Game No. 3 - No. 25 Liberty 19, Western Carolina 16
2008 - Cullowhee, N.C. - E.J. Whitmire Stadium
No. 25 Liberty withstood two fourth quarter touchdowns and made a key fourth- down stop with 1:39 remaining to hold on for a 19-16 road victory over Western Caro- lina, on Sept. 13, at E.J. Whitmore Stadium.
With the victory, the Flames moved to 3-0 for the first time since the 1997 season, a year Liberty finished its campaign with a 9-2 overall record. Western Carolina’s second- straight loss dropped the Catamounts to 1-2 on the season.
The three-point win also pushed Lib- erty’s winning streak to eight games, dating back to its 2007 Big South championship season. The winning streak was the second longest active winning streak among FCS program at the time, ranking one behind Dayton’s nine-game streak. The Flyers also held on for a 23-20 home victory over Ford- ham earlier in the day.
After holding the homestanding Cata- mounts to a three-and-out series on their opening possession, Liberty methodically used its running game and a pair of key third-down conversions to take an early lead.
Rashad Jennings carried the ball five times for 17 yards, while quarterback Brock Smith completed 3-of-5 pass attempts for 37 yards to move the Flames into scoring position. A majority of the senior’s passing yardage came on a 26-yard completion to Dominic Bolden on a third-and-10 play from Liberty’s 45-yard line.
Ben Shipps capped the opening 12-play, 69-yard scoring drive, which used 5:03 on the game clock, by booting a 29-yard field goal through the uprights with 7:40 left on the first quarter game clock to give the Flames the early 3-0 edge.
Liberty looked like it might hold Western Carolina scoreless over the remainder of the period, including a stop on a third-and-six play from the Flames’ 29-yard line. However, Liberty was whistled for a roughing the passer penalty on the play, extending the Catamounts possession.
Two plays later, Quan Warley picked up two precise blocks on the near side of the field, and scored on a 15-yard sweep. The scoring jaunt was the first career touchdown for Warley, and gave the Catamounts a 7-3 lead with 1:23 left to play in the opening quarter.
Following fumbles by both teams, Lib- erty drove downfield and tried to tack points on the scoreboard midway through the second quarter. But the drive stalled inside the Catamounts’ red zone at the 13-yard line, leaving the Flames to settle for a field goal attempt.
However, a 30-yard attempt by Shipps attempt was blocked by a leaping Chris Edwards at the line of scrimmage, leaving Western Carolina a four-point lead with 5:47 left to play before halftime.
Liberty’s offense had one more chance before intermission, driving down to the Cat- amounts’ four-yard line. The Flames looked like they might get their first touchdown of the evening, when Smith broke out of the pocket and found Corey Rasberry open in the flat.
But, the floating pass slipped through the tight end’s fingers, leaving the Flames to settle for a 27-yard field goal by Shipps with 32:5 ticks left in the opening half, as the home team headed to the locker room with a 7-6 lead.
The Flames dominated every aspect of the game during the first 30 minutes of ac- tion, except on the scoreboard. Liberty held a 20:08-9:52 time of possession advantage and tallied 186 total offensive yards to West- ern Carolina’s 81 total offensive yards.
Liberty continued to control the battle for the clock, grinding out an 80-plus yard, opening drive of the first half. But once again, the Catamounts kept the Flames out of the end zone, as Liberty took the lead mo- mentarily on a 23-yard field goal by Shipps.
However, Western Carolina was whistled for an unsportsmanlike penalty on the kicking attempt to give Liberty a fresh set of downs.
And the Flames took advantage of the extra opportunity, when Dominic Bolden took the handoff on a reserve to the far side of the field. The senior scored when he completed his three-yard rushing play with a burst through two defenders, putting Liberty on top for the first time in the contest, 13-7, at the 8:44 mark of the third quarter. The 12-play, 86-yard drive used up 6:10 on the game clock.
With Western Carolina driving down- field, Liberty’s defense forced its second
turnover of the evening. Ian Childress broke through the line and sacked Catamounts’ quarterback Andy Horn for the second time, forcing a fumble, which was recovered by Chad Brown.
Eight plays later, Smith called his own number on a one-yard keeper, scoring his second career rushing touchdown to push Liberty’s lead to 19-7 with 45.5 left to play in the third quarter. Shipps extra point was blocked, giving Liberty a 12 point edge.
The Catamounts quickly struck back on the first play of the fourth quarter, as Horn found Marquel Pittman open on a screen pass. The sophomore took the ball and found several holes in Liberty’s downfield defense, scoring on a 78-yard touchdown reception. Blake Bostic continued the kicking struggles by both teams on the evening, missing the extra point to leave Liberty up six, 19-13, with 14:46 left to play in the ball game.
After a three-and-out series by Liberty, the Catamounts continued to pressure the Flames, getting down inside Liberty’s red zone to the seven-yard line. But a nine-yard sack by Chad Brown, followed a delay of game penalty on Western Carolina forced the host team to settle for a 38-yard, Bostic field goal at 7:12 to pull within three points at 19-16.
A second straight three-and-out series forced Liberty to punt the ball away with 3:34 left to play, but Mike Larsson pinned the Catamounts deep in their own territory at the 10-yard line on the ensuing punt.
A six-yard pass play from Horn to Warley enabled Western Carolina to move the chains once. But four plays later, Horn’s pass attempt to Adam Hearns fell short of the receiver to give Liberty possession of the ball and enable the Flames to wind out the clock.
At game’s end, the Flames were still dominate in the box score totals. Liberty finished with 72 plays to the Catamounts 52 plays, enabling the Flames to outgain the home team 338 yards to 247. Liberty also finished the game with 37:36 of total time of possession.