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Flames Remain Unbeaten in BSC Play following VMI Win
For the second week in a row, the Flames were pushed the entire length of the game and for the second-straight game, the home team responded.
A 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown put No. 22/22 Liberty ahead for good, allowing the Flames to secure a hard-fought 37-31 Big South victory over VMI, Saturday afternoon, in Liberty's final regular-season home contest.
With the victory today, Liberty moves to 7-3 on the season and gives the Flames their sixth-straight win. The Flames also move to 5-0 in Big South play and will be playing for an opportunity for its fifth-straight Big South title in two weeks against Stony Brook.
The Keydets were the first team to crack the Williams Stadium scoreboard, finding the end zone on their second possession of the game.
After forcing the Flames to punt following a three-and-out series on Liberty's first possession, VMI took over near midfield.
On the third play of the drive, Kevin Fogg nearly made up for fumbling the ball on the opening kickoff, as the junior almost created the game's second turnover.
However, his missed interception left Tracy Hairston open for a 55-yard touchdown reception, as the senior took the pass from Eric Kordenbrock and scored to give VMI a 7-0 lead with 9:41 left to play in the first quarter.
Trailing for the first time during the first half this year in a Big South game, Liberty quickly responded with a nine-play, 74-yard scoring drive to pull within one point.
Mike Brown rapidly moved the Flames downfield, completing 5-of-6 pass attempts, with all but one of his completions going for 10 or more yards.
The fifth was a 16-yard completion to B.J. Hayes, getting the Flames down to the one-yard line. Brown then handed the ball off to Aldreakis Allen, who muscled his way into the end zone for his seventh rushing touchdown of the year at the 5:53 mark. Alex Kacere pulled the point-after attempt wide, allowing VMI to cling to a 7-6 edge.
However, the lead did not last long, as Liberty jumped in front less than a minute later. The Flames got their first turnover of the day, when Nick Sigmon intercepted a Kordenbrock pass over the middle on the first play of the next drive, giving Liberty the ball at the visitor's 24-yard line.
The Keydets defense was able to hold Liberty's offense in check, allowing them to only gain six yards. Kacere was able to make up for his earlier kicking mishap, knocking down a 35-yard field goal at 4:45 to give the Flames a 9-7 lead.
The game's see-saw battle continued, as the Keydets responded, thanks to the accurate throwing arm of Kordenbrock.
The sophomore completed all six of his pass attempts, including a three-yard slant to Hairston to allow VMI to reclaim. The three-yard pass play completed a 12-play, 61-yard effort for the Keydets, giving VMI a 14-9 lead with 12:50 left to play in the first half.
A second Liberty miscue on special teams allowed VMI to quickly regain possession and widen its lead to eight points.
James Devens' kickoff following the Keydets second touchdown was a short one that was misplayed by Liberty's Chase Griffiths. The ball bounced off the sophomore's chest and into VMI's charging defenders.
The Flames defense managed to contain VMI's offensive attack after the turnover, forcing the visitors to settle for a 37-yard Devens' field goal to push the Keydets lead to 17-9.
Liberty responded with its own 12-play push, pulling back within a point for the second time during the opening half of play.
The 78-yard drive, which featured a solid mixture of Liberty's rush and pass attack, was capped off by a three-yard pass from Brown to Brandon Apon in the far corner of the end zone to trim VMI's lead to 17-16 with 6:16 left before halftime.
Both teams had one last chance to score in the first half, but neither would, allowing VMI to take the one-point edge into the locker room at the break.
The first half stat sheet looked about as even as the halftime score, with Liberty outgaining VMI by 10 yards (203 yards to 193 yards).
The passing attack was the weapon of choice for both programs, with the two teams throwing for a combined 288 first half yards.
Brown completed 13-of-19 passing attempts for 122 yards, while Kordenbrock threw for 166 yards by completing 13-of-20 attempts. Brown threw for one touchdown with Kordenbrock doubling up Brown's first half touchdown total.
Chris Summers was Liberty's leading receiver with five catches for 48 yards, while Trent White led all wide outs with seven receptions for 65 yards. Hairston was close behind with three receptions for 64 yards and both VMI's touchdown receptions.
Brown was Liberty's largest ground gainer, rushing eight times for 53 yards. T.J. Talley led the Keydets limited rushing attack with 12 carries for 25 yards.
Liberty's defense forced its second three-and-out series of the game on the opening drive of the second half, allowing the Flames to take it second lead of the game.
The Flames took advantage of the opportunity, piecing together a 15-play, 90-yard drive to reclaim the lead, 23-17.
Third and fourth down plays were key for the Flames on the scoring effort. Liberty twice converted on third-down plays, with 27 and 18 yards pass plays to Pat Kelly, while scoring on a one-yard quarterback keeper by Brown on a fourth-and-goal play from the one-yard line.
The back-and-forth scoring continued, with VMI matching Liberty's effort to regain the lead. A six-play, 65-yard scoring drive was keyed by a sweeping outside run by Talley on a fourth-and-one play from the VMI 44-yard line.
Following a 20-yard completion to Hairston, Talley capped off the drive with a 12-yard burst up the middle for a score and give the Keydets a short lived 24-23 lead.
The advantage lasted exactly 15 seconds, which was exactly the time Fogg needed to return his third kickoff for a touchdown in 2011. The 90-yard return gave Liberty a 30-24 lead at the 3:53 mark, an advantage they never relinquish.
After the two teams traded three-and-out series, the visitors had a chance to cut into Liberty's lead midway through the fourth quarter. The Flames defense once again responded, holding the Keydets out of the end zone and forcing VMI to try a 38-yard field goal.
Devens attempt sailed wide right, leaving Liberty with a six-point edge. The Flames then put the game out of reach, when Summers capped off a nine-play, 79-yard drive with his seventh touchdown reception of the year.
The senior, who earlier in the drive became Liberty's all-time career leader in receptions, gave Liberty a 37-24 lead with 6:43 left in the ball game on a 22-yard pass play from Brown in the corner of the end zone.
The score put the game out of reach for the visitors. VMI did manage to score a late touchdown, when Kordenbrock capped off a career day with a 22-yard pass to Dexter Bridge with 14 seconds left in the game. The Flames recovered the ensuing on-side kick to lock down the six-point home victory.
For the third week in a row, Liberty's defense surrendered 400 yards of total offensive, with the Keydets finishing the afternoon with 403 yards. Liberty just outgained the in-state opponent, finishing the game with 420 yards.
Both coaching staffs put the game on the arms of their starting quarterback. Brown finished the day 24-of-34 for 286 yards and two touchdown passes, while Kordenbrock outdueled Brown by completing 31-of-47 pass attempts for 320 yards and three touchdowns.
Summers led the Flames with eight catches for 84 yards and the late scoring reception. With his eight receptions on the day, Summers (178) surpassed previous program record holder Pat Nelson, who finished his four-year career with 176 catches.
Talley led the Keydets with nine receptions (64 yards), while Hairston led the team with 94 receiving yards (six receptions).
Allen led the Flames rushing attack, finishing the game with 15 rushing attempts for 75 yards. Talley led the visitors with 19 carries for 73 yards. Both starting running back managed to record a rushing touchdown during the game.
A.J. Gross was VMI's top tackler, finishing the game with nine stops, followed by seven tackles for Johnny Wimbish. Liberty's top defenders on the game were Chris Mayo (eight tackles) and Jacob Hagen (seven tackles).
The Flames will have the next two weeks to prepare for their final regular-season game of the year. Liberty will next take to the gridiron on Nov. 19 in Stony Brook, N.Y., where they will face Stony Brook in the game that will decide the 2011 Big South Conference championship and the league's automatic bid to the NCAA FCS Playoffs.
Kickoff inside of LaValle Stadium is set for 3:30 p.m., and the game will be televised on the Flames Sports Network, MASN and ESPN3.