Kennesaw hoo?

Flames win Homecoming game over KSU Owls 45-35

The Liberty Flames (4-4, 1-2) defeated the Kennesaw State Owls (5-2, 1-1) 45-35 in record-breaking fashion to ignite the improbable push for the playoffs that senior quarterback Josh Woodrum predicted four days before the game.

Dagger — Sophomore running back Todd Macon put the game away with the final touchdown of the night. Photo credit: Leah Seavers

Dagger — Sophomore running back Todd Macon put the game away with the final touchdown of the night. Photo credit: Leah Seavers

During the weekly press conference Tuesday before the Oct. 24 game, Woodrum expressed frustration with some of the fanbase and said his team was not done and they would win the next four games to make it to the playoffs. While that prediction seemed absurd to most, the tiny glimmer of hope got a little bigger with the Flames homecoming win over the Owls.

“We are finally over how we have been playing this season,” Woodrum said. “I essentially challenged the team and told the nation that we were going to step up and play better.”

In the midst of the Flames first home game in 35 days, Williams Stadium packed in its third largest crowd in stadium history and the Flames fed off the energy they had missed for more than a month.

“It was great to be back home,” Liberty Head Coach Turner Gill said. “Our home crowd was definitely advantageous for us.”

The Flames stalled out on the opening drive and the Owls got their turn. Kennesaw State came out with the triple-option they have torched teams with this season. They marched down the field in six and a half minutes to score the first points of the game and take the lead.

The Flames got the ball back with a determintion to keep the Owls from getting anymore momentum. They drove to the Owls 33-yard line before Woodrum was blitzed on a first-and-15 pass play. Woodrum managed to find senior wide receiver Darrin Peterson on the short slant route, and Peterson took off down the field and dove at the pylon for the touchdown.

“He is so electric,” Woodrum said. “He is such a dynamic player.”

With the game tied up, the Flames offense got back on the field. Peterson ran another slant route, this time down the middle of the field, and Woodrum easily hit him in stride while Peterson ran into the end zone untouched.

“I thought they would give me double team and that obviously didn’t happen,” Peterson said. “That’s their problem, not mine.”

On the very next Liberty series, Woodrum threw a simple screen pass to Peterson, who did the rest, racing for an 80-yard score. Even with only four catches, Peterson had three touchdowns and 164 yards.

On that play, Woodrum broke the Liberty career passing yards record and Peterson had his 15th career 100-yard game, also a school record. In addition, Peterson tied the record for most career receiving touchdowns in a Liberty jersey.

“I honestly didn’t know I even beat (the record),” Peterson said. “I don’t look to break records. I feel like when you do the things you’re supposed to do all the individual stats will fall in place.”

The Flames immediately got the ball back after forcing a punt and drove to the 40-yard line before bringing out senior kicker John Lunsford. Lunsford was kicking 50 percent on the season, but clearly had the leg to make the 57-yarder, as seen one year earlier when he kicked a 60-yard field goal, also during the homecoming game.

“I would preferably have a 50 plus,” Lunsford said. “I don’t really like the short ones. I don’t know what it is. I feel more comfortable with the longer ones. I feel like I can hit them better.”

Lunsford converted the 57-yarder for his 12th career 50 plus yard field goal, an FCS record, to send the Flames into halftime with a comfortable 24-7 lead.

“That’s pretty cool to have the record,” Lunsford said. “It’s just confidence. I know I can do it. We’ve had a few blocked field goals this year and some misses, but I think that’s done and over with.”

The Owls came out in the second half determined to get back in the game, but every time they scored, the Flames answered right back. The Owls combined for 307 yards rushing in the game, and quarterback Trey White rushed for three touchdowns.

Senior running back Desmond Rice, sophomore running back Todd Macon and redshirt freshman wide receiver B.J. Farrow all added touchdowns in the second half. Farrow’s was his first receiving touchdown of the year.

The Owls put up 28 points in the second half, but the Flames matched them with 21 of their own to come out victorious 45-35.

“The offense played great,” Woodrum said. “I thought defense did really well in the first half, but we (have) to finish a little more on that.”

With only three games left in the season, it will take more than just three wins from the Flames for Woodrum’s prediction to come true. They will need multiple losses from others in the conference to get the automatic Big South bid, or favor from the FCS playoff selection committee to get an at-large bid. Either way, Woodrum still believes his team can go all the way.

“I wouldn’t call it a prediction,” Woodrum said. “I just have confidence in my team.”

SCHMIEG is the asst. sports editor.

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