Conference perfection

5-0 in conference, Flames look to face Stony Brook

The Flames had a job to do, and quite simply, they got it done. There were challenges, sure, but in Saturday’s 37-31 win over visiting Virginia Military Institute (VMI) for every leak, the Flames had a patch.

Closing note — Mike Brown (10) and the rest of the Flames defeated the VMI Keycadets 38-31. For the seniors, it was their final regular season home game. Photo credit: Ruth Bibby

“Every single Saturday (the team has) dealt with some adversity,” head coach Danny Rocco said.

Exhibit A, first quarter. Just inside the 10-minute mark,VMI’s quarterback Eric Kordenbrock launched a 55-yard touchdown to receiver Tracy Hairston, silencing the crowd of 17,226. The Flames executed a nine-play, 74-yard touchdown drive in response.

Exhibit B, second quarter. Liberty faced a third-and-thirteen on their own 35-yard line, down 17-9. Senior slinger Mike Brown hit Chris Summers for a 14-yard reception, reviving a scoring drive.

Another answer, and another reception for Summers, who now has 178 for his career — a school record.

“It feels real surreal … It’s a great accomplishment for me to have all these records when I leave. I just want to give thanks to God and all my teammates, who knew that I had what it takes and my coaches who help me every week and get me ready to play,” Summers said.

“It’s been fun to watch him grow and mature,” Rocco said.

Exhibit C, third quarter. After allowing a long VMI touchdown drive, which included a 24-yard run on fourth-and-one, senior corner Kevin Fogg did what he does best, returning the ensuing kickoff for a 90-yard touchdown. That’s the third of his career and of this season — a Big South record.

“That was definitely a turning point,” Brown said. “After Fogg’s kick return, we were able to get breathing room.”

Thirty minutes later, the case was closed, the game was over and the Flames record stood at 7-3 and their conference record remained unblemished at 5-0.

The hard way

But, Liberty didn’t make this win easy on themselves from the start. Fogg fumbled the opening kickoff, giving the Keydets the ball in Flames territory.

Linebacker Chase Griffiths misjudged a short, blooper kickoff, allowing it to bounce right off his numbers. A few minutes later, the Flames found themselves in a 17-9 hole and desperately in need of momentum before halftime.

Mike Brown orchestrated a 78-yard drive, going 6-7 for 44 passing yards and a touchdown, while adding another 18 yards on the ground during the drive.

Still, Liberty went into halftime trailing a 1-7 VMI team.

Liberty’s offense came out to play in the second half, boosted by the performances of receiver Pat Kelly and running back Aldreakis Allen.

While Summers kept the defense’s attention on his side of the field, Kelly made three critical catches for 77 yards on the Flames first drive of the third quarter. All were on third down plays and put the Flames in position for Brandon Apon’s back-of-the-endzone catch.

“We have a great group of receivers across the board who can step up and make plays,” Summers said. “We’ve shown that throughout the season, any one of us can step up and I love that feeling.”

Allen was key in the Flames success in the second half. After halftime, he carried 12 times for 73 yards and provided a key block out of the shotgun to give Brown a fraction of a second more time to find Summers wide open in the end zone.

“We got Aldreakis going in the second half, that shows great resolve by our kids,” Rocco said.

The outlook

Summers and Brown said they will spend their time during the break getting back to full strength.

“The bye week will help a lot of people, including myself, get healthy,” Summers said.
The Flames will control their own destiny in their matchup with Stony Brook on Nov. 19, with the winner being crowned conference champions.

“That’s the best way to have it,” Brown said. “We wouldn’t have it any other way. We go up there 5-0 against 5-0 (Stony Brook). That’s a championship game right there.”

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