Monmouth scored the first four times it touched the ball, pushing the Hawks to a 56-39 Homecoming victory over visiting Liberty, Saturday, at Kessler Stadium.
Monmouth's offense continued its trend in 2017. The Hawks came into the game leading the Big South and ranking No. 23 in the country in scoring offense (34.0 points per game). The 56 points allowed ties a program record for the most points allowed by the Flames in a Big South game (Liberty also allowed 56 points to Elon on Nov. 9, 2002).
The two teams combined for 1,137 yards in the contest, with Monmouth edging Liberty, 608 to 529. The Hawks did most of their damage on the ground, rushing for 364 yards on 43 carries (8.5 yards per carry). The Flames have now allowed a combined 862 rushing yards and 10 rushing touchdowns in their first two Big South contests of the year.
With the win, Monmouth moves to 6-1 and opens Big South play at 1-0. Liberty drops its fourth game in a row, falling to 3-4 and 0-2 in conference action. A trend continued in the five-game series between the two schools, as the home team has won each time the squads have met.
Monmouth's Eric Zokouri (193 yards, two touchdowns) and Pete Guerriero (162 yards, one touchdown) became the first running back tandem in Liberty's program history to rush for over 150 yards in the same game against the Flames.
Kenji Bahar finished the game by completing 14-of-25 passing attempts for 244 yards and two touchdowns. His top target was Reggie White, Jr. The All-Big South wideout finished the game with 10 receptions for 187 yards and two touchdowns.
Liberty's Stephen Calvert surpassed the 400-yard passing mark for the second time in 2017. The sophomore completed 25-of-50 attempts for 408 yards and tied a season best with five touchdowns.
Antonio Gandy-Golden (nine receptions, two touchdowns) and B.J. Farrow (126 yards, one touchdown) led Liberty's receivers. Carrington Mosley finished as Liberty's leading rusher, recording 10 carries for 71 yards.
Liberty's Rion Davis led all defenders in the game with a career high eight tackles (six solo, two assisted). Monmouth's Mike Basile finished with a team-best seven stops, all solo tackles.
For the second week in a row, Liberty scored on its opening drive by getting its ground game going behind Mosley and back field mate Frankie Hickson. The pair picked up 61 of 75 yards on the 10-play scoring drive, capped by Hickson's five-yard touchdown with 11:15 left in the first quarter.
Monmouth wasted little time answering. Guerriero returned the ensuing kickoff 95 yards for a score. The longest kickoff return in Monmouth history knotted the score 15 seconds later.
The Hawks took the lead for good five minutes later. Zokouri burst up the middle to score from 25 yards out. Bahar completed both of his passing attempts during the six-play, 72-yard drive, helping Monmouth open up a 14-7 lead.
A fourth-down conversion on Monmouth's next drive allowed the Hawks to keep an 11-play, 76-yard scoring drive alive. Bahar completed a 10-yard pass to White on a fourth-and-six play to set up Lonnie Moore's 12-yard rushing touchdown. The sophomore's scoring play gave the home team a 21-7 lead with 45 second left in the opening quarter.
Liberty narrowed the gap to eight points on the third play of the second quarter. Calvert completed a 76-yard touchdown pass to Farrow, the junior's eighth TD reception of the season. However, Liberty missed extra point, trimming the Monmouth lead to 21-13 at the 14:19 mark.
Monmouth thrilled its Homecoming crowd, scoring on its fourth-straight drive of the game, when Zokouri recorded his third multiple rushing touchdown game of his rookie season. The freshman scored from 35 yards out to push the home team's lead to 28-13 with 11:32 left before halftime.
Both team scored during the closing minutes of the first half. Monmouth extended its lead to 35-13 with 2:01 left. Guerriero broke free for a 41-yard rushing touchdown.
Calvert completed 3-of-4 passing attempts on the following drive, including a 23-yard touchdown pass to Cephas Reddick with 70 seconds left before the intermission, to give the Hawks a 35-19 lead at the break.
Monmouth seemed to put the game out of reach on its first drive of the third quarter. Bahar completed a pair of passing attempts to White on a six-play, 73-yard drive, including an eight-yard pass lofted into the corner of the end zone at 12:04, pushing the Hawks lead to 42-19.
Following a four-yard touchdown run by Devell Jones to push Monmouth's lead to 30 points, 49-19, Liberty attempted a rally.
Like it did against Kennesaw State last weekend, the Flames scored three times in less than a six-minute span to trim the lead to 10 points, 49-39.
Gandy-Golden had both his touchdown receptions (24 and 33 yards) during the timespan, while Calvert hooked up on a 22-yard passing play to Damian King.
However, a 61-yard touchdown play by White sealed the Homecoming victory for the Hawks with just under 12 minutes left to play in the contest.
The Flames will conclude a two-game road swing next Saturday, when they travel to Boiling Springs, N.C., to face Gardner-Webb. The Big South battle gets underway at Noon and the game will be televised on The Stadium Network.
Photos provided by Jon Lambert: