Weathering the outer effects of Hurricane Sandy, Coastal Carolina had another stellar rushing day and kept Liberty's offense in check to secure a 36-12 win over the Flames, Saturday afternoon, at Brooks Stadium.
With the victory, Coastal Carolina evens its overall record at 4-4 on the season and is now 2-1 in Big South play.
The loss snaps Liberty's three-game win streak and drops the Flames back to 3-5 on the year and 2-1 in league play.
The effects of the storm made themselves known quickly, leading to the game's first score. After the Flames forced a three-and-out series on the opening drive, Liberty started to march down the field.
A sideline pass from Josh Woodrum hit Pat Kelly in stride, but the ball slipped through the hands of the senior wideout and hung in the air long enough for LaDarius Hawthorne to grab it return the miscue 66 yards for a touchdown.
Coastal Carolina called a direct snap to Austin Cain on the extra point and he carried the ball into the end zone for the two-point conversion and a quick 8-0 lead for the home team with 10:37 left to play in the first quarter.
A 23-yard kickoff return by D.J. Abnar and a 20-yard carry by Aldreakis Allen gave pushed the Flames into Coastal Carolina territory on the next drive. However, the drive stalled at the 27-yard line and Liberty was forced to settle for a 44-yard field goal by John Lunsford just over two minutes later to trim the lead back to five, 8-3.
The two teams' defenses started to settle in after that drive with the punters picking up the game's most significant yardage until late in the second quarter.
Aramis Hillary sparked the Chanticleers' offense with back-to-back rushes, with the second being an 18-yard carry to get Coastal Carolina outside of its own 20-yard line.
The senior then completed four straight passing attempts, with the fourth crossing midfield on a three-yard gain by Jeremy Height.
On the next play, Height was handed the ball on a draw play which created a hole on the right side of the offensive line big enough for him to get out into the open and score with 1:37 left before the break. His 46-yard scamper pushed Coastal Carolina's margin to 12 and put the home team up 15-3 heading into the locker room.
Neither team's offense found much of a rhythm during the opening 30 minutes of play, with Coastal Carolina outgaining the Flames, 156 to 98.
Allen led the Flames' ground game that gained 55 yards on a rain-soaked Brooks Stadium grass playing surface. The junior carried the ball 10 times for 36 yards. Sirchauncey Holloway followed with seven carries for 22 yards.
Height was Coastal Carolina's leading rusher with five carries for 48 yards, followed by Hillary who scrambled for 42 yards on five attempts.
Woodrum completed 8-of-14 passing attempts for 43 yards, while Hillary was 9-of-15 for 59 yards. Kelly led all receivers with five receptions for 25 yards, while Matt Hazel was one of four Coastal Carolina receivers to have two receptions and he had 17 receiving yards.
The two teams continued to be unable to find any consistent offensive push until Coastal went to its ground game midway through the third quarter.
Height was given the ball for six straight plays, including carries of 12 and 26 yards, that allowed Coastal Carolina to penetrate the red zone. On the sixth and final play of the drive, the running back rushed up the middle for a two-yard score to push Coastal Carolina's lead to 22-3 with 5:41 left to play in the third quarter.
As it did during the first half, Liberty mounted a drive directly after the Chanticleers first cracked the scoreboard, but the drive would only result in another lengthy field goal.
Liberty managed to get to the Coastal Carolina 31-yard line, where Allen was stopped on a three-yard loss. That set up a 50-yard Lunsford field goal at the 2:58 mark of the quarter.
Liberty's defense stiffened up from there and looked like it was going to continue to keep Coastal Carolina in check. However, on a third-and-14 play from the home team's 10-yard line, Hillary scrambled, picking up a first down and keeping a drive alive that sealed the win.
Seven plays later, Hillary completed a three-yard passing play to the back of the end zone to Chris Presley with 11:22 left to go in the game. The touchdown gave Coastal Carolina a 29-6 lead and sealed the Chanticleers' second Big South win of the year.
Both teams managed to score again during the remaining time in the ball game, but neither scoring effort affected the game's outcome.
A Woodrum to Kelly connection on the next drive allowed the Flames to score one more time. The redshirt freshman found Kelly four times on the 11-play, 75-yard drive, including a 19-yard scoring pass with 8:11 left to play in the game.
After Woodrum was intercepted for the second of three times on the day, backup quarterback Alex Ross gave the Chanticleers their final score on a three-yard run with just under two minutes left.
After rushing for 331 yards against VMI last weekend, Coastal Carolina took to the ground again on Saturday, picking up 226 of its 342 total offensive yards via the rush.
Height missed a 100-yard game by one yard, carrying the ball 12 times for 99 yards and two touchdowns. Hillary followed with 10 rushing attempts for 87 yards.
Liberty, who finished the game with 265 total offensive yards, was led on the ground by Allen, who rushed 16 times for 50 yards. Holloway was limited to 33 rushing yards on 10 carries.
Woodrum finished the game completing 25-of-42 passing attempts for 179 yards, but was intercepted three times. Hillary completed 13-of-21 attempts for 113 yards.
DeMario Bennett finished as Coastal Carolina's top receiver, collecting three receptions for 53 yards.
Kelly had a career day, finishing the game with 16 receptions for 122 yards and a touchdown. With the His 16-catch day surpasses the previous record of 15 receptions by Josh Stofle (South Florida/2001) and Chris Summers (Stony Brook/2011).
Additionally, Kelly's 16-reception game moved him into third place on Liberty's career receiving charts. Kelly, who now has 145 career receptions, moved past Wynton Jackson (143 career receptions) and Brandon Turner (138 career receptions) during the game.
Four different Flames finished the game with a half-dozen stops, including Brent Vinson, Kenny Scott, Thomas Nelson and Scott Hyland. Hyland's six-stop effort allowed him to become the fourth active player on Liberty's roster with 100 career tackles.
Coastal Carolina's stout defensive effort was paced by Quinn Backus, who finished the game with 15 tackles (seven solo, eight assisted), 1.5 tackles for a loss, a sack, a forced fumble and an interception.
The Flames will start their final regular season homestand next weekend when Liberty hosts Charleston Southern. Saturday afternoon's kickoff inside Williams Stadium is set for 3:30 p.m.
Liberty has won its last six matchups against the Buccaneers and is 17-2 all-time against Charleston Southern.
The Buccaneers will enter the game riding a three-game win streak after posting a 42-7 victory over Edward Waters at home earlier today.