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Liberty Journal

New era of Flames football

Fall 2012 : Liberty University Athletics

During the last year, the face and direction of Liberty University football has changed, preparing the program to fulfill the ultimate aspirations of the university.

In December 2011, Chancellor Jerry Falwell, Jr. introduced Turner Gill as the program’s eighth head coach. At the same time, Liberty announced it was conducting a Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) feasibility study to determine the school’s appropriate placement in the intercollegiate realm.

Before a record Commencement crowd in May, Falwell declared the university’s intention to seek NCAA Division I FBS conference affiliation for its 20-team athletics program. This initiative would give the football program the chance to compete at the highest level of NCAA Division I competition.

Gill, the former head coach at the University of Kansas and a Heisman Trophy quarterback candidate at the University of Nebraska, has assembled a coaching staff at Liberty ready to face these challenges. His Christ-centered staff includes the likes of Carl Torbush, a former North Carolina head coach; Vantz Singletary, nephew of former NFL head coach Mike Singletary; and Mike Minter, a 10-year NFL veteran with the Carolina Panthers.

Gill’s first squad at Liberty returns 15 starters and 40 letterwinners from the 2011 season, a campaign that capped off the most successful five-year run in program history.

The Liberty Flames, a perennial Top 25 program, have launched their quest to capture their fifth conference title in the last six seasons and qualify for the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.

“We have an exciting non-conference schedule that will prepare us well for our conference games,” Gill said regarding the 2012 slate.

In the first game of the season on Sept. 1, Liberty played the Atlantic Coast Conference team Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons were favored to win by 28 points, but barely pulled out the victory over Liberty with only a 3-point margin, stopping the Flames in the fourth quarter to secure a 20-17 victory. Liberty dominated much of the game in statistics, amassing 363 total offensive yards to Wake Forest’s 293 yards. The three-time Orange Bowl contender congratulated Liberty in their Twitter feed later in the night, noting “Great performance from Liberty tonight. Would like to wish them the best of luck this season ... .”

Following two games on the road (Wake Forest and University of Montana) and two at home (Norfolk State and Lehigh), Liberty will begin its 11th season of Big South Conference play against Gardner-Webb inside Williams Stadium on Oct. 6. Liberty leads the all-time series 9-8-1, with the Flames picking up the victory in each of the last five meetings.

The Flames’ next two Big South contests will be played on the road, with Liberty traveling to Clinton, S.C., to face Presbyterian College on Oct. 13, and Conway, S.C., to square off against Coastal Carolina on Oct. 27. Liberty has won three in a row against he Presbyterian Blue Hose and four out of the last five. The Flames have also won four out of the last five meetings with Coastal Carolina.

Sandwiched between the two Big South road battles will be the Flames’ final regular-season, non-conference game against Concord on Oct. 20. Liberty has a perfect 4-0 record against the Mountain Lions, who are coming off a 2011 West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship season.

Liberty will open the month of November with consecutive Big South home games. The Flames face Charleston Southern on Nov. 3, a team Liberty has defeated six consecutive times. Liberty leads the longest running series in program history, 17-2, having faced the Buccaneers each year since 1993.

Liberty will close out the home portion of its 2012 regular-season schedule against defending Big South champion Stony Brook on Nov. 10. The Flames then wrap up the regular-season portion of the 2012 schedule in their annual Blue Ridge Mountain clash with in-state foe Virginia Military Institute on Nov. 17 in Foster Stadium, a place Liberty has won its last four games by scoring an average of 38.8 points per game.

By virtue of capturing the Big South’s automatic bid or impressing the NCAA Selection Committee with several wins during its non-conference slate, Liberty will look to hear its name announced among the 20-team NCAA FCS playoff field on Nov. 19.

2012 Football schedule at a glance 

Sept. 1 at Wake Forest, 6:30 p.m.

Sept. 8 Norfolk State, 7 p.m.

Sept. 15 at Montana, 3:30 p.m.

Sept. 22  Lehigh, 7 p.m.

Oct. 6  Gardner-Webb*, 3:30 p.m. Homecoming Weekend

Oct. 13 at Presbyterian College*, 2:00 p.m.

Oct. 20  Concord, 3:30 p.m. Family/Parent's Weekend

Oct. 27 at Coastal Carolina*, 3 p.m.

Nov. 3 Charleston Southern, 3:30 p.m. College For A Weekend

Nov. 10 Stony Brook, 3:30 p.m. Military Appreciation Day/Senior Day

Nov. 17 at VMI*, 1:30 p.m.

Nov. 24 NCAA FCS Playoffs (First Round)

Dec. 1 NCAA FCS Playoffs (Second Round)

Dec. 8 NCAA FCS Playoffs (Quarterfinals)

Dec. 14-15 NCAA FCS Playoffs (Semifinals)  

Jan. 5 NCAA FCS Playoffs (National Championship Game at Pizza Hut Park, Frisco, Texas)

*Big South Conference game

Liberty's Big South preseason all-conference selections

WR Pat Kelly, Sr.

OL Malcolm Boyd, Sr.

DL Francis Bah, Jr.

LB Nick Sigmon, So.

DB Walt Aikens, Jr.

DB Kevin Fogg, Sr.

LS Richard Wright, Jr.

KR Kevin Fogg, Sr.

Big South preseason poll

1. Stony Brook, (15) 123

2. Liberty, (3) 108

3. Coastal Carolina, 74

4. Presbyterian College, 69

5. Gardner-Webb, 65

6. VMI, 38

7. Charleston Southern, 27

(Numbers in parentheses indicate first-place votes)