Liberty sent its 17-member senior class out with a win and capped its first season at the FBS level with a 52-17 victory over Norfolk State on a foggy afternoon at Williams Stadium on Saturday.
With six wins in 2018, Liberty became the ninth team in NCAA history to win six or more games during its first season competing at the FBS level.
With the win, Liberty finished the season with a 6-6 record, marking the 13th consecutive year the Flames have posted a .500 or better record.
Besides the historical aspect of Liberty's last game of its inaugural FBS season, several players individually left their marks on the Flames' record book during the day.
With his touchdown pass, Stephen Calvert became the program's all-time leader with 65 career touchdown passes. Calvert entered the game tied with previous record holder Robby Justino, who finished his four-year career (1989-92) with 64 career touchdown passes.
Wide receiver Antonio Gandy-Golden finished the game with seven receptions for 71 yards, allowing the junior to post his second straight 1,000 yard season (2017: 1,066; 2018: 1,037). Gandy-Golden becomes the second wide receiver in program history to post consecutive 1,000 yard season, joining Chris Summers (2010: 1,086; 2011: 1,066).
Frankie Hickson led the Flames in carries, ending the final game of his junior season with 17 carries for 100 yards against the Spartans. With his yardage today, Hickson (1,032) posted the 15th 1,000-yard rushing season in program history and the first since 2014.
Finally, several seniors had banner days during their final game in a Liberty uniform. Kentory Matthews finished the game with 14 carries for 151 yards and four touchdowns, leaving him one off the program's single-game rushing touchdown record.
Cornerback Jeremy Peters had four tackles, two tackles for a loss, an interception and three pass breakups, moving him into sole possession of second place on Liberty's career pass breakups listing (29).
Defensive end Juwan Wells had 1.5 sacks in the game for a loss of 14 yards. The 1.5 sacks give him 19.5 for his career, which ranks third in program history. He also finishes as Liberty's active career leader in tackles with 223.
Box Score Highlights: Final Score: 52-17 Liberty (6-6) Norfolk State (4-7) Location: Williams Stadium (Lynchburg, Va.) Attendance: 13,243
Both teams took time during their first drive to adjust to the dense fog at Williams Stadium, forcing a pair of field goals to open both teams' first drives of the game.
Liberty got its offense going on its second drive, scoring on Calvert's historic 65th career touchdown pass to end a six-play, 65-yard scoring drive. The junior found Michael Bollinger open in the corner of the end zone for the fullback's first career reception and touchdown.
Lionell Johnson forced a fumble during the ensuing kickoff and Aaron Pierre was able to recover the loose ball. Three plays later, Hickson scored from five yards out to put the Flames up 17-3 and Liberty never looked back during its season finale.
First Quarter • Both teams cracked the scoreboard on their opening drives, with both settling for short field goals. The Flames got a 20-yard field goal from Aaron Peart at 6:52 to finish a 17-play, 76-yard drive, while the Spartans responded with a 22-yard field goal by Josh Nardone to finish a 10-yard, 56-yard drive at 3:12. • Calvert took over the all-time career lead in passing touchdowns late in the first quarter. The junior completed an 18-yard touchdown pass to fullback Michael Bollinger with 52 seconds left, giving him his 65th career touchdown pass and the Flames a 10-3 lead.
Second Quarter • Following the game's first turnover, Liberty quickly pushed its lead to 17-3 five seconds into the second quarter. Following Calvert's historical touchdown pass, Liberty recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff and Hickson scored from five yards out at 14:55 to finish off a quick three-play, 12-yard scoring drive. • The two teams scored four more times before halftime, including three times for the Flames to give Liberty a 38-10 lead at the break. • Kentory Matthews scored two rushing touchdowns (one and three yards), while Rion Davis returned an interception 22 yards for a touchdown. • The Spartans scored their first touchdown of the afternoon when Juwan Carter completed a 10-yard touchdown pass to Justin Smith over the middle of the field with 1:06 left to play before halftime.
Third Quarter • Jeremy Peters intercepted Norfolk State's Juwan Carter midway through the third quarter, the senior's fifth career interception. Matthews carried the ball on the next two plays, one for 18 yards and the second for a 10-yard touchdown run to push Liberty's lead to 45-10 at 4:11 for the quarter's lone scoring drive.
Fourth Quarter • The two teams both found the end zone one additional time during the fourth quarter, with both scoring drives ending on rushing touchdowns. Gerald Hulett scored from five yards out for Norfolk State at 14:50 and Matthews finished off his four touchdown game with a 13-yard scoring run at 11:36.
Following an offseason that will see the Flames complete their FBS transition process, Liberty will open the 2019 season when it hosts the Syracuse Orange at Williams Stadium on Aug. 31. The game will mark the first time Liberty has hosted a Power 5 opponent in Lynchburg and will start the Flames' quest to qualify for a bowl game for the first time in program history.
Date: Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019 Opponent: Syracuse (9-3, 6-2 ACC) Location: Lynchburg, Va. (Williams Stadium) Radio: LFSN Radio (Flagship Station: The Journey 88.3 FM Lynchburg) TV: TBA Kickoff: TBA
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