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First Half Effort Pushes Montana Past Flames

September 15, 2012
|  Missoula, Mont.
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In his first collegiate start at quarterback, Josh Woodrum became the 11th player in program history to throw for 300 yards in a game, completing 34-of-44 passing attempts for 322 yards against No. 14/12 Montana.
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No. 14/12 Montana managed to put 24 points on the scoreboard with only 89 yards of total offense, leading the Grizzlies to a 34-14 win over visiting Liberty, Saturday afternoon, from the Washington-Grizzly Stadium.

The loss drops the Flames to 0-3 on the year, Liberty's first three-game losing streak to open a season since 2003. The Grizzlies, who have won nearly 90 percent of their games inside their home facility since opening it in 1986 (173-21), up their record to 2-1 on the year.

The Flames outgained the homestanding Grizzlies, 342 yards to 296, thanks in part to a 322-yard passing game from quarterback Josh Woodrum. In his first collegiate start, the freshman completed 34-of-44 passing attempts.

Two of Montana's three first half touchdowns came following Liberty turnovers, with the Flames finishing the day with three giveaways total.

Neither team's offense could find much of a rhythm early on, with the two teams combining for 76 yards on the game's first six drives.

A special teams unit was the first to put points on the scoreboard when Peter Nguyen returned a punt 90 yards to give Montana the early 7-0 lead with 5:54 left to play in the first quarter.

The Flames were the first team to put together any sort of sustained drive, using a series of short-yardage passes to move the ball downfield 40 yards on 12 plays.

Freshman kicker John Lunsford was brought in to attempt a 52-yard field goal, but the rookie's attempt on the second to last play of the first quarter sailed wide left to keep the home team up seven after 15 minutes.

The game's first turnover directly followed by a 35-yard touchdown run by Dan Moore pushed Montana's lead to 14-0 with 12:10 left to play.

Following two penalties on the Grizzlies that gave Liberty two first downs, Woodrum threw a screen pass to Pat Kelly. The senior wide receiver was quickly met after the reception and during the tackle the ball was stripped by Nate Harris and picked up by John Kanongata.

Montana's offensive line cleared a path for Moore on the next play, allowing the 235-pound running back to easily reach the end zone for his second rushing touchdown of the season.

The Flames were once again driving, but another turnover led to Montana's third touchdown of the afternoon.

Following a seven-yard completion from Woodrum to Aldreakis Allen and a 15-yard roughing the passer call, Liberty had its best field position of the day at the Montana 38-yard line.

However, Woodrum's pass over the middle was picked off by linebacker Jordan Tripp, who returned the miscue 58 yards to Liberty's six-yard line.

Montana's Trent McKinney was looking for a receiver in the end zone, but decided to tuck the ball and run it in for a score on his own on the next play. The six-yard run by the redshirt freshman pushed the home team's lead to 21-0 with 9:47 left to play before halftime.

Following Liberty's second three-and-out series of the opening half, Liberty's defense was able to halt the Grizzlies' next drive at the Flames' 25-yard line. Freshman Chris Lider was brought in to attempt a 42-yard field goal and the kick was good to lead Montana's lead to 24-0 with 6:52 left to play in the second quarter.

The score remained the same during the closing minutes of the half, a 30-minute period that saw the Flames control almost every offensive stat, but the one that matter toward the outcome of the game.

Liberty outgained Montana, 143 yards to 118, with the Flames gaining 119 of their yards via their passing game. The Flames also nearly doubled up Montana in terms of first downs, 11-6, and Liberty controlled the clock, 20:25 to 9:35, in terms of time of possession.

Outside of the 24-0 lead at the break, the only other statistic Montana controlled was the ground game. Four different players rushed 20 times for 84 yards, paced by Moore's seven carries for 63 yards.

Holloway was Liberty's leading ball carrier with eight rushing attempts for 28 yards, followed by Allen's five carries for 15 yards.

Woodrum finished the opening half 17-of-24 for 120 yards and one interception. McKinney completed 7-of-13 pass attempts for 34 yards.

Kelly was the first half's leading receiver with eight catches for 35 yards. Greg Hardy led the Grizzlies with four receptions for 15 yards.

The Flames took advantage of Montana's first turnover of the game, turning a giveaway into Liberty's first seven points of the afternoon to open the third quarter.

The first time the Grizzlies touched the ball in the second half, Moore was handed the football. While the running back was being brought down to the ground, Kevin Fogg was able strip him of the football and give Liberty possession at the Montana 39-yard line.

Woodrum completed 3-of-4 pass attempts during the following 39-yard drive, capped off by a 14-yard touchdown pass to Kelly. Woodrum's first collegiate touchdown pass cut Montana's lead to 17, 24-7, with 10:22 left to play in the third quarter.

The Flames' defense continued to keep Liberty in the game, forcing the Grizzlies to punt following a five-play, 19-yard series.

Woodrum was 6-of-7 on the next drive, getting the Flames to the Montana 33-yard line. The quarterback's sixth completion of the drive was a five-yard completion to Justin Gunn. The tight end's reception was just shy of a first down, where head coach Turner Gill elected to go for it on fourth-and-one.

However, Liberty's offense was flagged for a false start, and then Woodrum was sacked Kanongata to end the Flames' threat and turn the ball over on downs.

Montana followed with its longest drive of the day, a 13-play, 54-yard effort that finished up on a three-yard pass to Greg Hardy to put the Grizzlies up 31-7 with 12:20 left to play in the game.

The Flames quickly answered back, riding the throwing arm of Woodrum. The freshman completed all five of his passing attempts on a five-play, 92 yard scoring effort. The fifth and final throw was a 31-yard over-the-shoulder reception by Ryan Ferguson to pull the Flames back within 17 points, 31-14, with 10:11 left to play in the game.

However, Montana halted any hopes of a continued push for the Flames to win the game with the Grizzlies putting together a 12-play, 46-yard drive that ate up 4:43 on the game clock.

Montana kept the ball on the ground for six of the 12 plays, keeping the game clock rolling. The Flames were able to keep the Grizzlies out of the end zone, with the drive ending on a 46-yard Lider field goal with 5:34 left to play.

Liberty had two remaining drive in the fourth quarter, but both were stopped, including the final drive when Gunn fumbled a ball after a completion from Woodrum.

Woodrum becomes the 11th quarterback in program history to pass for 300 yards in a game, resulting in 94.1 percent of Liberty's total offense on the day (322 passing yards/342 total offensive yards for Liberty).

Kelly finished the game with 14 receptions for 88 yards and a touchdown. The senior's 14-reception game tied for the third most receptions in a game by a Flames' receiver. Ferguson followed Kelly with six receptions for 61 yards.

Liberty's limited rush attack on the day was led by Sirchauncey Holloway. The senior finished day with 10 carries for 29 yards, followed by eight rushing attempts for Allen for 29 yards.

Nick Sigmon tied his career high in the game and led the Flames with 11 stops. The linebacker, who returned to the line-up this week after suffering a concussion against Wake Forest, finished the afternoon with four solo tackles and seven assisted stops.

Scott Hyland, Sigmon's fellow linebacker, followed behind him with nine stops, all assisted tackles, while defensive lineman Greg Schuster matched Hyland with nine stops (1 assisted, 8 solo).

Montana's offensive was led by Moore, who rushed 16 times for 92 yards and a score, followed by Jordan Canada's 12 rushing attempts for 35 yards.

McKinney finished the afternoon completing 19-of-26 passing attempts for 95 yards, with his leading target being Hardy with seven catches for 29 yards.

The Grizzlies, who finished the game with five sacks, were paced defensively by Kanongata, who had 10 tackles. Tripp added nine stops, including eight assisted tackles.

The Flames will face their final non-conference opponent before open up Big South Conference play next weekend when Liberty welcomes No. 16/13 Lehigh. Kickoff for Liberty's Hall of Fame game is scheduled for 7 p.m.

The Mountain Hawks come into the match-up having won their first three games of the season, their first 3-0 start since 2003.