Calvert sparks Liberty offense in win over Robert Morris

libertyThree Liberty interceptions and a freshman record performance by Stephen Calvert guided the Flames to a 41-7 victory over Robert Morris, Saturday night, at Williams Stadium.

Liberty, who came into the game ranked No. 18 in the country in passes intercepted, finished the game with three to give them eight picks in 2016.

Calvert completed 23-of-37 passing attempts on the night for 340 yards and four touchdowns. His passing yards set a new program record for most yards by a freshman quarterback in his first career start. He surpassed the previous record of 322 yards by Josh Woodrum against Montana in 2012.

Calvert helped the Flames push their record to 2-3 on the season, while the loss dropped Robert Morris to 1-4 in 2016.

Calvert’s top target in the game was Dante’ Shells, who recorded his fourth career 100-yard game. The senior set a new career high with 170 yards on six receptions, while recording his team-leading fifth touchdown.

Carrington Mosley led the Flames’ limited rushing attack, as Liberty only gained 72 of its 412 total offensive yards on the ground. Mosley finished the game with 15 carries for 33 yards. Frankie Hickson followed with 12 carries for 29 yards.

Andrew Romanchak completed 12-of-23 passing attempts for Robert Morris, while throwing three interceptions. The redshirt freshman threw for 105 yards and recorded his first career touchdown pass in the first quarter.

Malik Wells led all ball carriers in the game, rushing 17 times for 73 yards for the visitors, while TJ Neal followed with 10 carries for 30 yards. Tim Vecchio finished as the Colonials’ top receiver with five receptions for 28 yards.

Juwan Wells, Liberty’s defensive leader through four games in 2016, extended his team lead by recording 12 stops. The sophomore added 2.5 tackles for a loss and 2.0 sacks, giving him 9.5 career sacks in 13 career games played.

Robert Morris’ top defenders were Gerald Ferguson and Joseph Uhatafe who both recorded 10 stops in the loss.

The Colonials were the first team to crack the scoreboard, jumping out to a 7-0 lead with 6:19 left to play in the first quarter. A seven-play, 70-yard scoring drive was capped when Romanchak completed a two-yard pass to fullback Blake Shuratowicz.

The scoring drive was set up by a 36-yard completion from Romanchak to DeLano Madison. A quick snap on a third-and-one play allowed Madison to get open and scamper downfield to the Liberty 11-yard line. Three plays later, the visitors struck first.

The Flames answered back on the following drive, tying the game at 7-7 at the 2:08 mark. A nine-play, 75-yard drive was aided by three Robert Morris penalties (28 yards). Calvert finished off the drive when he completed a one-yard pass to tight end Zac Foutz on a fourth-down play.

Robert Morris looked like it might regain the lead when Romanchak tried to find a wide out in the back corner of the end zone. However, Chris Turner picked off the pass and Liberty’s fifth interception of the year gave the Flames the ball and the game’s momentum.

Calvert completed 7-of-10 passing attempts for 68 yards on a 10-play, 80-yard scoring drive, allowing Liberty to take the lead for good with 10:42 left before halftime. A freshman-to-freshman connection gave Liberty a 14-7 lead when Calvert hit Antonio Gandy-Golden near the sideline and the rookie’s spin move allowed him to score from 14 yards out.

The Flames struck one more time before the intermission, this time capitalizing on the downfield speed of senior Shells.

Following the visitor’s third three-and-out series of the game, Calvert found Shells open around the 20-yard line and then he sprinted to the end zone. The senior’s 11th career touchdown reception, measuring 69 yards, gave Liberty a 21-7 lead at the break.

The game’s third interception led to the Flames pushing their lead to 28-7 just 43 seconds into the second half. A Romanchak slant pass was intercepted by Solomon McGinty and returned 33 yards for a score at the 14:17 mark to set the tone for the second half.

The Flames tacked on 13 additional points during the remainder of the second half, starting with freshman kicker Alex Probert connecting on career-long field goals of 47 and 51 yards. Calvert completed a four-yard touchdown pass to Mosley at the 10:46 mark of the fourth quarter to cap of the night’s 41-unanswered points by the Flames.

Following its annual bye week, Liberty will begin Big South play on Oct. 15 when the Flames make their first-ever trip to Kennesaw, Ga., to face Kennesaw State. The contest against the Owls kicks off at 7 p.m. from Fifth Third Bank Stadium.

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