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Last-Second Field Goal Lifts No. 25 LU to Win

September 27, 2008  Youngstown, Ohio  RSS
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Matt Bevins lifts the game-winning field goal over a Youngstown State outstretched defender, giving No. 25 Liberty a thrilling 31-28 victory over the No. 23 Penguins

Matt Bevins lifts the game-winning field goal over a Youngstown State outstretched defender, giving No. 25 Liberty a thrilling 31-28 victory over the No. 23 Penguins

Rashad Jennings rushed for a career-best 220 yards and three touchdowns, but it was a 24-yard field goal by Matt Bevins as time expired that lifted No. 25 Liberty to a 31-28 victory over No. 23 Youngstown State, Saturday evening, at Stambaugh Stadium.

With the victory, the Flames remain unbeaten in 2008, moving their record to 4-0 on the season, and extend their winning streak to an FCS-best nine-straight games. The win was Liberty's ninth over a ranked FCS opponent in program history and the first since Liberty defeated No. 24 Charleston Southern, 34-20, on Nov. 11, 2006.

It also marked Liberty's first road victory over a ranked FCS opponent since 1997, when Liberty defeated No. 15 Appalachian State, 25-19, to close out the season on the road in Boone, N.C. The loss drops Youngstown State's mark on the year to 2-3.

Liberty won the game's coin toss and deferred to the Penguins, giving Youngstown State the ball to open the contest. And the home team took quick advantage of the game's first possession, methodically moving the ball downfield to score with 7:38 left in the first quarter.

Penguins quarterback Brandon Summers completed eight-of-eight passes to account for 62 of the team's 77 yards on the 13-play drive. The eighth-consecutive completion was a seven-yard slant to Dominique Barnes on the far side of the field, giving Youngstown State an early 7-0 lead.

Following a Brock Smith intercepted pass and the two teams trading three-and-out series, Summers kept his passing streak alive by competing his next four pass attempts to get the Penguins to the Liberty 18-yard line, ending the opening 15 minutes of action.

After resetting the chains at the south end of the stadium, Summers showed that he can do damage on the ground as well. The junior faked a pass attempt, freezing the defense and allowing the speedy hurler to burst up the middle and score on an 18-yard run, six seconds into the period, extending the home team's advantage to 14-0.

Liberty overcame its opening-quarter jitters, responding with a 70-yard scoring drive to pull back within seven points. The Flames kept to the ground for seven of the 10 plays in the drive, including the final play of the drive, which ate up 4:21 on the game clock.

Zach Terrell used blocks by Derek Bishop and Rashad Jennings to find a hole on the left side of the line for a three-yard rushing touchdown, giving the senior his 29th career rushing touchdown and trimming the Penguins' lead back to a single touchdown, 14-7, at the 10:26 mark.

After forcing the Penguins to punt the ball away on the next possession, the Flames continued to pound away at Youngstown State with a ground attack that entered the game ranked No. 11 in the nation in rushing offense (223.3 yards per game).

Eight of Liberty's nine plays on the 86-yard drive, which lasted 4:48 on the clock, were of the rushing variety. Three were of note, as Jennings got the Flames into Youngstown State territory, bouncing off two defenders at the line of scrimmage to open up a hole for a 55-yard game, his fifth-longest run since joining the Flames' roster in 2006.

Three plays later, the drive would have stalled in the Penguins' red zone, but Smith tucked the ball away and the quarterback leaped over two defenders to pick up 10 yards on a third-and-seven play.

Jennings was handed the ball on the following three plays, including a two-yard scoring run to the near side of the field with 2:03 left before the intermission. The senior's 13th carry of the evening needed an extra effort to find the end zone, knotting the contest at 14-14.

Youngstown State tried to break the deadlock, quickly marching downfield on the ensuing drive and getting the ball down to the Flames' 16-yard line. But on third-and-six, Summers was flushed from the pocket and his sideline toss was picked off by Chuck Duffey with three seconds left on the game clock, leaving the game tied at the intermission.

The two teams used opposing methods to gain yardage in the first half. Liberty got 154 of its 185 total offensive yards by the ground, while the Penguins passed for 196 of their 249 first-half total offensive yards.

Jennings was the leading gainer for Liberty, rushing 13 times for 133 yards and a touchdown. Summers moved the ball most effectively for Youngstown State, completing 19-of-22 passes for 196 yards and a score.

The Flames took the ball on their second possession of the second half and scored their 21th-unanswered point, thanks to a trick play and some strong rushing by Jennings.

At its own 36-yard line, Terrell took a pitch from Smith and the A-back player tossed his first pass since 2006, hooking up with Dominic Bolden 51 yards downfield. Prior to his career-long pass play, the one-time quarterback's last pass was against Charleston Southern on Nov. 11 of that season.

Three plays later, Jennings muscled his way into the end zone from two yards out, capping off an eight-play, 95-yard drive to push Liberty's lead to 21-14 with 2:21 left to play in the third.

Liberty's defense quickly forced the Penguins to punt the ball away on the ensuring drive. The three-and-out series was keyed by a pass break-up by Chris Rocco and an 11-yard sack by Jamal Giddens.

Bolden, who entered the game ranked No. 9 nationally in average punt return yards (17.5 per return), proved why he is one of the best return men in the nation. The senior broke several tackles on the far side of the field, staying in bounds all the way on a 52-yard punt return to the Penguins' six-yard line.

On the following play, Jennings once again got extra yardage on a rushing play, extending the nose of the football over the goal line for a six-yard rushing touchdown with 28 seconds left in the third quarter, boosting Liberty's lead to 14 points, 28-14.

However, homestanding Youngstown State didn't go down quietly, as the Penquins regrouped for a fourth-quarter charge. After Jonathan Crawford fumbled the ball at midfield following a reception, Youngstown State quickly moved downfield and pulled within seven, 28-21, when Summers capped an eight-play, 50-yard drive with a four-yard pass play to Donald Jones with 6:19 left in the contest.

Liberty, trying to run out the clock, managed to advance the ball to the Youngstown State 34-yard line. However, on a third-and-four play, Smith's attempted sideline pass was picked off by Mike Barlak with 2:31 left in the ballgame, giving the home team another chance.

Youngstown State continued to ride the strong throwing arm of Summers, as the junior completed six-straight passes to move the Penguins 64 yards downfield in just 52 seconds. The sixth and final pass was an 11-yard strike to Ferlando Williams in the near side of the end zone, tying the game at 28-28 with 1:29 left in regulation.

An out-of-bounds kickoff gave Liberty possession at the 40-yard line, where Smith countered Summers' quick moving of his squad. Liberty's senior quarterback completed four-of-seven pass attempts, including an eight-yard slant to Mike Brown that moved the ball into potential field goal range.

Following a five-yard run up the middle by Jennings to give Liberty the ball on the near-side hash mark, head coach Danny Rocco called on the freshman kicker, Bevins, to clinch the victory. With the clock at three seconds, Bevins sent the ball through the uprights for his second career collegiate field goal, lifting Liberty to a momentous victory.

For the third time this year, Liberty rushed past the 200-yard mark as a team, this time setting a season high with 252 yards. Jennings accounted for most of the team's yardage, bettering his previous career high of 196 rushing yards against Presbyterian last year. The three-touchdown effort by the season was the fifth of his career and gave the senior 30 touchdowns for his Liberty career.

Smith finished the game completing 15-of-23 pass attempts for 151 yards, with Bolden being his favorite target with six receptions for 91 yards.

Summers was the Penguins' top offensive player, leading the team with 49 rushing yards and a touchdown, while gaining 334 yards through the air as he completed 32-of-39 pass attempts, including three scoring strikes.

Liberty had a pair of defenders finish in double figures for tackles, led by Nick Hursky's 13-tackle effort, which included three tackles for a loss (of 11 yards). Ryan Greiser followed with 10 tackles, including eight solo stops.

The game was attended by 18,978 fans at Stambaugh Stadium, the 10th-largest crowd in facility history.

The Flames will conclude their three-game road swing next Saturday when they travel to Conway, S.C., to face Big South rival Coastal Carolina. The contest at Brooks Stadium marks the beginning of Liberty's Big South title defense and is set for a 7 p.m. kickoff.