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Rutgers Snaps Liberty's Win Streak in Back-and-Forth Battle

October 26, 2019  Piscataway, N.J.  RSS
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The Flames found themselves unable to keep pace during a back-and-forth shootout on Saturday afternoon falling, 44-34, to Rutgers at SHI Stadium.

The 10-point loss snapped Liberty's five-game win streak (5-3) and gave the Scarlet Knights their first win in six games (2-6, 0-5 Big Ten). The game marked the first time in program history Liberty has matched up against a Big Ten Conference opponent.

The two teams each finished the game with 400-plus yards of offense (463 Rutgers, 413 Liberty), but the Scarlet Knights dominated the time of possession (40:48 to 19:12). Rutgers scored on 10 of their 12 possessions in the game, which included a drive where they took a knee after recovering an on-side kickoff on the game's final drive.

The Flames rushed for 100 yards during the first quarter, but was unable to keep up the run game success. Liberty finished the contest with 131 rushing yards on 27 carries.

Stephen Calvert finished the game completing 17-of-31 passing attempts for 244 yards, which included a 29-yard passing touchdown to Antonio Gandy-Golden. Liberty's top wide receiver finished the day with five receptions for 68 yards.

Joshua Mack paced the Flames' rushing efforts on the ground, rushing 11 times for 109 yards. He scored twice during his second 100-yard game of the season.

Liberty had a pair of defenders finish with double digit tackles. Jessie Lemonier matched his career high and led the team with 11 tackles. Javon Scruggs finished with a new career best 10 stops.  

Box Score Highlights:
Final Score: 44-34
Liberty (5-3)
Rutgers (2-6, 0-5 Big Ten)
Location: SHI Stadium (Piscataway, N.J.)
Attendance: 23,058

Turning Point:

On a game that saw the two teams score on nine of the first 12 drives, Rutgers' defense was able to hold the Flames to a field goal midway through the third quarter to stop the touchdown tradeoff.

An 11-play, 56-yard drive for Liberty was extended by a pair of face mask penalties against the Scarlet Knights, allowed the Flames to get to the one-yard line. However, Liberty was flagged themselves on an offside call on a fourth-and-goal play and was forced to bring the field goal unit on the field.

Rutgers put themselves two scores on the next drive, a nine-play, 75-yard that put the Scarlet Knights up 35-24 with 2:24 left in the third. Liberty was unable to catch up during the remainder of the contest.

Play-By-Play Breakdown:

First Quarter
• The two teams scored on all three possessions of the first quarter, giving the Flames a 14-7 lead with 1:50 left to play in the opening period.
• The Flames scored both of their touchdowns on the ground, giving Liberty 100 rushing yards before the end of the quarter. Frankie Hickson capped a 10-play, 80-yard drive at 11:43 with a four-yard rushing touchdown, while Joshua Mack finished off a six-play, 85-yard drive with an 18-yard rushing touchdown at 1:50.
• The Scarlet Knights matched the Flames' effort the first time they touched the ball. Johnny Langan scored from three yards out to finish off a 13-play, 75-yard drive, giving Rutgers its first touchdown of the season on its opening drive of a game.

Second Quarter
• Rutgers continued the back-and-forth battle when the Scarlet Knights tied the game at 14-14 with 10:18 of the second quarter. Rutgers finished off its second 13-play, 75-yard drive of the game with a one-yard rushing touchdown by Isaih Pacheco to tie the game.
• The Flames took to the air on the ensuing drive, quickly pushing their lead to 21-14 less than two minutes later. Calvert completed a 28-yard one-handed, over-the-shoulder touchdown receptions to Gandy-Golden at 8:29, extending the senior's record to 29 career touchdown receptions.
• For the sixth-consecutive drive of the game, a team found the end zone when Rutgers knotted the score at 21-21 with 3:16 left to play before halftime. Langan completed his first career touchdown pass, a five-yard strike to Eddie Lewis, to finish off an 11-play, 75-yard drive.

Third Quarter
• The Scarlet Knights took their first lead of the game on the opening drive of the third quarter. Rutgers had its fourth 75-yard scoring drive of the game to open the third, scoring on a 51-yard pass from Langan to Isaiah Washington three minutes into period to give the home team a 28-21 lead.
• The Flames tried to keep pace on the following drive, but had to settle for a 24-yard field goal by Alex Probert at 6:53. The 11-play, 56-yard drive was plagued by penalties, including two face mask penalties against Rutgers and an offside call on Liberty on a fourth-and-goal play from the one-yard line.
• Rutgers took control of the game during the remainder of the quarter, taking a 38-28 lead into the final period. The Scarlet Knights got a 19-yard rushing touchdown by Pacheco and a 27-yard field goal by Justin Davidovicz following a Liberty' fumble on a kickoff return.

Fourth Quarter
• The teams score four times during the fourth quarter, including three field goals (Davidovicz had a 23 and 34-yard field goal; Probert had a 46-yard field goal). The final touchdown of the game was an eight-yard run by Mack with 28 seconds remaining.

What's Next:

The Flames will continue their four-game road swing, next weekend, when Liberty travels to Amherst, Mass., to face UMass. Liberty made the same trip to McGuirk Alumni Stadium last year, where the two teams found themselves in a shootout that ended with UMass winning, 62-59, in triple overtime.

Date: Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019
Location: Amherst, Mass. (McGuirk Alumni Stadium)
TV: FloFootball/NESN
Radio: LFSN Radio (Flagship Station: The Journey 88.3 FM Lynchburg)
Kickoff: 12:00 p.m. (EST)