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With their head coach on the sidelines for the first time in 2019, the Flames made Head Coach Hugh Freeze's field coaching debut a success with a 35-17 victory over visiting Buffalo, Saturday night at Williams Stadium.
After undergoing back surgery in mid-August, Freeze's team activities have been limited due to his recovery process. He coached his first two games at Liberty from the booth and missed 24 practice sessions prior to this week.
Liberty's dynamic duo of senior quarterback Stephen Calvert and wide receiver Antonio Gandy-Golden dominated the game for the Flames, offensively.
Calvert posted his 13th career 300-yard game, finishing the night by completing 23-of-30 attempts for 325 yards and four touchdowns. The four scoring passes extended the senior's program record to 70 career touchdown passes.
Gandy-Golden ended the night with eight receptions for 174 yards and two touchdowns. The senior finished the night with his 12th career 100-yard game and caught his 24th and 25th career touchdown passes, all from Calvert.
Linebacker Brandon Tillmon, a late add to the Flames' starting lineup, led Liberty's strong defensive effort with a career high 11 tackles.
Elijah Benton, who missed the Louisiana game with an injury, followed with 10 stops, while Jessie Lemonier finished with nine tackles and three sacks.
Box Score Highlights: Final Score: 35-17 Liberty (1-2) Buffalo (1-2, 0-0 MAC) Location: Williams Stadium (Lynchburg, Va.) Attendance: 14,584
The Flames used the momentum of having their head coach on the field for the first time this season to piece together their most complete game of the season.
The offense scored on the game's first drive and four times before halftime to take a 28-7 lead into the intermission.
On the other side of the ball, Liberty held the Bulls to 373 offensive yards after allowing 593 total offensive yards to Louisiana, last weekend. Buffalo tallied 106 of the 373 yards during the fourth quarter when Liberty has a 25-point lead.
First Quarter • For the second week in a row, Liberty scored on the game's opening drive, jumping out to a 7-0 lead 73 seconds into the game. Calvert completed all four of his pass attempts on the up-tempo, five-play, 75-yard drive, completing a 19-yard touchdown pass to Michael Bollinger over the middle at the 13:45 mark. • Buffalo tried to respond on the following drive, marching 65 yards on 16 plays to get deep in Liberty territory. However, Alex McNulty missed wide left on a 37-yard field goal attempt, allowing the Flames to keep the Bulls off the scoreboard.
Second Quarter • The score remained the same until the first play of the second quarter when Matt Myers threaded the needle on a 13-yard pass to Dylan McDuffie at 14:56. The touchdown pass capped off a seven-play, 40-yard drive and knotted the score at 7-7. • The matching score was short lived, as Liberty regained the lead less than three minutes later. Calvert completed his last four pass attempts on the seven-play, 74-yard drive. A sideline pass to Kevin Shaa, who broke a tackle and found the end zone 33 yards later, gave Liberty a 14-7 lead at 12:12. • The Flames doubled their point total during the remainder of the quarter, taking a 28-7 lead into the intermission. • Antonio Gandy-Golden added another highlight reel touchdown reception, scoring his 24th career touchdown. He completed a 36-yard touchdown play by leaping over a defender at the goal line with 6:09 left in the quarter. • Gandy-Golden nearly got into the end zone on his next play, a 30-yard reception, at the one-yard line, setting up a one-yard scoring run by Frankie Hickson with 2:34 left before the break.
Third Quarter • After missing field goal attempts of 37 and 45 yards, McNulty split the uprights on his second attempt from 45 yards with 3:36 left to play in the third, cutting Liberty's lead to 28-10. • Gandy-Golden scored his 12th career 100-yard game with a 55-yard touchdown reception with 16 seconds left before the end of the third quarter. The senior's seventh reception of the night pushed Liberty's lead to 35-10.
Fourth Quarter • The Bulls scored on their lone possession of the fourth quarter when Myers completed a five-yard pass to Cole Burniston at 6:09 to finish off a 10-play, 89-yard drive, Buffalo's lone drive of the contest.
The Flames will play the middle game of a three-game homestand when they welcome Commonwealth foe Hampton to the "Hill City." Liberty holds a 4-2 lead in the series against the Pirates with the last matchup taking place in 1998.
Date: Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019 Location: Lynchburg, Va. (Williams Stadium) TV: ESPN+ (LFSN TV Production) Radio: LFSN Radio (Flagship Station: The Journey 88.3 FM Lynchburg) Kickoff: 6:06 p.m. (EST)