Football: SMU holds off Liberty, 29-14

liberty-flames2Liberty’s second-half rally fell short at SMU, Saturday evening, as the Mustangs got a career-high 220 rushing yards from Braeden West and scored 10 points during the final 47 seconds to hold off the Flames, 29-14, at Ford Stadium.

Liberty (1-2) trailed just 19-14 entering the game’s final minute, before a 27-yard field goal by Josh Williams and a 34-yard interception return for a touchdown by Jordan Wyatt helped SMU improve to 2-1 on the season.

SMU outgained Liberty, 495-280, but the Flames’ defense tallied two interceptions and kept the Mustangs scoreless on three of their six trips inside the red zone.

Juwan Wells (career-high 13 tackles, 1.5 sacks), Dexter Robbins (career-high 12 tackles), Nick Newman (season-high 12 tackles, interception) and Tyrin Holloway (interception) headlined the Flames’ gritty defensive effort. Robbins’ dozen stops put the linebacker over 100 for his career (108 career tackles).

Offensively, Carrington Mosley carried the ball a career-high 19 times for 59 yards and a score, while B.J. Farrow (six catches, 69 yards) was the Flames’ most frequent target.

Stephen Calvert (9-of-20, 119 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) and Stephon Masha (9-of-16, 64 yards, 3 INTs) split time under center for Liberty.

Ben Hicks finished 19-of-32 passing for 209 yards and two interceptions for the Mustangs, with Xavier Castille and James Proche each hauling in six passes for 49 yards.

Both teams marched 75 yards for a touchdown on their opening drive of the game. West carried the ball 49 yards on the last two plays of SMU’s possession, including a 23-yard touchdown run up the middle just 2:53 into the contest.

Liberty countered with a 12-play, 75-yard march over the next 4:23, tying the score at 7-7. Mosley toted the ball five times on the drive, including a one-yard score which marked the first points SMU has allowed in the first quarter this season.

The remainder of the first quarter included three interceptions, including an acrobatic one by Newman in his own end zone and two thrown by Masha. The Flames’ defense limited the damage to a 24-yard Williams’ field goal and trailed just 10-7 after 15 minutes of play.

Williams added another 24-yard field goal with 11:34 remaining in the second quarter, pushing the Mustangs’ advantage to 13-7.

The score remained the same until halftime, thanks in large part to a Holloway interception on his own goal line. Liberty crossed into SMU territory three times during the second quarter, but the Flames were just 1-of-5 on third down and 0-of-1 on fourth down for the period.

SMU more than doubled up Liberty in offensive yards during the first half, 300-135, including 166 passing yards by Hicks. However, the Flames’ two timely interceptions of Hicks and SMU’s 4-of-11 performance on third down kept Liberty within striking distance.

Mosley was Liberty’s first-half offensive leader, carrying the ball 13 times for 47 yards and a touchdown.

Newman nearly had his second interception of the game early in the third quarter, but it was negated by a pass interference penalty. On the very next play, West broke several tackles on his way to a 66-yard touchdown run. A bad snap foiled SMU’s point-after attempt, leaving the home team in front by a 19-7 count at the 10:19 mark.

Calvert completed three key third-down passes during a 13-play, 63-yard drive, culminating with the freshman’s first career TD pass, an eight-yard completion to Dante’ Shells. That trimmed the Flames’ deficit to 19-14 with 2:35 to play in the third quarter.

SMU fashioned an extended drive of its own, marching 62 yards in 11 plays. But the Mustangs came up empty when a 30-yard field goal try by Williams sailed left of the uprights with 13:20 left on the fourth-quarter clock.

A 47-yard completion from Calvert to fellow freshman Antonio Gandy-Golden sparked the Flames’ ensuing series. However, it also ended on a missed field goal, as Justin Lawler tipped Alex Probert’s 37-yard try with 7:57 remaining.

That turned out to be the Flames’ last trip into SMU territory on the night, as Liberty lost its second matchup against an FBS opponent this sseason.

Liberty will return home next weekend to battle No. 4/6 Jacksonville State, last season’s FCS national runner-up. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Williams Stadium as part of the Flames’ annual Hall of Fame Weekend.

Liberty, which has won six straight home games, is 6-3 in its last nine meetings with FCS Top 25 foes.

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