Flames 4th Quarter Rally Falls Short Against No. 18 Wake Forest
Liberty scored a touchdown with 1:11 left in the fourth quarter and came up short on the following two-point conversation, allowing No. 18 Wake Forest to escape with a 37-36 win Saturday evening at Truist Field.
Liberty erased a 12-point halftime deficit to take the lead at the end of the third quarter, only to have Wake Forest score three touchdowns in the fourth quarter to regain the lead.
The Flames’ Kaidon Salter led the Flames on one more scoring drive and hit Demario Douglas with an 18-yard touchdown strike on a fourth-and-four play to pull Liberty within one.
Head coach Hugh Freeze elected to go for two during the waning seconds of regulation. The Flames’ trick play came up just short of the goal line that would have given Liberty its second-ever win over a ranked FBS team.
The Flames outgained the homestanding Demon Deacons, 437 yards to 346, including a 302 to 153-yard edge during the second half.
Liberty finished the night rushing for 181 yards and two touchdowns, including a season-best 93 yards for Dae Dae Hunter. With the yardage, the Hawaii transfer moves over the 1,000-rushing mark for his collegiate career (834 yards at Hawaii and 219 yards at Liberty).
Salter completed 19-of-34 passing attempts for 256 yards and two touchdowns. The redshirt freshman was also sacked four times, threw two interceptions, and fumbled the ball away, leading to a Wake Forest second-quarter touchdown.
Douglas posted his fourth career 100-yard game, leading Liberty’s receiver with 14 receptions for 124 yards and two touchdowns.
Liberty’s defense caused its 10th and 11th turnover of the season, intercepting Wake Forest’s Sam Hartman twice during the game.
Linebacker Mike Smith, Jr., recorded his first 10-tackle game at Liberty to lead the Flames with 10 stops (six solos, four assisted), including 2.5 tackles for a loss.
Quinton Reese matched his career high with six stops and had his second career interception, while Ahmad Walker added a half dozen stops, including a pair of sacks.
Box Score Highlights:
Final Score: 37-36
No. 18/19 Wake Forest (3-0, 0-0 ACC)
Location: Truist Field (Winston-Salem, N.C.)
Liberty dominated play during the third quarter, outgaining the Demon Deacons 154 to 48 yards during the third quarter. The Flames scored twice during the 15 minutes to take a 23-20 lead heading into the final period.
Wake Forest got its offense back on track during the final 15 minutes, scoring three times during the last period to regain the lead with 3:39 in regulation.
Salter completed 4-of-6 passing attempts during Liberty’s final drive, including completed passes of 18, 22 and 23 yards to Douglas on the industry.
On the two-point conversation, Salter handed the ball off to Hunter, who handled it to CJ Yarbrough. However, the wide receiver could not find an open receiver in the end zone and was forced out before he could rush the ball in for the potential game-winning play.
- Wake Forest was the first team to put points on the scoreboard, taking a 3-0 lead at the 9:16 mark. After Liberty failed to convert on a fourth-down play just past midfield on its opening drive, the Flames’ defense held Wake Forest, who was forced to set for a 33-yard field goal by Matthew Dennis.
- For the third game in a row, the Flames failed to score during the opening 15 minutes of play, sending the contest to the second quarter at 3-0 in favor of the home team.
- After minimal scoring during the first 15 minutes of play, the two teams scored 25 combined points during the second quarter, giving Wake Forest a 20-8 lead at halftime.
- Liberty’s Nick Brown put six points on the board for the Flames with field goals of 47 yards (10:55/career-long) and 28 yards (as time expired), while Jerome Jolly, Jr. blocked a punt attempt that went into the end zone resulting in safety at 4:39.
- Hartman threw a pair of touchdown passes during the quarter (16 yards to Jahmal Banks at 13:19 and eight yards to Blake Whiteheart 52 seconds), while Dennis added his second field goal of the game at 8:39.
- The Flames pulled within five early in the third quarter when Liberty found the end zone quickly after halftime. After forcing a three-and-out stop on Wake Forest’s first-quarter drive, Salter broke free for a 43-yard touchdown run at 12:46 to trim Wake Forest’s lead to 20-15.
- Following a second-straight three-and-out series, the Flames took their first lead of the night midway through the quarter. Liberty went back to its ground game with Dae Dae Hunter bursting through the line and finding the end zone on the 43-yard scoring run at 10:08. Following a successful two-point conversion pass from Salter to Demario Douglas, Liberty took a 23-20 lead which stood the rest of the quarter.
- Wake Forest got the thrilling fourth quarter started when Dennis knocked down a 46-yard field goal at 12:39, his third successful kick of the night.
- Wake Forest regained the lead twice during the final 15 minutes, including a 3-yard pass play to Banks at 9:14 and a one-yard rushing touchdown by Justice Ellison at 3:39.
- Douglas scored his first of two touchdowns on the night when he caught a 38-yard pass from Salter at 5:50, setting the stage for the dramatic finish.
The Flames will look to move to 2-0 at home this season when Liberty returns to Williams Stadium next Saturday to host Akron during College for a Weekend. The game will mark the second-ever meeting in the series between the two teams and the first since Liberty dropped a 49-21 decision at Akron on Oct. 12, 2002.
Date: Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022
Location: Lynchburg, Va. (Williams Stadium)
Radio: LFSN Radio (Flagship Station: The Journey 88.3 FM Lynchburg)
Kickoff: 6:00 p.m. (EST)