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Flames Fall Short In 10-3 Setback At Towson For First Loss Of Year
With the victory, Towson moves to 3-0 on the season, marking its 11th-straigth non-conference victory and the first time that the Tigers have started a season 3-0 since 2000. The loss ends Liberty's two-game winning streak and drops the Flames to 2-1 on the year.
The first half of the game proved to be a defensive stalemate as the two teams combined for just 144 yards of total offense on 53 total plays with neither team putting points on the scoreboard. Liberty finished the half with 63 yards on 29 plays, while the Tigers tallied 81 yards on 24 plays. Liberty punted the ball seven times, while the Tigers punted five times and turned the ball over on downs after a failed fourth-down conversion attempt.
The Flames recorded their initial first down of the game with 4:45 left to play in the second quarter as Zach Terrell completed a 14-yard pass play to Dominic Bolden over the middle on a third-and-eight play.
The 14-yard pickup somewhat sparked the Flames' offense as Liberty mounted its longest drive of the game. An 11-play, 38-yard drive that used up 6:57 on the game clock got the Flames to the Towson 42-yard line before Liberty recorded its seventh punt of the first half. The furthest the Tigers advanced the ball was to Liberty's 34-yard line early in the second quarter.
The Tigers finally broke the scoreless streak on the opening drive of the third quarter as Sean Schaefer completed an eight-yard slant pass to Demetrius Harrison at the 9:20 mark, accounting for the junior wide receiver's first touchdown reception of the year and the second of his career.
The scoring drive of 13 plays and 79 yards that used up 5:31 on the game clock was kept alive by a key fourth down conversion as Schaefer completed a 16-yard pass to Eric Yancey that put the Tigers at Liberty's 19-yard line.
Liberty advanced the ball to midfield on its first drive of the second half, but once again was forced to punt the ball away. Ben Beasley seemed to pin the Tigers deep in their own territory as his 51-yard punt put the Tigers at their own nine-yard line; however, Yancey returned the punt for 35 yards.
On the first play of the drive, Schaefer found Paul Perry open for a 44-yard reception to the Liberty 12-yard line, giving the Tigers the momentum. After an attempted rush up the middle, Schaefer found Daryon Arnold open in the corner of the endzone for an apparent second touchdown, but the wideout was flagged for offensive pass interference to negate the score.
Liberty's defense took advantage of the second chance as three plays later, the Tigers were forced to attempt a 41-yard field goal and Chris Desautels' attempt from the center of the field fell considerably short to leave the score at 7-0 at the end of the third quarter.
After a three-and-out series to start the fourth quarter forced the Tigers to punt the ball, Liberty put together its second longest drive of the day and cut into the lead as Beasley connected on a 27-yard field goal with 9:37 left to play in the contest to cap off a 10-play, 49-yard scoring drive.
The Tigers pushed their lead back to a seven-point advantage on the ensuing drive as Towson capped off a 13-play, 79-yard drive that ate up 5:19 of the game clock with a 30-yard field goal by Desautels with 4:07 remaining in the ball game.
A 32-yard kickoff return by Wynton Jackson on the ensuing drive gave the Flames prime field position with just under four minutes to play. Brock Smith completed a 26-yard pass play to Rashad Jennings on the first play, while passes to Darnell Edwards (12 yards) and Turner (eight yards) helped the Flames move to Towson's 15-yard line.
After a four-yard gain on a draw play by Jennings, Smith completed a slant pass to Turner, but the junior was struck by Tony Lumpkin and coughed up the ball at the 12-yard line, while Richard Lee recovered the lost fumble to seal the victory for the home team.
Towson moved the ball more efficiently than the Flames on the evening as the Tigers amassed 310 total offensive yards on 60 plays, while the Flames were only able to muster 180 yards of total offense on 53 plays.
Jennings, who entered the game ranked second in the nation by averaging 160.5 rushing yards per game, was held to 27 yards on 18 carries, while Smith followed closely behind with 26 yards on six rushing attempts. Matt Castor led the Tigers by rushing for 82 yards on 16 carries.
Smith (9-for-18, 88 yards) and Terrell (4-of-5, 34 yards) combined to pass for 122 yards, while Schaefer completed 13-of-23 attempts for 196 yards and the game's lone touchdown pass.
The biggest ground gainers on the evening where the team's two punters as Beasley finished with a career-high nine punts for a career-best 349 punt yards (averaging 38.8 yards per punt), while Towson's Bill Shears finished the game with six punts for 217 yards (36.2 yards per punt).
Manny Rojas and E.L. Estes led the Flames' defensive efforts as Rojas tallied nine tackles, including a nine-yard sack and two pass breakups, while Estes also finished with nine tackles and two pass breakups.
The Flames will continue a three-week road swing next Saturday when they travel to Savannah, Ga., to face Savannah State in a non-conference match-up. Kick-off is set for 6 p.m. at Ted Wright Stadium, marking Liberty's final night game of the year.