Matchup with No. 6 Villanova awaits

As the Flames walked off the field following a loss to Charleston Southern in the last home game of the season two weeks ago, making the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs seemed to be an improbable dream more than a legitimate possibility.

Photo credit: Joel Coleman

Photo credit: Joel Coleman

With Liberty’s postseason hopes on the line in the final seconds of the ensuing game, Coastal Carolina kicker Alex Catron lined up for a 24-yard field goal and the No. 1 Chanticleers had all but sealed a Big South Championship. But the Flames had other plans. As time expired, Liberty defensive end Chima Uzowihe got a hand on the ball, blocking the kick and sending the Flames to the playoffs for the first time in school history.

“I attended Liberty’s first football game in 1973 at age 11, and I had been waiting for Liberty to make the playoffs since then — for more than 40 years,” President Jerry Falwell said. “… I (am) so proud of (Athletic Director) Jeff Barber, (Head) Coach Turner Gill and the guys on the team for finally breaking down that barrier for Liberty University. … It is so wonderful to see how Coach Gill has built incredible character in the players on the team. He leads by example, and the result has been a team that plays with more heart than any football team I have seen on the field.”

The Flames continued to make history when they traveled to Harrisonburg, Virginia, and beat the James Madison University Dukes Saturday, Nov. 29, with a score of 26-21. In addition to winning its first playoff game in program history, Liberty snapped a six-game losing streak against the Dukes and put a stop to the Dukes’ seven-game winning streak.

According to Falwell, who received the game ball following Saturday’s game, Liberty’s current success is “worth every penny we’ve invested in the program,” and winning against high-caliber opponents “will open new doors for our football program in so many ways.”

Gill said he was pleased the team persevered in order to reach the playoffs.

“I’m so proud of this football team,” Gill said in a News & Advance article. “They could have given up a whole lot of times this season, but they haven’t. They continue to fight. … They continue to understand what belief is, what faith is and what teamwork is.”

Falwell praised Gill, saying he has played a vital role in the development of the football program over the past few years.

“Jeff Barber and I are proud to have played a role in bringing Coach Turner Gill to Liberty University,” Falwell said. “He is definitely the right man in the right place at the right time to take Liberty University football to the next level with integrity and in a way that honors Christ.”

As they continue their playoff run, the Flames will travel to Villanova, Pennsylvania, to take on the No. 6 seed Villanova University Wildcats Saturday, Dec. 6 at 4:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 each and can be purchased online by searching “tickets” on Liberty’s website or by calling 434-582-7328. The game will also be broadcast on ESPN3, ESPN’s online live streaming service.

BROWN is the editor-in-chief.

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