with a positive turnover margin (+1), finished the game with a season-high five giveaways. Liberty converted two of those five turnovers into touchdowns.
Liberty finished the game by outgaining Charleston Southern, 481 to 306 total offensive yards. Over 65 percent of the Flames' offense came via the passing game, as the Flames passed for 300 or more yards for the second time this year with 318 passing yards.
Brown was responsible for most of Liberty's offense on Saturday, as the junior finished the game with a career-high 403 total offensive yards and five touchdowns. He carried the ball 18 times for 93 yards and two scores, while completing 20-of-33 passing attempts for 310 yards and three touchdown passes.
Holloway followed behind Brown, as Liberty's No. 2 rusher, gaining 57 yards on 14 rushing attempts and a scoring run. Summers was Liberty's leading receiver with five catches for 72 yards and the last-second touchdown pass.
Trudnowski finished the game by completing 15-of-22 passing attempts for 189 yards and two touchdown passes. Chalmers was the No. 1 target for Charleston Southern's pair of quarterbacks, finishing the game with seven catches for 87 yards and a score.
James was the dominating force on defense for either program, as the sophomore finished the game with 10 tackles (seven solo, three assisted) and three interceptions. Chris Patrick and Fred Godfrey followed behind the Charleston Southern cornerback with nine stops each.
Larry Claiborne was Liberty's leading tackler with seven stops, followed by Mayo and Danny Broggin, who each added six tackles.
Following a two-game homestand to re-open an expanded Williams Stadium, Liberty will take to the road for the next few weeks, before returning home on Nov. 6 against Gardner-Webb.
Next weekend, the Flames will make the trek over the Blue Ridge Mountains to square off against the Keydets of VMI in a Big South Conference match-up. Kickoff at Foster Stadium is slated for 1:30 p.m., where the Flames will be looking for their fifth-straight victory over VMI.