Game No. 5 - No. 20/21 Liberty 43, Coastal Carolina 38
Oct. 4, 2008 - Conwa , S.C. - Brooks Stadium (7,322)
For the third-straight road game, No. 20/21 Liberty outlasted an opponent, this time picking up a 43-38 victory over Big South rival Coastal Carolina in its conference opener, Saturday night, at Brooks Stadium.
With the win, the Flames ran their re- cord to 5-0 on the year and 1-0 in Big South play. The victory extended the nation’s lon- gest FCS winning streak to 10 games and tied a program record, as Liberty also reeled off 10-straight wins over the span of the 1988 and 1989 seasons.
For the third time in 2008, the Flames put points up on the scoreboard during their opening drive, taking a 7-0 lead with 9:36 left to play in the opening 15 minutes.
Rashad Jennings carried the ball four times on the eight-play drive, however, the senior tailback was the intended target of quarterback Brock Smith on third-and-eight play from the Coastal 23-yard line. Jennings caught the pass over the middle and broke several tackles before getting the nose of the football over the goal line to give Liberty the early advantage.
After a three-and-out series on the ensu- ing drive, Liberty’s special teams, which en- tered the game ranked No. 11 in the nation in punt return yardage, showcased its return prowess. Dominic Bolden, who ranked eighth individually coming into the contest, made use of a key block by Wes Cheek to clip off a 39-yard punt return.
Bolden’s third-longest punt return of the season set up Liberty’s next scoring op- portunity, as three plays later, Matt Bevins knocked down a 22-yard field goal at the 6:37 mark, pushing LU’s advantage to 10-0.
Coastal Carolina made a quarterback change on the following drive, placing redshirt freshman Jamie Childress under center. And the move by head coach David Bennett paid off, as the rookie scored his first collegiate touchdown, diving one yard on a third-and-goal play with 1:56 left to play in the first quarter to trim Liberty’s lead to three points, 10-7.
The Flames failed to move the chains on their next drive, forcing to punt the ball away four plays later as time expired on the first quarter game clock. Starting quarterback Zach MacDowall returned the game, com- pleting two out of his three pass attempts
for 46 yards to get the Chanticleers into Liberty territory.
The Chanticleers took to the ground for the next three plays, getting a pair of 15-yard jaunts from Arthur Sitton and Jamie Ford- ham. The second by Fordham gave Coastal Carolina a 14-10 lead with 12:30 left in the second quarter.
Liberty regrouped on its next drive, piecing together its longest drive of the first quarter. On the 12th play of the drive, Smith faked a handoff to Jonathan Crawford and found Jennings wide open in the near side of the end zone for his second receiving touch- down of the game. The four-yard receiving by the senior with 7:01 left before the break, gave Liberty a 17-14 lead.
Five plays later, Patrick Calvary picked off his seventh career pass, moving the senior into fifth place on the Big South all-time in- terception list, which gave Liberty possession with 4:44 left to play before halftime.
The Chanticleers looked like they might have halted the Flames on a third-and-13 play from the Coastal Carolina 23-yard line. However, Smith got a key block on the offen- sive line from Jennings so the senior could find Bolden open on a slant route, to give Liberty a 10-point lead with 29 seconds left before the intermission.
Liberty drove down the length of the field on the first drive of the second half, thanks in part to a third-down conversion play that saw B.J. Hayes scamper for 44 yards, However, the drive stalled in the Red Zone, as the Flames had to settle for a 28-yard field goal by Bevins, which gave Liberty a 13-point edge, 27-14, with 11:40 left in the third.
The Chanticleers looked like they quickly answered, as MacDowall hooked up with Sitton for a screen pass, which the senior took the end zone less than a minute later. However, the play was called back due to a holding penalty at midfield.
Infractions continued to plague the Chanticleers on the drive, as CCU was whis- tled for four more on the drive, including a second wave off on a MacDowell touchdown pass to Brandon Whitley, leaving the home squad to settle for a 42-yard field by Justin Durham at the 5:11 mark of the third quar- ter, cutting the lead to 10 points, 27-17.
Following a 17-play drive that had Liber- ty’s defense on the field for 6:24, the Flames quickly ushered their defenders back on the field, as Hayes scored on the next play.
The 66-yard sweeping touchdown run to the far side of the field, Liberty’s longest run of the year, pushed the Flames lead to 17 points, 34-17, as the Flames doubled the Chanticleers up 15 seconds later.
Coastal Carolina mustered some fourth- down magic on the ensuing drive, as Liberty looked like it might tackle MacDowall and regain possession on downs.
But the sophomore squirmed away from several would-be tacklers to find Chris Floyd open for a 21-yard play at the LU six-yard line. MacDowall called his own number on the next play, cutting the lead back to 10 points, 34-24, with 1:23 left in the third.
The two teams traded touchdown during the first five minutes of the fourth quarter. Jennings tacked on his third touchdown of the game, this time on the ground. The senior bowled over several defenders, scam- pering for a 35-yard rushing touchdown with 11:53 left in the game.
However, Coastal Carolina quickly moved the ball downfield and pulled within eight points, 40-32, following a Marquel Willis touchdown pass from MacDowall and a two- point conversion pass to Trent Usher with 11:53 remaining on the clock.
Trying to wind down the game clock, LU handed the ball to Jennings five times on the next nine-play drive, helping set up a 34-yard field goal by Bevins with 7:34 left, pushing Liberty’s lead to 11 points, 43-32.
Kent Hicks intercepted the ball on the next play, but Liberty was forced to punt four plays later, following a three-and-out series. MacDowall quickly moved the Chanticleers downfield 91 yards on 15 plays, completing the drive with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Willis with 1:59 left on the game clock. A two-point rushing attempt by Fordham failed, leaving the score at 43-38.
Liberty recovered an attempted on-side kick and handed the ball off to Jennings on the next three plays. On the third rush, Jen- nings broke free for a sure touchdown run, but the senior slid down at the one-yard line, ending the game as Liberty was then able to run the clock out.