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Keydets Hold On To Hand Flames Homecoming Loss
Liberty snapped its three-game scoreless streak, but wasn't able to post a Homecoming game victory as VMI held on to down the Flames, 10-7, Saturday afternoon, in front of 11,263 fans at Williams Stadium in both squad's Big South opener.
Neither team could gain much of an advantage during the first quarter as the longest drive of the first 15 minutes was a 14-play drive midway through the quarter that saw Liberty's quarterback Brock Farrel (Sr., QB, San Macros, Calif.) sacked at midfield, forcing the Flames to punt.
The battled continued until VMI's (2-3, 1-0 Big South) first drive of the second quarter as Keydet quarterback Jonathan Wilson called his own number and evaded several defenders as the signal caller put the day's first points on the scoreboard with a 34-yard scamper up the middle, giving the Keydets a 7-0 lead with 8:54 left before halftime.
On the ensuing drive, Liberty (1-4, 0-1 Big South) momentarily found the endzone on a three-yard run to the right side of the field by Marcus Hamilton (r-Sr., RB, Knoxville, Tenn.); however, the Flames were whistled for holding on the play, negating the score.
Three plays later, Farrel's pass over the middle was picked off by linebacker Justin Huggard and returned 22 yards, furthering the Flames' scoreless streak. And the visitors took advantage of the turnover as 11 plays later, Barrett Way connected on a 33 yard field goal with 23 second left before the intermission, allowing the Keydets to head into the locker room with a 10-0 lead.
But on the first drive of the second half, the Flames were able to score for the first time since the opening minutes of the fourth quarter against Concord on September 3rd, snapping Liberty's 227 minute and nine second scoreless streak, as Hamilton was able to find the endzone again without a flag on a three-yard rush up the middle at the 10:33 mark of the third quarter.
The two teams continued to trade possessions back and forth, including five-straight three-and-out series in the fourth quarter. Finally, the Flames started to mount an offensive attack on a drive that started with 5:17 left on the clock and was keyed by a 23-yard reception by Wynton Jackson (r-So., WR, Jacksonville, Fla.) followed by a 28 yard pass play from Farrel to Brandon Turner (So., WR, Gretna, Va.), giving Liberty the ball on the VMI 14 yard line.
Liberty managed to advance the ball just inside the 10 yard line, but wasn't able to get a new set of downs, meaning the Flames would have to settle for a field goal attempt.
However, Zacry Kolegue (So., K, Laurel, Miss.), whose only game action since the season-opener was on the extra point earlier in the day midway through the third quarter due the Flames' scoreless streak, missed the potential game-tying 28 yard field goal attempt as his kick hit the far side upright with 47 seconds left in the contest, while the Keydets were able to wind down the clock to pick up the victory.
The loss marked Liberty's first Homecoming loss since the Flames dropped a 31-21 decision to Gardner-Webb in 2002, while marking the team's 11th Homecoming loss in 33 years. However, Liberty continued a streak of thrilling match-ups with the Keydets at Williams Stadium which included the Flames' thrilling fourth quarter comeback with four rushing touchdowns in the final period to record a 31-28 in their last meeting in Lynchburg on October 4, 2003.
The two teams finished the game very evenly matched as Liberty outgained VMI by just 28 yards, 273 to 245, while the two squads finished with a mere 48 second time of possession differential (30:24 to 29:36 VMI advantage).
The Keydets were led offensively by Nat Jackson, who rushed for 65 yards on 16 carries, while Wilson completed 14-of-21 pass attempts for 120 yards. Rajive Otah (Jr., RB, San Diego, Calif.) paced the Flames' rushing attack with 42 yards on 16 carries, while Farrel was 17-for-25 with a career-best 204 yards passing.
The best ground gainers on the day for both teams were their punters as Big South preseason all-conference selection Noah Crouch (r-Sr., P, Madison Heights, Va.) finished with six punts for 226 yards (37.7 average), marking the first time this season that he has not averaged 40 yards per game, while VMI's Adam Peters finished with seven punts for 256 to average 36.6 yards per punt.
Both teams had two defenders finish with double-figure tackles as Huggard led the way with 14 stops and the 22-yard interception return, while cornerback Titus Green added 11 tackles, including nine solo stops.
Liberty was paced by Manny Rojas (r-Jr., LB, Oakdale, Pa.) as the linebacker went over 200 career tackles on the afternoon by finishing with a season-best 13 tackles, while follow linebacker Kenneth Kemp (r-Sr., Gadsden, Ala.) added 11 stops.
Liberty will continue its first four-game homestand since the 1991 season when they play host the Mocs of Chattanooga next Saturday at Williams Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.