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Late Touchdown Lifts LU to Victory over Bucs

October 24, 2009  Charleston, S.C.  RSS
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Wes Cheek (35) and Larry Claiborne (17) helped Liberty's defense clamp down on Charleston Southern and guide the Flames to a 20-13 road victory.

Wes Cheek (35) and Larry Claiborne (17) helped Liberty's defense clamp down on Charleston Southern and guide the Flames to a 20-13 road victory.

Mike Brown completed a six-yard touchdown strike to Will Quarles with less than four minutes to play, lifting No. 23 Liberty to a 20-13 victory over Charleston Southern, Saturday afternoon, at CSU Stadium.

The victory pushes Liberty's Big South Conference winning streak to 13-straight games and gives Liberty a victory in eight of its last 10 road games. The win, Liberty's third in a row, ups the Flames record to 5-2 on the season and 2-0 in Big South play.

The loss snaps Charleston Southern's seven-game home winning streak and drops the Buccaneers back to 2-5 on the year and 0-2 in league play.

Liberty used a turnover to jump out to a 3-0 lead early in the first quarter. Charleston Southern's quarterback A.J. Toscano's screen pass over the middle of the field slipped through the hands of its intended receiver and was batted to Daryl Robertson for an interception.

The turnover gave Liberty prime field position at the Charleston Southern 28-yard line. However, the Buccaneer defense came up with a stand, forcing Liberty to settle for a 37-yard Matt Bevins field goal with 11:01 left to play in the opening quarter.

Play continued to remain on Charleston Southern's side of the field for a majority of the rest of the quarter, resulting in another three points for the Flames.

At 4:27, Bevins' number was called again and the sophomore knocked through his eighth-straight field goal, sending a 50-yarder well between the uprights. The kick was a new career high for Bevins and is tied for the fourth-longest field goal in program history.

Liberty's offense continued to struggle to pick up first downs, resulting in the Flames' third field goal attempt of the game. However, Bevins' recent successes could not continue, as his 44-yard attempt was batted down by Matt Bach at the line of scrimmage, ending his streak with 13:53 left in the second quarter.

The Flames' defense once again gave their offensive counterpart great field position, this time just one yard outside the end zone.

Another Toscano pass was tipped, this time by Ian Childress to KaJuan Lee at the Buccaneer 30-yard line. The sophomore returned the errant throw 29 yards to the Charleston Southern one, giving Lee his fourth-straight game with an interception.

One play later, Aldreakis Allen bulled his way into the end zone, scoring his team-leading seventh rushing touchdown of the year to push Liberty's lead to 13-0 with 12:44 left to play in the opening half.

Two minutes later, quarterback Tommy Beecher mishandled a snap, fumbling the ball away to Andrew McKain at the Flames' 17-yard line.

The Flames defense managed to contain Charleston Southern, allowing just six yards on the ensuing four plays, forcing the home team to settle for a field goal attempt. John Paglia knocked the 29-yarder, trimming Liberty's lead to 10 points, 13-3, with 8:37 left to play in the quarter.

After a three-and-out series by the Flames on its next drive, Charleston Southern pieced together its most fruitful drive during the opening 30 minutes.

Toscano completed 2-of-3 passing attempts for 28 yards, helping the Buccaneers penetrate the red zone for the second-straight drive. However, the Flames stalwart defense remained strong, keeping the Buccaneers out of the end zone.

Paglia was called upon again, but his 30-yard attempt with 2:21 left in the half missed wide to the left, leaving the halftime margin at 10 points in favor of the Flames.

Liberty's offense, which came into the game averaging 382.4 yards per game and ranked No. 27 nationally in average yards per game, was limited to 43 yards on 27 plays. Charleston Southern more than doubled Liberty's numbers in the first half, finishing with 110 yards on 34 plays.

Beecher finished with 29 of Liberty's 43 first half yards, as the quarterback complete 7-of-9 passing attempts. Allen was limited to seven yards on six rushing attempts.

The Buccaneers were paced by Gerald Stevenson, who finished the first half with 34 rushing yards on five carries. Toscano was hampered by the afternoon's blustery conditions, and was limited to 4-of-12 passing for 42 yards, while tossing two picks.

The game score remained the same until late in the third quarter, when Charleston Southern scored the only points during the 15-minute period.

For the third time during the afternoon, Charleston Southern mounted a drive inside the Flames' 20-yard line. But Liberty's defenders held strong once again, forcing the 10-play, 68-yard drive to only result in three points. Paglia successfully booted a 35-yarder, trimming the Flames' lead to seven points, 13-6, at the five minute mark of the third quarter.

Momentum continued to remain on the side of the Buccaneers, as Charleston Southern was able to knot the score at 13-13, thanks to 80-yard drive that ate up 5:44 on the game clock.

Head coach Jay Mills switched up the Buccaneer's offense on the 10-play drive, going with more of a Wildcat formation. Charleston Southern rushed the ball nine-straight plays to get to the Liberty 10-yard line.

The only passing play of the drive came on the sequence's final play. Toscano came back in as quarterback and found Kwame Krakue open for a 10-yard reception. The scoring strike tied the game with 9:01 left in the ball game.

Liberty followed by piecing together its longest drive of the day, helping the visitors take the lead for good.

Beecher was the propelling force during the drive, completing 4-of-4 passing attempts for 37 yards. However, the most notable yards gained on the drive by the senior quarterback came on the ground, as he used runs of 14 and 11 yards to pick up first downs on lengthy third-down plays and keep the scoring push alive.

After a five-yard rush by Mike Brown moved Liberty to the Charleston Southern six-yard line, Brown rolled out and found Quarles open in the back of the end zone on the game's deciding play. The 10-yard pass pushed Liberty the 20-13 lead with 3:40 left on the game clock.

Charleston Southern tried to tie the game and almost succeeded, as the Buccaneers made their fifth trip on the day inside the Flames red zone.

A 12-yard pass from Toscano to Tim Jones pushed the home squad to the Liberty 18-yard line with 12 seconds left on the game clock. However, Toscano followed with incomplete passes to Krakue and Jones, the second of which was batted down by Robertson to end the Buccaneers' final hope.

Liberty managed to come up with just 165 total offensive yards during the game, the fewest total offensive yards the Flames have recorded in a victory since head coach Danny Rocco took over the program four years ago.

The Flames rushing attack, which ranked came into the game ranked No. 18 nationally by averaging 183.2 yards per game, was limited to just 55 yards on the ground. Liberty, who had rushed for six touchdowns during both of its two games prior to the CSU matchup, was held to just one ground score.

Beecher ended up being Liberty's leading rusher, as the quarterback ran for 33 yards on 11 carries, followed by Brown's 16 yards on 11 rushing attempts.

Beecher finished the day 16-of-20 under center for 93 yards, with Brown being his leading receiver. The sophomore caught seven passes for 56 yards, followed by Freddie Brown's five receptions for 38 yards.

Liberty's leading tacklers on the day were Chris Rocco and Doncel Bolt. Rocco finished the game with 11 stops, followed by Bolt's 10 tackles.

The Flames return home next weekend to begin their final homestand of the 2009 season, by hosting Presbyterian. Game time at William Stadium is slated for 3:30 p.m.

Liberty will be looking to avenge last year's loss in Clinton, S.C., when the Blue Hose upended No. 17 Liberty, 31-28 on Nov. 1.

The three-point victory by the Blue Hose last year widened Presbyterian's edge in the all-time series, as the Blue Hose lead 4-2. Presbyterian is 2-1 in games played in Lynchburg, but winless in their lone meeting at Williams Stadium.

Two years ago, Liberty rolled up 529 yards of total offense en route to a 48-14 victory over Presbyterian on Oct. 27 in Lynchburg. Rashad Jennings rushed for 196 yards and two scores, while Brock Smith was a sharp 19-of-25, throwing for 281 yards and three touchdowns in the win.