Liberty tops Monmouth, 52-28, on Homecoming

libertyThe Liberty Flames tallied a season-high 681 yards of total offense, thrilling a Homecoming crowd of 16,687 fans with a 52-28 win over visiting Monmouth, Saturday afternoon at Williams Stadium.

With the victory, the Flames push their winning streak to three games and move to 4-3 on the year and 2-0 in Big South play. Liberty is now 30-13 all-time in Homecoming contests and winners of eight of its last 10 Homecoming games.

The loss drops Monmouth to 4-4 and leaves the Hawks winless in Big South games (0-3). The home team remains the victor in every game in the all-time series with Liberty claiming its third win in three tries at home against the Hawks.

Junior Todd Macon had a career day for the Flames, finishing the contest with a career-high 271 all-purpose yards. He rushed for a career-best 193 rushing yards and tallied a career-high 78 receiving yards. He also scored a receiving touchdown and two rushing touchdowns.

Macon’s yardage ties him for the fifth most all-purpose yards in a game in school history (tied Johnny Shepherd’s yardage against Gardner-Webb in 1978).

Stephen Calvert moved to 3-0 as a starting quarterback, throwing for a career-high 350 yards and three scores. The true freshman completed 27-of-34 passing attempts and has thrown for 901 yards and eight touchdowns in his first three collegiate starts.

Dante’ Shells was Calvert’s top target, finishing the game with eight receptions for 95 yards and his team-leading sixth receiving touchdown. The senior’s totals on the day pushed him over the 1,800 career receiving mark (1,886 yards).

Liberty’s 681 total offensive yards fell 11 yards short of matching the program record of 692 total offensive yards set against Presbyterian in 2012.

Cody Williams finished the game completing 9-of-21 passing attempts for Monmouth for 187 yards and a touchdown. Kenji Bahar finished the second half of the game for the Hawks, completing 6-of-13 attempts for 92 yards.

Lavon Chaney led the Hawks’ ground game, finishing the contest with 145 yards. He averaged 10.4 yards per rushing attempt on 14 carries and scored his sixth rushing touchdown in 2016.

Darren Ambush became the fourth opposing player in Liberty’s history to finish a game with 200 receiving yards against the Flames. The senior had seven receptions for 210 yards and a touchdown during the contest.

Liberty’s defensive effort was paced by Chris Turner, who finished with seven stops, while Juwan Wells added a half dozen tackles.

Monmouth’s Brendon Wharton finished the contest with 21 tackles, marking the fourth highest single-game tackle total in Big South Conference history.

The Flames got on the scoreboard first, taking a 7-0 lead with 10:31 left in the first quarter. Calvert completed 4-of-5 passing attempts on an 11-play, 74-yard drive, capped by a five-yard scoring strike to Shells.

The windy conditions at Williams Stadium played a factor into the game’s first turnover, as Monmouth misplayed the ensuing kickoff and Liberty’s Rion Davis pounced on the loose ball.

Liberty looked like it was going to take advantage of the turnover when Calvert hit Shells on a four-yard fade pass three plays later, but it was called back because of pass interference. The Flames elected to go for it on fourth-and-goal from the two, but Carrington Mosley was stopped.

Monmouth aired the ball out on the next play when Williams hit Ambush in stride and the looked like he was off to the end zone. However, the Flames’ Turner closed on Ambush and stripped the ball away, allowing Tyrin Holloway to recover for Liberty.

Four plays later, Calvert lofted a ball over a few charging defenders to Macon. The junior took the screen pass and scored on a 76-yard play to give Liberty a 14-0 lead at the 6:07 mark of the first quarter.

The score remained the same until the 11:26 mark of the second quarter when Liberty went to the ground to push its lead to 21-0. Back-to-back, double-digit runs by Macon allowed the junior to score his fourth rushing touchdown in 2016, this one coming on an 11-yard burst to the far side of the field.

Monmouth got on the scoreboard just over a minute later, thanks to a 34-yard burst up the middle by Chaney and a pick pass to Ambush on the outside. The Hawks caught the Flames off guard with a quick call, allowing Ambush to score from 45 yards out, 21-7, at 10:23.

Liberty pushed the lead back to three scores at 8:13, starting with a pair well-time throws by Calvert and a team-effort rushing touchdown. After completions of 20 yards to Antonio Gandy-Golden and 28 yards to Shells, Mosley met a line of defenders at the three-yard line, but his teammates helped push him into the end zone for the score to give Liberty a 28-7 lead.

The Flames tacked on three more points before heading to the locker room when Alex Probert knocked down a 26-yard field goal with 1:37 left in the half to give Liberty a 31-7 edge.

Liberty widened its lead to 38-7 on its first drive of the third quarter. Calvert capped off a quick four-play, 68-yard drive with a four-yard pass play to Gandy-Golden at the 11:10 mark.

The Hawks continued to push, scoring three-straight touchdowns to move within 10 points early in the fourth quarter.

Zach Welch scored on a pair of short-yardage runs, while Chaney broke free on a 53-yard scoring run with 12:48 left to play in the fourth quarter to trim Liberty’s lead to 10, 38-28.

However, the Flames put the game away during the final 12-plus minutes of the contest with two of their three rushing touchdowns on the afternoon. Macon scored from nine yards out at the 8:52 mark, while Mosley capped a 13-play, 46-yard drive with an eight-yard touchdown with 64 seconds left in the game.

The Flames close out the month of October at home when Liberty hosts Gardner-Webb at Williams Stadium, next Saturday. Kickoff for the Family Weekend game is set for 3:30 p.m.

Monmouth returns to West Long Branch, N.J., for its final home game of the 2016 season when the Hawks hosts Kennesaw State, next Saturday. The Senior Day game is set for 1 p.m.