Flames fall in final minutes

Photo credit: Ruth Bibby

The scene in Winston-Salem was all too familiar for Flames fans—their team came up just short in a winnable game against an Atlantic Coast Conference opponent.

Needing three points to tie, or a touchdown to win, the Flames had what should have been the last possession of the game when they took over at their own 19-yard line with just over three minutes left in the game.

High caliber — Senior Justin Gunn, No.42, leaves a trail of defenders in his wake en route to a 47-yard gain. Photo credit: Ruth Bibby

Quarterback Brian Hudson methodically guided the team down the field to Liberty’s 44-yard line with just over a minute-and-a-half remaining. However, consecutive incompletions on third and fourth down, intended for Elliott Dutra and Justin Gunn, ended the drive, and Liberty turned the ball over to Wake Forest with just over a minute left in the game.

“We came in here expecting to win,” senior wide receiver Dutra said. “We did not have any intention of losing this game, and we fell short. We got some things that we have to fix­—on defense, on offense, on special teams.”

The game opened promisingly. As expected, the Flames veteran defense gave the Demon Deacons offense all it could handle, allowing just seven points and forcing six Wake Forest punts in the first half. The front seven limited the running game and the secondary held opposing quarterback Tanner Price to under 100 yards in the first half.

In addition, Liberty broke Price’s streak of 181 pass attempts without an interception when linebacker Marques Jenkins picked off a pass just beyond the line of scrimmage at the start of the second quarter.

“I’m proud of the way they came out. The defense played a heck of a ball game,” head coach Turner Gill said. “The thing I was hoping we would be able to do was be able to tackle well. I think that was the key, and for the most part, we tackled pretty well and didn’t give them any big plays.”

Dashing — Kevin Fogg returns a kick at BB&T stadium. Photo credit: Ruth Bibby

On the offensive side, Liberty scored on its second possession on a 37-yard strike from Hudson. Dutra found a crease straight up the middle of the field and Hudson hit him perfectly in stride for an easy touchdown.

“As we were planning, the safeties weren’t supposed to leave the middle of the field open, but I looked up and saw the safeties both go out of the way. I double-checked because I didn’t think that was supposed to happen,” Dutra said. “I just put a move on them and went straight to the middle and God blessed me with the catch.

In a scripted but nevertheless unusual move, Gill then turned the keys to the offense over to Josh Woodrum, who took over at quarterback for the next two series. Woodrum, who was forced to start each of his drives from inside his own 20, completed one of three pass attempts and rushed for eight yards on two carries without a first down. After Woodrum’s two series, Hudson returned for the remainder of the game, presumably having won the position.

“One good thing: I think we found our quarterback,” Gill said. “Brian Hudson came in and did a very good job.”

At the end of the first half, Liberty had what appeared to be an excellent shot at a go-ahead touchdown, but poor clock management left the Flames with only enough time for a 49-yard field goal attempt. Playing in his first collegiate football game, freshman John Lunsford had enough leg on the ball to make the kick from 60 yards, but hooked it right.

Liberty took the field in the second half and marched straight down the field, scoring on a 75-yard drive to claim a 14-7 third quarter lead. SirChauncey Holloway capped the drive with a 14-yard touchdown catch out of the backfield. The play was set up by a 47-yard reception by senior Justin Gunn, on which he broke several tackles to put Liberty in the red zone. Holloway finished with 91 all-purpose yards, and Gunn hauled in three catches for 66 yards.

With the ball and the lead on the Flames 30-yard line, the Liberty faithful participating in the Shake N Bake to Wake caravan had great cause for hope. That is, until Wake Forest’s AJ Marshall stepped in front of a Hudson pass and ran it 39 yards the other way for six points. The point after tied the game at 14 with four minutes to go in the third quarter.

Photo credit: Ruth Bibby

“I just threw it late. He was open, the window closed, I threw it late. I’ll take responsibility for that and learn from it,” Hudson said.

At the start of the fourth quarter, Wake Forest capped a nine play, 60 yard scoring drive with a two yard scoring run. The point after attempt failed, leaving the score at 20-14.

The Flames responded, moving the ball downfield on their next possession and connecting on a 49-yard field goal, cutting the Wake Forest lead to three. But that seemed to be all the Flames offense could muster.

“Our guys came out and played hard all four quarters. Nobody gave up. Nobody lost faith. We believed we could do it,” Hudson said. “We almost pulled it out. We left a couple plays out there, and if we wouldn’t have left those out there, I think we definitely could have come away with the victory.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *