Liberty's first-ever matchup against the nation's elite FBS conference lived up to its billing, as the Flames ended a three-game road trip with a 53-0 shutout loss to the Auburn Tigers, Saturday afternoon at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
The Tigers came into the game with the No. 14 ranked defense in the country, as Auburn had held its opponents to 18.3 points per game. The result gave Liberty its first shutout loss since Sept. 24, 2005, ending a streak of 153-straight games without scoring.
The Flames opened the game with a 12-play, 42-yard drive, but ended up turning the ball over on downs after not getting enough yardage on a fourth-and-four play. Liberty finished the game with 134 total offensive yards, its lowest offensive output of the season.
Auburn's stout defense forced the Flames to turn the ball over four times, including two interceptions by Liberty quarterback Stephen Calvert. The junior, who has been intercepted 11 times in the last four games, finished the afternoon completing 9-of-28 attempts for 79 yards.
The game was played in front of 81,129 fans, marking it the largest crowd to see a Flames football game in program history. The figure surpassed the attendance figure of 62,234 for the Liberty vs. Virginia Tech game at Lane Stadium in Blacksburg, Va., on Sept. 3, 2016.
Box Score Highlights: Final Score: 53-0 Liberty (4-6) Auburn (7-4, 3-4 SEC) Location: Jordan-Hare Stadium (Auburn, Ala.) Attendance: 81,129
The Flames had their best offensive drive of the first half on the game's opening possession, but came away from the 12-play, 42-yard without putting points on the scoreboard.
During the drive that took 5:57 off the clock, Liberty used a balanced attack with six rushing plays and six passing plays to move the ball downfield. Stephen Calvert completed 5-of-6 passing attempts, but his pass in the flat to Peytton Pickett came up one yard short on a fourth-and-four play, giving the Tigers the ball for the first time on the day on the turnover on downs.
A quick six-play, 31-yard drive was finished on a 53-yard field goal, started a stretch where the Tigers scored 12 points over a 55-second period to take control of the game.
After the Flames' opening possession, Liberty had three three-and-out series during the remainder of the half and managed to only tally an additional 6:18 of time of possession.
First Quarter • The Tigers scored 12 points over a 55-second span to jump out to an early lead midway through the first quarter. Anders Carlson knocked down a 53-yard field goal at 7:40, while Darrell Williams intercepted a Calvert pass and returned it 26 yards for a score 11 seconds later. The Flames were forced to punt on their next drive, but Aidan Alves' punt was blocked and went out of the back of the end zone at the 6:45 mark for a safety. • Auburn pushed its lead to 15-0 with 12 seconds left in the quarter when Carlson knocked down a short 20-yard field goal. The 11-play, 77-yard drive saw Jarrett Stidham complete 3-of-4 pass attempts for 35 yards.
Second Quarter • The Tigers pushed their lead to 22-0 with 11:01 left before halftime when Stidham called his own number on a one-yard run on a fourth-and-goal play. Auburn on the ground nine times during the 10-play, 72-yard drive that took 3:35 off the game clock. • Auburn scored two more times before the halftime break, taking a 32-0 lead into the locker room. Carlson had his third field goal of the game at 3:04, knocking down a 49-yarder, while a Calvert fumble in Tiger territory on the next drive set up a 22-yard touchdown pass from Stidham to Sal Cannella at 1:03 to add to the home team's lead.
Third Quarter • The Eagles quickly pushed their lead to 39-0 on the fourth play of the third quarter. Stidham found Seth Williams open deep downfield for a diving 45-yard touchdown reception in the end zone by the freshman at 13:19. • Auburn scored two more times during the rest of the third quarter, pushing its lead to 53-0 after 45 minutes of play. The Tigers scored on a pair of lengthy rushing plays with Shaun Shivers scoring from 25 yards out at 5:46 and Malik Willis scoring on a 16-yard run with 13 seconds left in the quarter.
Fourth Quarter • Neither team added points to the scoreboard during the final 15 minutes of play with both teams having two offensive series each during the final period.
Following three-straight road games, Liberty returns home to Williams Stadium to close out its first season at the FBS level with back-to-back home games. For the second time in 2018, Liberty will square off against New Mexico State when they welcome the Aggies to the "Hill City" next Saturday. New Mexico State defeated the Flames, 49-41, at Aggie Memorial Stadium on Oct. 6 in an offensive shootout that featured a combined 1,085 yards of total offense.
Date: Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018 Location: Lynchburg, Va. (Williams Stadium) Radio: LFSN Radio (Flagship Station: The Journey 88.3 FM Lynchburg) TV: ESPN3 (LFSN TV production) Kickoff: 2 p.m. (EST)