Presbyterian College Game Notes (PDF Version)
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Today's Game Following a week away from action, the Flames return to action this weekend in Clinton, S.C., against Presbyterian College to begin the final four-game stretch of the season. The Blue Hose are coming off a 26-24 road victory at Gardner-Webb, which gave head coach Harold Nichols his first win at PC and snapped Presbyterian's 20-game losing streak.
The Past with Presbyterian College Liberty enters today's meeting with Presbyterian College trailing 4-3-1 in the overall series, despite winning two of the last three match-ups. The series began in 1982 and continued for four-straight years, before being reestablished in 2007.
Last Time in Clinton A 28-yard field goal by Cam Miller and a red zone defensive stand inside the last minute helped Presbyterian College post a 31-28 victory over No. 17 Liberty on Nov. 1, 2008, the last time the Flames visited Clinton, S.C. The loss snapped Liberty's five-game road winning streak and was the Blue Hose's last win until their road victory at Gardner-Webb, last weekend.
Bye Week Bliss Liberty has won its last three games following a "bye week" and is 3-1 all-time under head coach Danny Rocco after a week away from action. Overall, the program has not had as much success following a week off as it has under Rocco. Since Liberty started playing a full schedule in 1974, the Flames have posted an 11-17 record in games following a "bye week."
Another Look at the Bye Week Liberty has won its last three games following a "bye week," including a pair of sizeable Big South wins. In 2007, the Flames defeated Charleston Southern, 50-10, in Charleston, S.C., while posting a 58-13 victory over Coastal Carolina in 2009. In 2008, the Flames posted an upset victory over No. 23 Youngstown State, 31-28, in Youngstown, Ohio.
Becoming a Standard For the fourth-straight season, Liberty has opened Big South play with a 2-0 record, reeling off sizeable wins over Charleston Southern (44-20) and VMI (41-7). Liberty is the first program in Big South history to start four-straight conference seasons with a 2-0 mark.
Closing Strong Today's Presbyterian College game marks the beginning of Liberty's final four regular season games. In the previous four seasons under head coach Danny Rocco, the Flames have posted a 13-3 record during the last four games of the year and are outscoring opponents by an average of 19 points per game during those 16 games (623 PF/38.9 ppg – 319 PA/19.9 ppg).
Trying to be the First Liberty continues the 2010 season trying to become the first program in Big South history to win four conference titles in a row. Coastal Carolina and Liberty have each won three-straight titles. The Chanticleers won outright titles in 2004 and 2006, while sharing the title with Charleston Southern in 2005. Liberty won outright titles in 2007 and 2008, before sharing the conference crown with Stony Brook, last season.
Second and Climbing Entering today's match-up with Presbyterian College, Liberty is now 37-15 under head coach Danny Rocco. Liberty's win against Ball State on Sept. 11 pushed the five-year head coach past Tom Dowling for second place on Liberty's all-time coaching wins list, as Dowling finished his seven years as head coach with a 33-38-2 record (1977-83). Liberty's all-time winningest coach is Sam Rutigliano, who posted a 67-53 record during 11 years with the program (1989-99).
Still on the Move Thanks to losses by teams ahead of them in the national polls, the Flames were able to move up in both rankings despite not playing last weekend. The Flames moved up two spots in the FCS Coaches poll to No. 12 and one notch in the Sports Network/Fathead.com FCS Top 25 listing to No. 16.
Nearing a Program Record Liberty's current No. 12 ranking in the latest FCS Coaches poll is the fifth-best ranking in program history and the highest since 1990. Liberty opened the 1989 season with a 6-0 record and was ranked No. 11 before its 37-18 victory over Towson State and No. 9 before traveling to UCF. The following year, Liberty won its first four games and was ranked No. 9 before defeating Morehead State, 42-13, and a program-best No. 8 before facing Villanova.
A Rankings Review Dating back to the second week of the 2008 season, Liberty has been ranked inside the Top 25 for 30 out of the last 38 weekly polls (including preseason and end of the year rankings). Following their victory over Glenville State on Sept. 6, 2008, The Flames jumped into the Top 25 at No. 25 and remained there the rest of the season. Liberty was in and out of the polls in 2009, as the Flames received a Top 25 billing in nine of the 13 polls released last season.
Demanding More Defense Liberty's highly touted offensive schemes have caught regional and national attention during the last several seasons, but it is the play of the defense that pleases head coach Danny Rocco. Last year, the Flames finished the season ranked No. 24 in the country in scoring defense (19.09 points per game), marking the third time in four years under Rocco that Liberty has finished the year holding opponents to less than 20 points per game and ranked inside the Top 25 in the statistical category.
Doing it Again Liberty is looking like it might make another run at a Top 20 scoring defense in 2010, as the Flames are allowing an average of 15.86 points per game. The figure currently has the Flames ranked No. 7 nationally in scoring defense.
Better than the Rest Liberty currently ranks No. 7 nationally in scoring defense, as the Flames are allowing an average of 15.86 points per game. Gardner-Webb ranks second in the Big South behind the Flames in the statistical category, as the Bulldogs ranks No. 60 by allowing 24.86 points per game, a figure that is nine points behind Liberty.
Different Kind of Year Liberty found much success on fourth-down plays in 2009, converting on 7-of-10 fourth-down plays, which ranked No. 5 nationally in fourth-down conversion rate (70.0 percent). All seven successful fourth-down conversions eventually led to the Flames adding points to the scoreboard. Liberty has not been as successful in 2010, as the Flames are 2-of-6 on fourth-down plays. Both successful attempts came against Charleston Southern, where the Flames scored touchdowns on the play.
Don't Even Think About It Liberty has held five of its seven opponents to four or less third-down conversions this year, including VMI, as the Flames limited the Keydets to two first downs on 12 third-down plays on Oct. 16. The only two teams to have third-down success this year against Liberty were Savannah State (6-of-17) and Charleston Southern (6-of-13). Liberty currently ranks No. 13 nationally in third-down conversion defense, allowing a new set of downs 29.67 percent of the time (27-of-91).
Airing It Out During the first seven games of the year, the Flames have certainly taken to the air to find a way to score. Liberty currently ranks No. 6 nationally in passing offense, as the Flames are averaging 295.00 passing yards per game.
Seven and Counting The Flames have finished the first seven games of the 2010 season by passing for more than 200 yards each game. Dating back to last season, Liberty has surpassed the mark nine-straight games, which is the longest such stretch under fifth-year head coach Danny Rocco.
Still Airing it Out Liberty finished the VMI game with three passing touchdowns, giving the Flames 20 passing touchdowns through seven games in 2010. Only five other FCS programs in the country rank ahead of the Flames, as Jacksonville has thrown for 24 touchdowns, followed by Montana (23), Jackson State (21), Montana State (21) and Stephen F. Austin (21).
Finding a Different Way to Score During the last several years, Liberty has become known as one of the top rushing programs in the nation. However, the 2010 season has found the Flames finding another way to score points. This year, 20 of the team's 31 total touchdowns have come via the passing game (64.5 percent).
At This Rate Through seven games this season, Liberty is on a pace to potentially surpass some of its team passing records. At its current pace, Liberty would finish the regular season 248-of-377 for 3,245 yards (295.0 average) and 31 touchdowns. Liberty's program records in these categories are: 262 (completions), 446 (attempts), 3,257 (yards), 296.1 (passing average) and 25 (touchdowns).
A Quick Comparison Through seven games this season, Liberty has thrown for 20 touchdowns, which ranks No. 6 nationally in passing touchdowns. The 20 passing scores already rank as the second-highest season total since head coach Danny Rocco took over the program. Liberty finished the 2007 season with 21 passing touchdowns.
First Down Focus Liberty currently ranks No. 3 nationally in first down offense, by averaging 23.57 first downs per game, while ranking No. 7 in first down defense, by allowing 15.14 per game. The Flames are the lone team in the nation to currently rank inside the Top 10 in both statistical categories.
Interception Increase Liberty is well behind its interception total from last year, when the Flames picked up 17 passes in 2009. The Flames have only intercepted six passes in 2010, but four of them have come since opening Big South play. The Flames picked off two passes against Charleston Southern and VMI, helping Liberty to a 2-0 start in league play.
Another Quick Comparison Both Liberty and Presbyterian are coming off solid performances in terms of sacks, as the Flames recorded four against VMI and Presbyterian finished with nine against Gardner-Webb. Liberty ranks No. 2 in the Big South in sacks (16), while Presbyterian ranks No. 3 (15). However, sacks allowed are a different story. Liberty has allowed just six sacks in 2010, while Presbyterian has allowed 21 sacks.
Dominating Performance In its last outing against VMI on Oct. 16, Liberty controlled the pace of place for nearly 60 minutes of action. VMI finished the game with 175 total offensive yards, with the Keydets posting 77 of those yards in the fourth quarter and 135 yards in the second half.
The Rocco Zone Liberty continues to be highly successful when entering the opposing team's red zone, having scored on 25-of-26 drives that penetrate the opponent's 20-yard line. Liberty currently ranks No. 3 nationally in red zone offense and has scored 17 red zone touchdowns through seven games. During the last five years under head coach Danny Rocco, Liberty has scored 85.7 percent of the times it has gotten to the opponent's 20-yard line (197-of-230), including 139 red zone touchdowns.
Punt Returns Piling Up Liberty's stout defense has forced opposing punters to keep busy during a game, as the Flames' opponents are averaging nearly twice as many punts as Liberty's punt total (23 by Liberty and 45 by opponents). Liberty currently ranks No. 27 nationally with 15 punt returns and No. 29 in average yards per return (12.30).
Punt Reduction Liberty comes into today's game with Presbyterian College having been forced to punt the ball away 23 times over seven games (average of 3.3 punts per game). There is only one FCS team in the country with fewer team punts than Liberty, as Dartmouth has punted the ball 21 times during six games.
Getting to Be Old Hat For the sixth time this year and the seven time in seven career starts at quarterback, Mike Brown finished a game with 250 or more yards of total offense. The junior passed for 231 yards and rushed for an additional 46 yards against VMI on Oct. 16. Brown currently ranks No. 2 nationally in total offensive yards per game (321.86). Counting his start at quarterback against Lafayette last year (330 yards), Brown has amassed 2,583 total offensive yards in eight career starts under center (322.9 average).
Watch List Wonder Following a standout non-conference slate of performances, Mike Brown caught the attention of the national media. On Oct. 4, the junior was named to the Walter Payton Award watch list, which now includes 20 members. The honor is bestowed annually on the top FCS offensive player in the country. Brown is the second Liberty player to ever be named to the watch list, joining former running back and current NFL player Rashad Jennings, who finished eighth in the award's final voting in 2008.
Setting A New Standard Mike Brown is the first Big South quarterback in league history to begin a season by passing for 200 or more yards in seven-straight games and is the first quarterback in program history to accomplish the feat in seven-consecutive outings. Brown set the new program standard with 231 passing yards against VMI. The previous record was held by Robby Justino (1990) and Brock Smith (2007-08) who reached the mark over six-straight games.
Doing It All Mike Brown currently leads the Flames in both rushing and passing. The junior has carried the ball 81 times for 397 yards, while having completed 137-of-212 passing attempts for 1,856 yards. Brown has factored into Liberty's offensive heavily in 2010, as the junior has contributed to 60.91 percent of the team's total offensive plays (293-of-481) and 71.41 percent of the team's total offensive yards (2,253-of-3,155).
A Baker's Dozen With his 277 yards against VMI on Oct. 16, Mike Brown became the 13th player in program history to surpass the 2,000 total offensive yard mark in a season. The junior has amassed 2,253 yards in seven games this year and is averaging 321.9 total offensive yards per game. Only two players have accomplished the feat in the last 11 seasons, as Biff Parson did so in 2000 (2,525) and Brock Smith in both 2007 (2,265) and 2008 (2,707).
Record in Danger Mike Brown is currently averaging 321.9 total offensive yards per game, which has the junior ranked No. 2 nationally in the statistical category. Should the quarterback continue as this rate for the remainder of the year, he would finish the regular season with 3,541 total offensive yards. This figure would shatter Liberty's program record that Phil Basso set in 1984 (3,127 yards).
First of his Kind Mike Brown comes into the Presbyterian College game ready to cross a threshold that no other athlete in Big South history has. Should he finish the game with 19 rushing yards, Brown would become the first player in conference history to record 1,000 career rushing, passing and receiving yards. Currently, he enters the game with 981 career rushing yards, 2,308 career passing yards and 1,047 career receiving yards.
Keep it Coming Korrey Korrey Davis finished second among Liberty rushers against VMI on Oct. 16, carrying the ball six times for 32 yards. His sixth carry of the day was the most noteworthy, as the Massachusetts transfer scored his first career touchdown at Liberty on a six-yard burst. During his one year with UMass, Davis did manage to score two touchdowns.
Four Times the Fun For the fourth time this year, Chris Summers surpassed the 100-yard receiving mark, as he caught six passes for 120 yards and three touchdowns against VMI on Oct. 16. Summers currently leads the Flames with 753 receiving yards on 54 receptions and currently ranks No. 5 nationally in receptions per game (7.71), No. 4 in receiving yards per game (107.57) and total receiving yards.
New Record Holder Chris Summers finished the VMI game with three touchdowns, giving the junior 12 touchdown receptions in seven games this year. With the trio of scoring catches, Summers became the program's single-season receiving touchdown leader, surpassing the previous school record of 10 receiving touchdowns set by Eric Green in 1989.
National Leader Chris Summers finished the VMI game with three touchdown receptions, giving the junior 12 scoring catches on the year. Summers currently leads the country with 12 receiving touchdowns, ranking ahead of Elon's Aaron Mellette, who has 10 receiving touchdowns.
Five and Climbing With his 120-yard performance at VMI on Oct. 16, Chris Summers now has five career 100-yard games, which is tied for third most in program history. Pat Nelson (1988-91) finished his career at Liberty with nine 100-yard games, while Courtney Freeman (1994-97) ranks second on the list with eight 100-yard career receiving games.
Bevins' New Big South Benchmark Matt Bevins gave Liberty a 17-6 lead heading into the locker room at halftime with Charleston Southern, as the junior knocked down a 26-yard field goal. The short kick was the 41st of his career, setting a new Big South career record. The previous record was held by Josh Hoke, as the Coastal Carolina kicker finished his career with 40 field goals.
Right with Whitehead Matt Bevins finished the VMI game 2-of-2 on field goal attempts, including his first 40-yard field goal of the 2010 season (a 42-yarder). The pair of three-point kicks gave the junior 43 career field goals, which is tied for the program record. Daniel Whitehead first accomplished the feat during his stellar four-year career from 1991-94.
Pinning Them Deep in the Zone Mike Larsson finished the Charleston Southern game on Oct. 9 with three punts for a total of 123 yards (41.0 average), with two of his three punts starting the Buccaneers at the own 20-yard line. The pair of kicks inside the 20-yard line continued a career trend for Larsson, as he has now recorded 32 out of 79 career punts where the result has pinned the opponent inside the 20-yard line (40.5 percent).
Career Day for Larsson Mike Larsson is coming off a career performance at VMI, as the junior finished the game against the Keydets with five punts for 232 yards. Larsson averaged 46.4 yards per punt, marking a new career high, and the total punt yards were the second most of his career.
Fantastic 40s Mike Larssson finished the VMI game by averaging a career-best 46.4 yards per punt, as the junior punted five times for 232 yards. Larsson has averaged 40 yards per punt in three of Liberty's last four games. Coming into the season, Larsson had averaged 40 yards per punt in three times in 19 career games as a freshman and sophomore.
Total Team Effort Liberty currently leads the Big South in scoring defense, as the Flames (15.86 points per game allowed) rank more than nine points ahead of No. 2 Gardner-Webb (24.96 points per game allowed). The Flames' staunch defense is a team effort, as the Flames only have one tackler currently ranked inside the league's Top 25 in tacklers per game (Kyle O'Donnell at No. 9/6.6 per game).
Spreading the Wealth Liberty finished the VMI game with one of its better defensive outings, limiting the Keydets to seven points and 175 total offensive yards. Liberty's leading tacklers in the game were Doncel Bolt and Patrick Bannon with five stops each. In total, 26 different players recorded a tackle in the game, keeping up with a Liberty trend in 2010. The Flames continually rotate in fresh players on defense and have averaged 24.3 average players recording tackle stats per game (170 tacklers in seven games).
Broggin Was Big Against Keydets Liberty's leading tacklers against VMI on Oct. 16 finished with five stops each, but the most noticeable defensive player on the field that afternoon in Lexington, Va., was Danny Broggin. The redshirt senior set the tone early and finished the game with three tackles, including two solo sacks and an 11-yard interception.
Leader of the Pack Kyle O'Donnell has finished as Liberty's defensive leader in three of the last five games, doing so against Robert Morris (six tackles), James Madison (14 tackles) and Savannah State (seven tackles). O'Donnell currently leads the Flames with 46 tackles and ranks No. 9 in the Big South by averaging 6.6 stops per contest.
Nearing the Century Mark Four current defenders are less than 20 career tackles away from hitting the 100-career tackle mark. Kyle O'Donnell leads that group with 96 career stops, followed by Patrick Bannon (94), Larry Claiborne (87) and Terry Adams (82). Chad Brown currently leads all active tacklers with 136 career stops, followed by Doncel Bolt with 117 career tackles.
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