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Defense Keys White Team's Spring Game Win

April 18, 2011  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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Defense ruled the night during Liberty's 2011 spring football game, which the White Team won by a 10-9 score.

Defense ruled the night during Liberty's 2011 spring football game, which the White Team won by a 10-9 score.

Spring Game Box Score

In a spring football game controlled by defense, Alex Kacere's 36-yard field goal with 21.9 seconds remaining in the contest lifted Liberty's White Team to a 10-9 victory. The contest was played before 2,311 fans Monday evening at Williams Stadium, closing out the Flames' 2011 spring practice schedule.

One of the selected red-jerseyed players suiting up for both squads, Kacere actually had an opportunity to win the game for the Blue Team as well moments later. However, his 39-yard field goal attempt sailed well wide of the left upright as time expired.

For the game, the two defenses combined to force 10 punts, while limiting their offensive counterparts to 17 total first downs and two touchdowns.

After the two squads opened the game by exchanging three-and-out possessions, the White Team put together the best sustained drive of the evening. Led by quarterback Tyler Brennan, the White squad drove 62 yards in 13 plays, featuring a pair of successful fourth-down conversions.

On the final play of both the drive and the opening quarter, Brennan found Ervin Garner, who made a leaping grab in the back left corner of the end zone for a touchdown. Matt Bevins' point-after gave the White Team a 7-0 lead at the end of the opening period.

Garner, another of the players competing for both teams, actually helped set the table for the Blue Team's first score of the night. His 37-yard scamper on a reverse play took the ball down to the White Team's 16-yard line.

Five players later, the Blue Team punched it into the end zone on a unique play. Facing third and goal from the four-yard line, Mike Brown found running back Aldreakis Allen with a pass in the left flat. White Team linebacker Demetrius Ward jarred Allen just before he crossed the goal line, and the ball came loose.

A wild scramble ensued, before Blue Team fullback Peter Gagliardi fell on the pigskin in the end zone for a touchdown. However, Bevins uncharacteristically misfired on the extra point attempt, and the White Team maintained a 7-6 edge.

After the Blue Team's defense forced a three-and-out, Brown tried to help his team reclaim the lead before the intermission. The Blue Team moved the ball from its own 31-yard line to the White Team's one in 13 plays, aided by a pair of 26-yard receptions by Garner.

However, the White Defense stood firm, keeping Allen out of the end zone on consecutive rushing attempts. Defensive backs Brandon Robinson and Larry Claiborne came up to make the key tackles, and time ran out with the White Team still leading, 7-6.

During the "halftime" festivities, the Flames made public three of their major program honors, which were officially bestowed upon the recipients during last Friday night's annual spring awards banquet.

Offensive lineman Jay Weatherington and defensive lineman Paco Varol were named the winners of the Samkon Gado Award, given annually to the most improved offensive and defensive player during the spring.

2010 starting center Matt Camire, who was part of a senior class that led the Flames to four-straight Big South titles and a combined 34-11 record, 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.

Finally during the break, head coach Danny Rocco announced his five team captains for the 2011 season, which include quarterback Mike Brown, wide receiver Chris Summers, offensive lineman Aaron Lundy, defensive lineman Asa Chapman and linebacker Mike Connolly. This will be the third year in a row Brown has served as one of Liberty's team captains.

Neither team's offense could get untracked during a scoreless third quarter, which included twice as many punts (4) as first downs (2).

However, Garner started the final quarter with a bang for the Blue Team. He eluded numerous would-be tacklers on a 28-yard run which took the ball to the White Team's 12-yard line.

Three plays later, a 27-yard field goal by Kacere split the uprights, putting the Blue Team back on top, 9-7, with 8:51 remaining.

The White Team was able to move the ball deep into Blue territory on its ensuing possession, before Kevin Fogg intercepted a Brennan pass on his own 11-yard line.

A defensive stop and a short Blue Team punt gave the White Team excellent field position on the Blue 27-yard line, for its game-winning possession. Three running plays, highlighted by a nine-yard Gabe Henderson scramble, set the stage for Kacere's decisive field goal. The three points, which came with 21.9 seconds remaining on the fourth-quarter clock, made the score 10-9, in favor of the White Team.

The Blue Team was not finished, though. Taking snaps for the Blue squad for the first time all night, Brennan gave his squad a chance to win the game. His high-arcing 40-yard pass came down in the arms of B.J. Hayes on the White Team 22-yard line with 2.9 ticks left. After Blue Team head coach Bill Gillespie called timeout, Kacere's potential game-winning field goal missed on the game's final play.

White Team head coach Dr. Ed Gomes' defense was led by Robinson, who made a team-high seven stops. Varol notched a game-high three sacks, while Greg Schuster brought down the Blue Team quarterback on two other occasions. Defensive back Walt Aikens finished with four tackles and two pass breakups, while helping limit Blue Team wide receiver Summers to just one five-yard reception.

Meanwhile, linebackers Jimmy O'Grady and Nick Martin spearheaded the Blue Team's defensive efforts. O'Grady paced all players with 10 tackles, three of which were for a loss. Martin added a half-dozen stops.

Garner was the contest's primary offensive standout. Adding up his contributions to both teams, he accounted for 155 of the game's 351 total offensive yards. Garner totaled seven catches for 92 yards and a touchdown. On the ground, he added 63 yards on four carries.

The two primary quarterbacks' numbers were nearly identical on the evening. Brown ended up completing 10-of-16 passes for 95 yards for the Blue Team. Meanwhile, if you include his final drive for the Blue Team, Tyler Brennan's evening consisted of 10-of-17 passing for 95 yards. Brennan had both a touchdown pass and an interception.

On the ground, Desmond Rice paced the White Team with 23 yards on five carries. For the Blue Team, backup quarterback Brian Hudson complemented Garner's effort with 23 yards on five totes.

Other than Garner, the only player to catch more than two passes in the contest was Hayes of the Blue Team. He ended up hauling in three receptions for 45 yards.

Liberty will now have 137 days before it opens the 2011 season at N.C. State. The contest against the Wolfpack of the ACC will be played Sept. 3 inside Carter-Finley Stadium, with kickoff set for 6 p.m.