Liberty football enhances playoff resume with 28-7 win over Presbyterian
During the second half, the skies cleared and saw the Flames move to 6-3 on the year and 2-0 in Big South play.
Following its sixth loss in a row to the Flames, the Blue Hose drop to 5-4 overall and 2-2 in Big South play. The contest was the final home game of 2014 for Presbyterian and its 15 seniors were honored prior to kickoff. PC was 4-1 at home this year prior to today’s game.
Liberty quarterback Josh Woodrum, who came into the day ranked No. 9 nationally in points responsible for per game (17.3), finished the afternoon with a part in three of Liberty’s four touchdowns.
The junior completed 15-of-22 passing attempts for 214 yards and two touchdowns, while rushing seven times for 41 yards and his eighth rushing touchdown of 2014. Woodrum’s passing yardage on the day leaves him 135 shy of becoming the fourth quarterback in program and Big South history with 7,000 career passing yards.
PC quarterback Heys McMath was hampered all day by Liberty’s safeties, who finished the game with four interceptions. The sophomore quarterback came into the game having only thrown three picks during his first seven games of the year. He completed 18-of-31 passing attempts for 170 yards.
Running back D.J. Abnar led the Flames’ rushing attack, which racked up 161 yards on the snow-soaked field. The junior carried the ball 25 times for 83 yards and scored his 10th rushing touchdown of the season.
Flames’ wide receiver Darrin Peterson finished the game with seven catches for 156 yards and his seventh receiving touchdown of the year. The junior, who recorded his ninth career 100-yard game, came into the contest ranked No. 6 in the nation with 791 receiving yards.
Blake Roberts and Darrell Bridges carried the workload for PC’s offense, finishing the game with 70 and 37 rushing yards, respectively. Wide receiver Tobi Antigha was the Blue Hose’s top receiver with seven receptions for 67 yards.
Liberty’s defense nearly posted their second shutout in a row, as PC was kept off the scoreboard until the 9:25 mark of the fourth quarter. Last week, Liberty opened up Big South play with a 34-0 blanking of Gardner-Webb at home.
The Flames were paced defensively by Wesley Scott, who had his second double-digit tackle effort of the year with 10 tackles (all solo stops).
All-America safety Jacob Hagen continued to add to his career total, finishing the day with two interceptions to give him 12 for his career. He also finished the game with five solo stops.
Avery “A.J.” James and Gary Sampson added to Liberty’s interception total. James’ pick was the first of his young Liberty career and Sampson’s was his second of the year. The Flames have now recorded 28 interceptions during their last 17 games.
The Flames cracked the scoreboard first, scoring on their opening drive of the game. The seven-play drive opened with a 49-yard pass from Woodrum to Peterson, moving the Flames into the red zone.
Six plays later, Woodrum called his own number to cap off a 69-yard drive with a two-yard rushing touchdown at the 11:35mark of the opening quarter. The junior’s eighth rushing touchdown of the year gave the Flames a 7-0 lead early in the game.
Two plays later, McMath tried to find an opening receiver downfield, but his pass over the middle of the field was picked off by Gary Sampson, Liberty’s ninth interception of the season.
The Flames looked like they might widen their lead, but John Lunsford’s 27-yard field goal sailed wide right to keep the score the same.
The score remained the same until midway through the second quarter when Liberty pieced together a clock-draining 12-play, 80-yard drive that used up 6:55 on the clock.
The Flames kept the ball on the ground for most of the drive that pushed Liberty’s lead to 14-0. However, the drive ended when Woodrum dropped a pass into the arms of Gabe Henderson, lofting a 29-yard pass over three defenders for the senior’s fifth career touchdown reception with 7:44 left before halftime.
Presbyterian was able to move the ball on its next drive, getting to the Flames 30-yard line. However, the Flames’ defense came up with a stop on a fourth-and-eight play, forcing a McMath incompletion to turn over the ball on downs.
On the next play, Woodrum found Peterson deep down the left sideline for a 70-yard touchdown pass with 2:39 left in the half. The scoring play gave Liberty a 21-0 halftime lead and Peterson his fifth 100-yard game of the year.
Neither team found the scoreboard during the second half until PC put together its longest drive of the day, an 87-yard effort to break Liberty’s shutout streak at 9:25 of the fourth.
Running back Jordan Hallums capped off the 12-play drive with a five-yard touchdown, his first of the year, to cut Liberty’s margin to two scores, 21-7.
Hagen returned the interception 51 yards to set up Liberty’s final scoring drive. The Flames kept the ball on the ground for each play of the six-play, 17-yard scoring drive, capped by a Abnar one-yard burst up the middle to seal the victory with a touchdown with 63 seconds left in the game.
The Flames return to action next weekend when they welcome Monmouth to Williams Stadium during Military Appreciation Day. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. and the game will be televised on American Sports Network.
The contest marks the second meeting in the series between the Flames and the Hawks, following a 45-14 Liberty victory at home last year on Sept. 7.
Monmouth will be looking for its first-ever Big South win, as the league’s newest associate member is 5-3 on the year and 0-2 in conference play. Earlier today, the Hawks were shut out at home by Charleston Southern, 27-0.