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Liberty Holds Off FIU in Home Opener, 36-34

September 26, 2020  Lynchburg, Va.   RSS
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Postgame Notes

Postgame Quotes

Top Plays: FIU

Liberty defended its Williams Stadium turf on Saturday, holding on for a 36-34 home-opening win over the visiting FIU Panthers in a game televised nationally on ESPNU.

The win pushes Liberty's (2-0) overall winning streak to four games and extends its home winning streak to six. The Flames are 2-0 against Conference USA opponents this season, while FIU opens its season at 0-1.

Following up a big opening week, Flames quarterback Malik Willis completed 24-of-30 passes for 285 yards and two touchdowns while also running for 85 yards on 13 carries. Liberty's Joshua Mack (107 yard rushing, one TD) and DJ Stubbs (119 yard receiving, one TD) both broke 100-yard milestones in the win. Alex Barbir made a career-high three field goals for Liberty.

D'vonte Price led FIU with 148 yards on 13 carries and two rushing touchdowns while also adding a touchdown reception.

Liberty outgained the Panthers 527-304, with Durell Johnson accounting for 2.5 out of the Flames' five sacks. A Jayod Sanders' sack sealed the win with 1:32 remaining. The Panthers committed 15 penalties in the game for 127 yards.

The Flames trailed 28-27 heading into the fourth quarter and scored nine points during the final quarter to claim their first win since Nov. 4, 2017 against Duquesne when trailing after three quarters.

Box Score Highlights:
Final Score: 36-34
FIU (0-1, 0-0 C-USA)
Liberty (2-0)
Location: Williams Stadium (Lynchburg, Va.)
Attendance: 1,000

Turning Point:
Liberty trailed 28-27 entering the fourth quarter. Facing a fourth-and-one at its own 34-yard line to start the fourth, Mack rushed for 33 yards and the first down. He put Liberty back ahead 33-28 with a four-yard rushing touchdown to cap the drive.

Later on, a failed two-point conversion attempt by FIU left the Flames with a 36-34 lead that proved to be the final score.

Play-By-Play Breakdown:
First Quarter

  • It took just 2:20 into the game for both teams to get on the board, as FIU's Lexington Joseph ran back the opening kickoff for a touchdown. Liberty then marched 75 yards in five plays, tying the score at 7-7 with a 24-yard strike from Willis to Noah Frith.
  • After an FIU three-and-out, the teams traded scores again. The Flames drove 57 yards in 10 plays, capped by a two-yard plunge by Peytton Pickett. The guests responded with a quick 82-yard drive, as Price scored from 30 yards out to tie it at 14-14.

    Second Quarter
  • The Flames, pinned back to their own one-yard line after an FIU punt, drove all the way to the FIU six before the drive stalled out. DJ Stubbs was sacked on a trick play, and Barbir's 36-yard field goal attempt sailed wide right. Willis kept plays alive during the drive, going 2-for-2 for 25 yards and rushing twice for 13 yards.
  • For the first half, Liberty held a 197-142 advantage in total yards.

    Third Quarter
  • Liberty burst out of the gates in the second half, scoring 10 points in the first 6:23 of the third quarter. Barbir put Liberty ahead, 17-14, with a 27-yard field goal. Then, after an FIU three-and-out, Stubbs capped a 61-yard drive with an acrobatic 14-yard touchdown catch for a two-score advantage.
  • On the ensuing drive, the Panthers narrowed the gap to 24-21 on a 65-yard touchdown by Price. Liberty's Barbir made it 27-21 with a 21-yard field goal before FIU took its first lead of the game. Norton found Singleton for a 45-yard touchdown strike with 1:42 left in the quarter.

    Fourth Quarter
  • Facing a fourth-and-one at its own 34-yard-line, Mack opened the fourth quarter with a 33-yard carry. Five plays later, Mack put Liberty back ahead by scoring from two yards out. A failed two-point attempt left Liberty with a 33-28 advantage.
  • Willis scampered for 67 yards on a third-and-seven play, getting all the way to the FIU 12-yard line. Barbir later put Liberty ahead 36-28 with his third field goal of the game.
  • The Panthers drew to within 36-34 on the next drive, as Stone found Price from six yards out. The first two-point try was nullified due to a holding penalty. An incomplete pass on the ensuing two-point attempt kept Liberty ahead.
  • A Jayod Sanders sack on fourth-and-13 sealed Liberty's win, as he took down Norton at the FIU three-yard line.

What's Next:
The Flames will take on North Alabama for the first time in football, hosting the Lions (0-0) on Saturday at 1 p.m. at Williams Stadium. 
Date: Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020
Location: Lynchburg, Va. (Williams Stadium)
Radio: LFSN Radio (Flagship Station: The Journey 88.3 FM Lynchburg)
Kickoff: 1 p.m. (EST)