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Flames Post Third Shutout of the Season with 21-0 Victory Over Catamounts
Earlier this year, the Flames blanked St. Paul's (27-0) in their season opener and shutout Savannah State (28-0) to snap a six-game road losing streak in September. Liberty also shut out three opponents in 1974 and 1976 when the Flames were competing at the NCCAA and NAIA levels, respectively.
The Flames broke a scoreless tie midway through the first quarter as Rashad Jennings capped off a seven-play, 49-yard drive with a two-yard touchdown run. The tailback bowled over the defensive line up the middle for a score with 4:58 left to play in the first quarter.
Six of the seven plays on the scoring drive were of the running variety with the only pass coming on a 25-yard sideline pass from Brock Smith to Brandon Turner that saw the junior wide out pushed out of bounds just one yard shy of the goal line.
The score remained the same until late in the second quarter when Liberty mounted its longest drive of the afternoon with an 11-play, 67-yard scoring effort to push its lead to 14-0 with 25 seconds left before halftime. Zach Terrell finished off the drive with a two-yard run to the left side of the field, marking the fourth-straight week that the sophomore has rushed for a score.
Liberty held the Catamounts to just three first downs over the first 30 minutes of action and 128 total yards of offense. The 14-0 lead marked the sixth time this year that Liberty has gone into the locker at halftime having held an opponent scoreless over the first two periods.
The Flames kept things rolling on its first drive of the third quarter as Smith hooked up with three different receivers to help march Liberty down field 78 yards on six plays. The final play of the drive was a 36-yard completion to Turner in the corner of the end zone, giving Liberty a 21-0 lead with 11:51 left to play in the third.
The remainder of the game belonged to the Flames' stout defense as the closest that Western Carolina got to the end zone over the final 27 minutes of the contest was the Flames' 20-yard line on the next drive, despite going for it on fourth down three times in the second half.
The contest marked a historic day in school history as the 8,286 fans in attendance at the afternoon game helped push the Flames over the 1,000,000 mark in home attendance since the inception of the program in 1973.
The Flames held the Catamounts to just 273 yards in the contest, the second-fewest yards Liberty has allowed this season. Conversely, the Flames made wise use of their offensive yards as Liberty managed just 307 total offensive yards in the game, also marking its second-lowest output of the year.
For the fifth-straight game and the seventh time this year, the Flames' rushing attack and solid defensive effort allowed Liberty to control the play clock as Liberty finished with 31:43 to 28:17 time of possession advantage in the contest.
Terrell led the Flames' rushing attack and missed posting his fifth career 100-yard game by a yard as he carried the ball 20 times for 99 yards and a score. Jennings added 13 rushing attempts for 38 yards and his conference-leading 10th rushing touchdown of the season.
Darius Fudge became the second running back to rush for 100 yards against the Flames this year as the senior rushed for 102 yards on 23 carries.
Smith finished the game with 161 yards passing by completing 11-of-20 attempts, including the touchdown pass to Turner. Spencer Landis completed his first two collegiate passes as the freshman completed 2-of-3 attempts for 11 yards late in the contest. Western Carolina's Todd Spitzer completed 20-of-31 pass attempts for 164 yards.
Turner posted his second career 100-yard receiving game as the junior caught a team-best seven passes for 101 yards and a score. Eight different players caught passes for the Catamounts with Michael Hines leading the team with seven receptions for 33 yards.
Manny Rojas posted his 10th-career double-figure tackle game of his four-year career with the Flames as the senior linebacker finished the game with 10 tackles and two quarterback hurries. Liberty pressured Spitzer all afternoon as the Flames finished the game with a season-high 13 quarterback hurries. Shelton Gaffney led the Catamounts with nine tackles, including five solo stops.
The Flames return to Big South Conference action next weekend when they host Charleston Southern at Williams Stadium in the last home contest of the season The Buccaneers come to Lynchburg riding the second-longest active winning streak in I-AA football as Charleston Southern picked up its 14th-straight win with a 28-14 win over Gardner-Webb.
Before the game, the nine Liberty seniors playing their last home contest of their careers will be honored. Game time is scheduled for 1 p.m.