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Flames Fall To Tribe In Front Of Record-Setting Homecoming Crowd
With the victory, the Tribe ups its record to 2-4 on the season and the loss evens Liberty's record at 3-3. The crowd marked the largest home attendance in school history, surpassing the previous record of 12,623 fans that saw Liberty pick up a 28-21 overtime victory over Charleston Southern on Homecoming Weekend in 1998 (Oct. 3).
Liberty had the chance to jump out to an early lead on its opening drive of the game as the Flames marched 70 yards down the field, but Ben Beasley pushed a 30-yard field goal wide right at the 7:36 mark of the first quarter.
William & Mary also looked like it was going to score on its opening drive of the game as the Tribe moved the ball 78 yards on 16 plays. However, Jake Phillips' attempted pass on a third-and-goal play was picked off by E.L. Estes in the end zone, keeping the game scoreless.
On the ensuing drive, the Flames gave William & Mary the ball back in excellent field position after a Brock Smith pass was intercepted by Alan Wheeling at the 50-yard line and returned to Liberty's 37. And William & Mary made good on the turnover as six plays later Elijah Brooks rushed up the middle for a three-yard score to give William & Mary 7-0 lead with 8:27 left to play before halftime.
Liberty answered back on the following drive as 14 of the drive's 15 plays were of the rushing variety with the only pass play coming on an 11-yard reception by Dominic Bolden on a fourth-and-four play to keep the drive alive.
After four-straight rushing plays by Rashad Jennings, quarterback Zach Terrell kept the ball himself for a one-yard score on a draw play just 55 seconds before halftime. However, Zac Kolegue's point-after attempt was blocked by Cortenous Herbert, allowing the Tribe to maintain a 7-6 lead at the intermission.
After holding William & Mary on a three-and-out series to start the third quarter, Jennings found an opening on the far side of the field for a 62-yard gain, giving Liberty the ball on the William & Mary 13-yard line. The play proved to be costly, though, as the redshirt sophomore running back was injured on the play and didn't return to the field the remainder of the game.
Despite the injury, Liberty took advantage of the gain and three plays later, Terrell found a hole on the left side of the line for a six-yard scamper into the end zone. Terrell's second rushing touchdown of the game gave Liberty a 13-7 lead at the 10:57 mark.
William & Mary quickly answered on the ensuing drive by capping off an eight-play, 74-yard drive with a five-yard run up the middle by Brooks, his second touchdown of the day, allowing the visitors to regain the lead, 14-13, with 5:50 left to play in the third.
Liberty got inside the Red Zone again on its next drive by advancing to the 18-yard line, but Beasley's 35-yard field goal attempt was blocked by Travis McLaurin, allow the Tribe to maintain its one-point advantage.
Liberty's defense held strong in the fourth quarter with a pair of three-and-out drives to set up the Flames' next scoring chance. Coach Danny Rocco's offense methodically marched down the field on 17 plays, reaching the W&M 20-yard line. But Beasley missed his third field goal try of the afternoon as his 37-yard attempt sailed wide right with 2:07 on the game clock, ending the Flames' chances for a victory.
Liberty won most of the statistical battles of the day as the Flames outgained the Tribe, 386 to 265 yards in total offense, 315 to 170 yards rushing and 36:01 to 23:59 in the time of possession battle.
Jennings paced the way for the Flames offensively as the running back rushed for 186 yards on 22 carries (8.5 average) before suffering the injury in the third quarter. Brooks also surpassed the 100-yard mark for the Tribe as he rushed for 113 yards on 24 yards and two scores.
Liberty's Terron Lawrence followed with 60 yards on 11 carries, his second-best performance of the year and Terrell carried the ball 14 times for 45 yards and two touchdowns.
Neither team's quarterbacks surpassed the 100-yard passing mark on the day as Smith (6-of-12 for 57 yards) and Terrell (2-for-3 for 14 yards) combined for 71 yards and Mike Potts (6-of-9 for 93 yards) and Jake Phillips (1-for-8 for three yards) accumulated 96 yards through the air for the visitors.
William & Mary had four defenders finish with double-figure tackles, led by Derek Cox who finished with a game-high 14 tackles, including nine solo stops.
Manny Rojas surpassed the 300-career tackle mark as he led the Flames, tying a season high with nine tackles to give him 308 on his career.
The Flames open Big South Conference action next weekend when they host Gardner-Webb at Williams Stadium to close out a two-game homestand. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. and the game will be part of Parents' Weekend for the football program.