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Flames Bowl Eligible Following 49-28 Senior Day Win

November 30, 2019  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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 Postgame Press Conference

The 2019 Flames' senior class will hold a special place in Liberty Athletics history, as this group's final win at Williams Stadium, a 49-28 victory over New Mexico State, earned the team bowl eligibility for the first time in program history.

The NCAA announced in August the Flames had completed their two-year FBS reclassification process, giving the Flames a single-focus goal during the 2019 season. With the win, Liberty becomes the 76th bowl eligible team in the country.

Prior to the game, the Flames honored their 17-member senior class. This group of helped usher in a new era of Liberty Football, providing leadership during the reclassification process and extended Liberty's consecutive winning season streak to 14 seasons in a row. The group also gave the Flames their 17th seven-win season in school history.

Several of Liberty's offensive standouts during the 2019 season are a part of this year's senior class, including quarterback Stephen Calvert, wide receiver Antonio Gandy-Golden and running back Frankie Hickson.

Hickson joined Calvert and Gandy-Golden in the Flames' record books on the day, finishing his final home with career-high 196 rushing yards on 29 carries and four touchdowns. With his yardage on Senior Day, Hickson moved into fourth place on Liberty's all-time career rushing yards list (2,772).

Calvert started his 42nd-consecutive game, finishing his final contest at Williams Stadium by completing 16-of-29 passing attempts for 169 yards. The senior is Liberty's all-time career leader in passing yards (11,755), touchdown passes (91) and total offense (11,283).

Calvert's top target over the last four years has been Gandy-Golden. The senior started his 31st career game and finished the day four receptions for 29 yards. The senior will graduate as the program's all-time leader in career receptions (235), receiving yards (3,751) and touchdown receptions (32).

Fellow senior Elijah Benton led the Flames' defensive effort, finishing the game with seven tackles, a 17-yard sack and three pass breakups. The Lynchburg native is Liberty's active career leader with 199 career tackles.

Box Score Highlights:
Final Score: 49-28
Liberty (7-5)
New Mexico State (2-10)
Location: Williams Stadium (Lynchburg, Va.)
Attendance: 18,674

Turning Point:

In a season where Liberty depended heavily on its passing attack to post huge numbers, game after game, the Flames took to the ground game to grind out a win on a soggy Military Appreciation Day game.

The Flames racked up 486 total offensive yards, rushing for a season-high 317 yards on 49 carries (6.5 yards per rushing attempt). The rushing total was Liberty's highest since it rushed for the same amount against Presbyterian College on Nov. 11, 2017.

Liberty came into the game ranked No. 16 in the country in passing offense (301.4 yards per game). Prior to today, 68.8 percent of Liberty's offense in 2019 came via its passing game.

Play-By-Play Breakdown:

First Quarter
• The Flames wasted little time getting on the scoreboard, taking a 7-0 lead 11:55 into the contest. On a day set to honor the senior class, it was a freshman who got into the end zone first when Noah Frith caught a five-yard touchdown pass from Calvert to cap a six-play, 30-yard drive that started following the game's first turnover.
• The Aggies answered midway through the quarter, tying the game at 7-7 at 6:44. A one-yard touchdown run by Christian Gibson was set up by a 35-yard pass play from Josh Adkins to Robert Downs III, into double coverage near the goal line.
• Liberty regained the lead with 3:18 left to play in the quarter when Alex Probert connected on a 46-yard field goal. The nine-play, 37-yard scoring drive gave the Flames a 10-7 lead heading into the second quarter.

Second Quarter
• Liberty extended its lead to 13-7 following Probert's second field goal of the day, a 24-yard kick at the 14:17 mark of the second quarter.
• During the longest drive of the first half, a 95-yard drive, Hickson moved over the 100-yard rushing mark for the eighth time in his career. The senior finished the 10-play drive with a seven-yard rushing touchdown, pushing Liberty's lead to 20-7 at 8:37.
• New Mexico State made it a one-score game before the halftime intermission, piecing together a 75-yard drive. Adkins finished the nine-play effort with a one-yard touchdown pass to Andre Bodison with 4:26 left in the half, making it a 20-14 game.

Third Quarter
• The Flames kept the ball on the ground seven times on the opening drive of the third quarter. Hickson capped the eight-play, 69-yard drive with a two-yard rushing touchdown, extending Liberty's lead to 26-14 at 12:05.
• Liberty started to put the game out of reach during the rest of the third quarter, scoring on a 21-yard field by Probert at 8:06 and a two-yard rushing touchdown by Joshua Mack with 35 seconds left in the quarter.
• The Aggies attempted to stay in the game, trimming Liberty's lead to 29-21 following a 27-yard touchdown pass from Adkins to Downs at 5:27.

Fourth Quarter
• Hickson continued to dominate during the fourth quarter, scoring two more times to give him a career-best four rushing touchdowns on the night.
• The senior capped his career at Williams Stadium with a pair of nine-yard rushing touchdowns at 14:25 and 5:46 to extend Liberty's lead to 49-21.
New Mexico State was able to score once more during the waning seconds of the contest, getting a three-yard touchdown pass from Adkins to Tony Nicholson with 60 seconds remaining in the game.

What's Next:
Having reached bowl eligibility with the win over the Aggies today, the Flames will now await their bowl game destination. The full bowl game schedule will be announced during the afternoon of Sunday, Dec. 8. Stay tuned to and the Liberty Athletics social media accounts for more information.