Big fourth quarter lifts Liberty football past Monmouth, 34-24

liberty-flames21The Flames scored twice in the fourth quarter and used two sacks to end a pair of late  drives for Monmouth, allowing Liberty to secure a 34-24 victory over the visiting Hawks, Saturday afternoon, at Williams Stadium on Military Appreciation Day.

The win keeps the Flames unbeaten in Big South play (3-0) and pushes Liberty to 7-3 on the season following its 22nd win in its last 23 home conference games.

Monmouth, who has scored only 12 points in its first two Big South games this season, pushed the Flames the entire 60 minutes, but fell to 5-4 overall and 0-3 in conference play.

Liberty outgained Monmouth in the game, 404 total offensive yards to 344, but needed the fourth quarter to gain the advance. During the final 15 minutes of play, Liberty had 110 total offensive yards, while holding Monmouth to negative four yards.

Running back D.J. Abnar was Liberty’s top offensive weapon, finishing the game with a career-high 39 carries for 164 yards and two touchdowns. Abnar recorded his fifth 100-yard rushing game of the year and the sixth of his career.

With the yardage, the junior pushed his season total to 1,006, while he now has a dozen rushing touchdowns in 2014. His 39 carries were the most by a Flame since Eugene Goodman had 40 carries against Hofstra in 2003.

Abnar’s counterpart Lavon Chaney finished the game with 14 carries for 92 yards, while the running back was also the visitor’s top receiver with six catches for 33 yards.

Liberty quarterback Josh Woodrum managed the Flames’ offense throughout the night, finishing the game completing 13-of-19 passing attempts for 203 yards and two touchdowns.

The junior’s yardage allowed him to become the fourth quarterback in program and Big South history with 7,000 career passing yards (7,068). His pair of touchdown passes ties him for third on Liberty’s career list with 49 (ties him with Paul Johnson/1985-89).

Monmouth quarterback Brandon Hill completed 18-of-28 passing attempts for 189 yards and a pair of scoring passes.

Gabe Henderson was Liberty’s leading receiver with four receptions for 52 yards and he recorded his second touchdown reception in the last two games.

Liberty’s defensive leader was Jacob Hagen, who had his third double-digit tackle effort of the year with 10 stops. Chima Uzowihe finished the contest with three tackles, including two tackles for a loss and a sack that forced a fumble in the decisive fourth quarter.

Monmouth had a pair of double-digit tacklers, starting with 13 stops by outside linebacker John Sieczkowski and 10 tackles by inside linebacker Tyler Thompson.

For the fourth week in a row and sixth time this year, Liberty scored on its opening drive of the game, piecing together a 10-play, 68-yard effort the used 5:29 on the game clock.

Liberty kept the ball on the ground eight times on the drive, including a five-yard run up the middle by Abnar to stake the Flames to a 7-0 edge with 9:31 on the first quarter game clock.

The lead was short lived, as the second offensive play by Monmouth saw wide receiver Matt Choi get the ball and the former high school quarterback hit Hakeem Valles down field for a 68-yard touchdown pass just 49 seconds later.

Liberty regained the lead on the second play of the second quarter when Woodrum found Flames’ leading receiver Darrin Woodrum open for a 31-yard scoring strike with 14:31 left to play in the first half.

Once again, the Hawks answered right back, tying the game, 14-14, on a quick six-play, 75-yard drive. The drive was capped off by a three-yard touchdown pass from Hill to Jake Mauro at the 12:09 mark.

The score remained the same until the final play of the first half when placekicker John Lunsford connected on a 26-yard field goal to give the Flames a 17-14 halftime edge.

The Hawks opened the third quarter with the ball and managed to piece together a 15-play, 68-yard drive that stalled at the Flames’ seven-yard line.

A 30-yard pass play from Hill to Thaddeus Richards got the Hawks into red zone, but Monmouth had to settle for a 24-yard field goal by Lucas Santangelo to tie the game at 17 all with 8:25 left in the third quarter.

Both teams scored on their next drives, starting with a 13-yard touchdown pass from Woodrum to Henderson to give Liberty a 24-17 edge at the 5:07 mark.

However, the Hawks answered one more time, quickly moving the ball down the field 81 yards on five plays to knot the score for the final time.

Hill completed five-straight passing plays on the drive, including a 37-yard throw to Darren Ambush with 3:30 left in the quarter to finish the scoring drive.

Liberty grinded out the clock with a 15-play, 77-yard drive that used up 8:03 on the game clock to regain the lead and take possession of the game’s momentum.

Abnar carried the ball eight times on the drive, including a two-yard burst up the middle to give Liberty the lead for the fifth time with 10:19 left in the game.

Monmouth managed to get to midfield on the next drive, but Uzowihe sacked Hill on a third-and-seven play and the quarterback lost the football. The loose ball was recovered by Nick Newman and gave the Flames the defensive stop they had been looking for the entire game.

Abnar handled the ball seven more times on Liberty’s following nine-play, 33-yard drive that was finished by a 27-yard Lunsford field goal with 3:27 left to play to widen the home team’s lead to 10 points, 34-24.

Hill was sacked twice on the following drive, both times by defensive end Toby Onyechi to end the game and move Liberty to 9-0 in the month of November under Flames Head Coach Turner Gill.

The Flames close out the home portion of their 2014 regular season schedule next weekend when they welcome the Buccaneers of Charleston Southern. The Senior Day game will kick off at 3:30 p.m. from Williams Stadium.

Charleston Southern enters the game fresh off a convincing 44-14 home victory over Gardner-Webb earlier today. The sizeable win moved the Buccaneers to 7-3 on the year and 2-2 in Big South play.

Monmouth returns home next weekend and hosts No. 3/2 Coastal Carolina. Kickoff from Kessler Field is scheduled for 3 p.m.The Chanticleers stepped outside of Big South play today and moved to 10-0 on the year with a 59-34 road victory at Charlotte.


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