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LU Dominates Elon in Record-Setting Victory

November 22, 2008  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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The Flames douse Flames head coach Danny Rocco following Liberty’s 26-3 statement victory over No. 14/12 Elon, Saturday afternoon, at Williams Stadium.

The Flames douse Flames head coach Danny Rocco following Liberty's 26-3 statement victory over No. 14/12 Elon, Saturday afternoon, at Williams Stadium.

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No. 20 Liberty etched its last postseason resume improvement with a dominating 26-3 victory over No. 14 Elon, Saturday afternoon, at Williams Stadium to cap off its first-ever 10-win regular season.

With the victory, the Flames raise their record to 10-2, besting the 1979 (9-1-1) and 1997 (9-2) squad who reached the nine-win mark. Elon, who suffered their third loss in their last four games, finishes its regular-season schedule with an 8-4 record.

The victory was the Flames' second over a Top 25 program this year, following their three-point road victory over No. 23 Youngstown State. Three of the Flames 10 program victories over Top 25 FCS program have come under head coach Danny Rocco over the last two years.

A defensive battle, which didn't see an offensive touchdown until the final two minutes of the contest, remained scoreless until the 6:37 mark of the first quarter.

After forcing the Phoenix to punt the ball following a three-and-out series on their first possession, the Flames managed to get the ball to the Elon 27-yard line. However, Liberty's eight-play drive stalled after an incomplete pass on third-and-12, leaving the Flames to settle for a 44-yard Matt Bevins field goal that just creped over the crossbar to give Liberty a 3-0 edge.

The Flames looked like they might add to their lead, after Brandon Newsome fumbled the ball away at midfield. Liberty managed to get the ball down to the goal line; however, the Phoenix held strong, stopping Zach Terrell from crossing the goal line on a fourth-and-one play from the one-yard line.

The Flames' defense continue to match Elon's, limiting the Phoenix to 20-plus yard drives on their next two drives. On the second drive, Brandon Lane's 44-yard punt was fielded by Dominic Bolden at the Liberty 26-yard line.

Following several key blocks at near midfield, the nation's No. 10 punt return found running room and returned the kick 76 yards for the score, giving Liberty a 10-0 lead at the 10:12 mark of the second quarter.

Earlier this year, the senior, who now has five special teams kick returns for a score during his Liberty career, returned a punt 72 yards against Glenville State on Sept. 6.

Elon finally got its offense rolling on the ensuing drive, slowly marching to Liberty's 29-yard line. However, three failed rushing attempts left the visitors to settle for a 40-yard field goal by Andrew Wilcox, getting the Phoenix on the scoreboard, 10-3, with 4:35 left to play.

Liberty responded by piecing together its longest drive of the afternoon, moving the ball 68 yards downfield on 11 plays to get a first-and-goal situation. But Elon's defenders held strong, forcing Liberty to settle for its second field goal of the half, a 18-yard chip-shot by Bevins with nine seconds left on the opening half clock to give the Flames a 13-3 lead at the break.

Liberty outgained Elon in the first half, 169-92 yards, getting 125 of its yards via the passing game. The Flames held Elon's quarterback Scott Riddle to 9-of-14 passing for 65 yards, while Brock Smith was 11-of-16 for 125 yards.

Neither team ran the ball well in the opening 30 minutes of action, as Liberty ran for 44 yards, as compared to 27 Elon rushing yards. Rashad Jennings ran for 24 yard on eight carries, while Newsome rushed for 22 yards on nine carries.

After forcing the Phoenix to punt the ball away on the first drive of the third quarter, a 50-yard pass play from Smith to Mike Brown got the Flames into the red zone again at the 11-yard line.

But Elon continued to hold its ground, giving up three additional yards and forcing two incomplete passes, making Liberty trout Bevins out onto the field again for a 27-yard field goal at the 8:30 mark of the third quarter to extend Liberty's margin to 13 points, 16-3.

The Phoenix tried to keep the field goal kicking contest rolling, as their next drive stalled at the Liberty 11-yard line. But Wilcox's 28-yard field goal attempt was blocked by Trey Jacobs, keeping the lead at 13 for the homestanding Flames.

Another lengthy pass play on the ensuing drive gave Liberty prime field possession, as Smith found Dominic Bolden for a 41-yard sideline pass play to the Elon 14-yard line. Four plays later, Bevin knocked down his fourth field goal of the game, sending a 35-yarder through the uprights on the second play of the fourth quarter to push Liberty's lead to 16, 19-3.

Neither team managed to find much offense on the game's next two drives, giving Elon the ball at its own 10-yard line with 8:15 left in the ball game.

A change in offense helped the visitors move the ball down field, as Riddle completed 6-of-9 pass attempt to get Elon down to the Liberty 36-yard line. However, former running back Wes Cheek, starting in his first career game at linebacker, got behind the line of scrimmage to sack Riddle and force the Phoenix to turn the ball over on down.

Trying to wind out the game clock, the Flames kept the ball on the ground for seven straight plays, with Jennings taking six of the seven runs.

The sixth was a sweeping play to the far side of the field, allowing the Walter Payton Award candidate to post his 10th 100-yard game of the year and the 22nd of his career, scoring on a 20-yard run with 1:58 left to seal the victory for the Flames.

Liberty's offense, ranked No. 8 nationally, rolled up its ninth-straight game with more than 400 yards of total offensive, as the Flames just got over the mark at 406 yards.

Elon was held well under its season average of 400.0 yards, which ranked No. 25 nationally, as Liberty's stout defensive effort held the Phoenix to 267 yards.

The Flames posted their third highest passing yardage of the season, gaining 273 yards on the afternoon. Elon recorded their fourth fewest passing yards on the year at 204 yards.

For the fourth time this year, Liberty held an opponent under the 100-yard team rushing mark, as the Phoenix amassed just 63 yards via the ground game. The Flames potent rushing attack was also held in check, as Liberty finished the game with 133 yards, its second lowest mark of the year.

Jennings led the Flames on the ground, rushing for 109 yards on 22 carries. His 20-yard fourth quarter touchdown gave the senior 17 on the year, setting a new single season Liberty record, as he surpassed Lawrence Worthington's mark of 16 set in 1994.

Smith was sharp all day, as the career 60-percent passer threw for 273 yards, completing 17-of-26 pass attempts. The performance marked his third 250-plus yard game of the year and the seventh of his career.

Smith's favorite target on the afternoon was Bolden, as the senior caught six passes for 95 yards to give him 1,065 receiving yards on the year, marking the second-most receiving yards in a season by a Flames receiver.

Unlike last year, the Flames held the Riddle-Terrell Hudgins connection in check this time around. At Elon, Riddle completed 33-of-39 pass attempts for 339 yards, while Hudgins set a Liberty opponent record 16 passes for 219 yards and four touchdowns.

This time around, Riddle completed 27-of-43 attempts for 204 yard, while Hudgins was limited to seven receptions for 50 yards. Elon's leading receiver was Lance Camp, who pulled in eight catches for 46 yards.

Nick Hursky led the Flames with 12 stops, giving him three straight double-figure games and the 15th of his career. Ian Childress followed with a career-high 10 stops, including an 11-yard sack, while Tim Torrence bettered his number for the third straight week, recording a career-best nine stops and one of eight Liberty quarterback hurries.

Both teams have now left their postseason hopes in the hands of the FCS Playoff Selection Committee. An announcement of the 16 teams advancing the FCS Playoffs will be made live on ESPNU tomorrow evening at 7 p.m. A playoff selection for either Liberty or Elon would be the first in either team's program history.