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Three Fourth-Quarter Touchdowns Lift 22nd-Ranked Chanticleers Over Flames
The Coastal Carolina Chanticleers used two passing touchdowns from Tyler Thigpen and a 33-yard scoring run by Aundres Perkins in the fourth quarter to pick up a 28-26 victory over visiting Liberty Flames, Saturday afternoon, at Brooks Stadium.
With the victory, the 22nd-ranked Chanticleers push their winning streak to five-straight games and move to 6-2 on the year and 2-0 in Big South action. The loss, Liberty's 18th straight to a nationally-ranked opponent, drops the Flames' record to 3-5 on the year and 0-2 in league play.
Coastal Carolina wasted little time taking the lead as Mike Tolbert broke through several tackles on the second play of the game and rushed 70 yards downfield for the score, giving the homestanding Chanticleers a 7-0 lead just 37 seconds into the contest.
The Flames had a chance to answer back on their first drive of the contest as Liberty used a good mix of running and passing to move the ball all the way down to the Coastal five-yard line. However, the 60-yard drive was halted in the Red Zone as Brock Smith's pass over the middle was picked off by Quinton Teal in the end zone, marking just the third time this year that Liberty has had a pass picked off.
On their next drive, Liberty once again got inside the Red Zone and the Flames didn't waste the scoring opportunity. Rashad Jennings capped off an eight-play 65-yard drive with a 10-yard touchdown run up the middle to knot the game at 7-7 with 2:57 left to play in the opening quarter.
The Flames attempted to break the tie midway through the second quarter as Zac Kolegue was called on to try a 39-yard field, the longest field goal attempted by a Flame this year. But, the score remained the same as the junior narrowly pushed the attempt to the left, leaving the score 7-7 at the break.
Liberty was finally able to break the tied on its first drive of the third quarter as Kolegue capped off a 13-play, 44-yard drive to open the half with a 37-yard field with 8:00 left to play in the quarter.
On the third play of the ensuing drive, E.L. Estes picked off a Thigpen pass, giving Liberty possession of the ball at Coastal's 39-yard line. Nine plays later, the Flames tacked on three more points as Kolegue knocked down a 28-yard field to give Liberty a 13-7 lead at the 2:42 mark of the third.
Liberty looked like it was going to get the ball right back as Thigpen was sacked on the second play of the next drive, causing him to fumble the ball with Tyler Turner picking up the loose ball. However,But Ryan Greiser was penalized for a face mask, the first of many second half penalties on both teams, allowing the Chanticleers to retain possession.
And Coastal Carolina took advantage of the second chance as six plays later, Thigpen found Santini Washington with a three-yard scoring strike to regain the advantage at 14-13 with 13:21 left to play in the fourth.
After a three-and-out series forced the Flames to punt, Coastal Carolina quickly added to its lead. Thigpen found Jerome Simpson open on the near side of the field and the all-conference wide out broke two tackles for a 66-yard touchdown, pushing the home team's lead to 21-13 at the 9:17 mark.
But the Flames didn't lay down as Dominic Bolden returned the ensuing kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown, marking the first time that Liberty has returned a kickoff for a touchdown since Sam Gado did so on the same field two years ago on a 97-yard return (Oct. 23).
The sophomore was whistled for a personal foul as he ended his return by diving to the corner of the end zone to avoid two would-be tacklers. The officials viewed the dive as excessive celebration, moving Liberty back to the Coastal 18-yard line on the point after attempt where Brock Smith wasn't able to find an open receiver on the two-point attempt, allowing Coastal Carolina to hold on to a 21-19 lead with 8:59 left to play.
The Chanticleers added to their lead on the ensuing drive as Coastal Carolina ate up some of the clock on an eight-play, 80-yard scoring drive to used up 4:38 on the game clock. Perkins capped off the drive with a 33-yard scoring burst up the middle to give the Chanticleers a 28-19 lead with 4:15 left on the clock. The Flames were whistled for a personal foul on the touchdown run and a pair of personal fouls on the PAT, allowing Coastal Carolina to kickoff from Liberty's 20-yard line.
However, infractions cost the Chanticleers on the ensuing drive as Coastal Carolina was flagged for two personal fouls on the drive, aiding in Liberty moving down the field 65 yards on five plays in 45 seconds. Terrell capped off the drive with a three-yard run up the middle to pull the Flames within two points, 28-26, with 3:28 left to play.
Liberty attempted to gain one last possession but Thigpen was able to complete a 17-yard pass play to Simpson on a fourth-and-four play, allowing the Chanticleers to keep possession of the ball and run out the clock.
The contest marked the sixth-straight Big South game that Liberty has dropped by less than a touchdown and lowers Liberty's margin of loss during the stretch to 3.7 points over the last six league games.
Terrell posted his second-straight 100-yard game as the running back rushed for 114 yards and two scores, marking the third-straight game that he has rushed for two scores in a game. Rashad Jennings added 60 yards on 14 carries for the Flames.
Tolbert led the Chanticleers as he rushed for 71 yards on three carries, including the 70-yard score, and Perkins added 41 yards on 10 carries and the fourth quarter score.
Thigpen paced the Chanticleers' offensive attack as he threw for 257 yards and two touchdowns as he completed 16-of-28 passes, while getting picked off two times. Smith completed 11-of-17 pass attempts for 127 yards for the Flames and had two passes intercepted, doubling his season-to-date total as he had two passes intercepted over the first seven games.
Simpson led all receivers with 145 yards on six receptions and a touchdown. Wynton Jackson led the Flames with four receptions for 62 yards.
In a game that pitted the Big South's top two career tacklers, Coastal Carolina's Jamar Leath gained a sizeable edge in the battle to be atop the conference all-time list as he led all defenders with 15 tackles, while Liberty's Manny Rojas finished with five stops. Leath now has 335 career tackles, while Rojas has 319 career stops.
The Flames return home next weekend to host Western Carolina at Williams Stadium for a 1 p.m. kickoff. Fans in attendance could be part of Liberty history as the Flames need 3,523 more fans to pass through the gates to surpass the one million mark in home attendance in the history of the program.