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First-Half Surge Pushes Offense over Defense

April 18, 2009  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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Larry Claiborne chases down Aaron Hewlett during Libetty's annual spring football game on Saturday.

Larry Claiborne chases down Aaron Hewlett during Libetty's annual spring football game on Saturday.

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Liberty's white-jerseyed offensive players used a strong first-half showing to post a 42-25 victory over the Flames' blue-clad defenders, ending Liberty's spring practice slate with the annual spring game, Saturday afternoon, at Williams Stadium.

The outcome of the spring game was nearly identical to last year's final scrimmage, as the offense posted a 45-25 victory over its defensive counterparts. However, the journey toward that result was completely different.

During the 2008 contest, Liberty's high-powered offense rolled up 612 total offensive yards on 83 plays, averaging 7.4 yards per play. The Flames found the end zone five times on the afternoon, scoring one rushing touchdown, to go along with four passing scores from a trio of Liberty hurlers.

This afternoon, in a contest played in front of 3,186 fans on a near-perfect, 70-degree day, Liberty's defense was able to hold a youthful Flames' offense to 401 total yards on 79 plays (5.1 average). Over 60 percent of those yards came during the first half (250 yards), during which the offense tallied all three of its touchdowns on three one-yard rushing attempts.

Liberty quickly moved down the field on its opening possession of the scrimmage, finding the scoreboard after a 15-play drive. The 70-yard push saw 11 running plays, capped off when fullback Derek Bishop went off right tackle to score from one yard out.

The Flames' second stringers mixed it up a bit more during their first go around on the field, as Spencer Landis completed two of five passing attempts. However, 38 of the team's 70 yards on the scoring drive came on the ground, including a nifty 20-yard scramble by Landis on a third-and-16 play.

Terron Lawrence took the final four handoffs from Landis to end the drive, including a two-yard scamper up the gap on one of his 11 rushing attempts during the practice.

The Flames' defense looked like it was going to halt its offensive companions for the first time on the following possession. However, a 63-yard pass play from Tyler Brennan to Zach Duke pushed Liberty's offense back into the red zone for a third-straight possession.

Chris McAlister kept Duke from getting into the end zone, as the defensive back tackled the wide receiver at the one-yard line. Courtney Anderson finished the drive with a one-yard burst straight up the middle, completing three-straight scoring possessions for the offensive.

Using head coach Danny Rocco's unique spring game scoring system, where each unit was award points for different in-game situations, Liberty's offense held a 32-11 edge at the break.

During the "halftime" festivities, the Flames made public three of their major program honors, which were officially bestowed upon the recipients during last night's annual spring awards banquet.
Bishop and linebacker Doncel Bolt were named the winners of the Samkon Gado Award, giving annually to the most improved offensive and defensive player during the spring.

Kevin Richard, who played a key role in back-to-back Big South championship campaigns on the defensive line, was named the program's Luke 2:52 Award winner. The honor is given each year to the graduating senior who best embodies the program's Whole Person Development ambition.

The second half of the spring game belonged to the defense, as Liberty's offense added only 11 points to its total on the scoreboard, while the defensive players tacked on 15 points to their side of the board during the final two 12-minute periods.

Liberty's offense never crossed the midway point on the newly installed turf at Williams Stadium during the second half, as the closest it got was the 48-yard line on the second full drive of the fourth quarter.

During the final 12 minutes of play, the determined defense allowed just four first downs, evenly spread among four different drives.

Danny Broggin led eight different ball carriers on the afternoon, rushing 12 times for 30 yards. Lawrence followed closely behind with 11 rushing attempts for 20 yards, including the one-yard score. Anderson rounded out the top three rushers, carrying the ball seven times for 34 yards, which was spotlighted by the one-yard rushing touchdown.

Four different quarterbacks combined to complete 22-of-36 pass attempts for 262 yards. Mike Brown (9-of-14) and Landis (8-of-13) each threw for 77 yards, while Brennan's (4-of-7) team-high 101 yards was bolstered by the 63-yard pass to Duke. Zach Williams rounded out the hurlers by completing 1-of-2 attempts for seven yards.

Virginia Tech transfer Ervin Garner led 12 different players who finished with receptions, as the wide out caught six balls for 44 yards. Former quarterback Kyle DeArmon hauled in three receptions for 45 yards, while Chris Summers nabbed three passes for 24 yards. Aaron Hewlett rounded out the top receives, pulling in two passes for 37 yards.

Defensively, Jamal Giddens led the squad with seven stops, including four assisted tackles and a shared tackle for a loss of three yards.

Terry Adams and Larry Claiborne followed with five stops apiece. Adams had four solo stops, including a tackle for a loss, while Claiborne's numbers were highlighted by an interception, which he returned 32 yards before being stopped.

Four different plays followed with four stops each, led by Brandon Summers' four solo tackles. Pierre Tinsley (3 solo, 1 asst.), Asa Champan (1 solo, 3 asst.) and Wes Cheek (1 solo, 3 asst.) completed the four-tackling quartet of players.

Cheek was one of six other honored players during halftime, as Rocco tabbed the converted running back one of his six team captains for the upcoming 2009 season.

Joining Cheek in the team leadership role will be offensive linemen Bryan Mosier and Josh Weaver, quarterback Mike Brown, defensive back Chris Rocco and defensive lineman Trey Jacobs.

Flames fans who want to see Liberty return to the football field will now have to wait 139 days until Liberty makes the trek up the mountains, where the Flames will open their 2009 campaign against BIG EAST powerhouse West Virginia in Morgantown, W.Va., on Sept. 5.