An old-fashioned shootout was ended on a defensive play in overtime, allowing Liberty to claim a 55-48 victory over Appalachian State, Saturday afternoon, during Homecoming weekend at Kidd Brewer Stadium.
After Appalachian State missed a potential game-winning 32-yard field goal at the end of regulation, quarterback Josh Woodrum completed a nine-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Darrin Peterson in the first overtime to put the Flames ahead.
Following a 16-yard run by Mountaineer running back Marcus Cox on Appalachian State’s first overtime play, Flames’ All-America safety Jacob Hagen intercepted a pass from Taylor Lamb in the end zone to complete the victory.
Liberty, who lost last week in double overtime in its Homecoming game to No. 20/21 Richmond, raises its record to 4-3 and snaps its brief two-game losing streak.
The win marks Liberty’s first over an FBS program since defeating Ball State, 27-23, on Sept. 11, 2010 and the program’s third overall win in program history over an FBS team (also defeated Eastern Michigan, 25-24, on Oct. 24, 1989).
The loss drops Appalachian State to 1-5 overall in its first season of competition as an FBS member and gives Liberty it’s first-ever win over a Sun Belt Conference school.
The two teams combined for 1,129 total offensive yards (Liberty – 501, Appalachian State – 628). The teams also combined to score on 17 of 33 total drives during the contest (Liberty 9-of-17; Appalachian State 8-of-16). Finally, the game also saw eight total lead changes.
Woodrum tallied his seventh career 300-yard passing game and fourth this season, finishing the game with a season-high 356 passing yards. The junior, who completed his first 13 passing attempts of the game, finished the game completing 24-of-37 attempts and threw for three touchdowns.
Lamb threw for an Appalachian State freshman single-game record 397 yards, completing 20-of-31 passing attempts. He also threw for three touchdowns and two interceptions.
After finishing the first half with 12 team carries for three yards, Liberty’s D.J. Abnar was able to get Liberty’s run game going in the second half and overtime. He posted his fourth career 100-yard game, finishing the night with 29 carries for 129 yards and two touchdowns.
Cox led the Mountaineers with 17 carries for 111 yard, while Terrance Upshaw carried the ball 16 times for 102 yards. Both players scored a rushing touchdown in the game.
Woodrum’s top target for the game was Dante Shells, who had a career game with eight receptions for 164 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown reception. Peterson, who caught the game-winning touchdown pass, had his streak of 100-yard games snapped at four as he finishing the game with seven catches for 64 yards.
Malachi Jones was Appalachian State’s leading receiver, finishing the game with five receptions for 105 yards. Shaedon Meadors (90 yards), Simms McElfresh (89 yards) and Bobo Beathard (84 yards) each had a touchdown reception.
Hagen and Dexter Robbins finished as Liberty’s tackle leaders, each recording six stops, followed by five tackles for Kenny Scott and Dominique Davis.
Appalachian State was led by A.J. Howard, who had 13 stops, followed by 10 tackles from Joel Ross.
Following a failed on-side kick by the Flames, Appalachian State scored on the game’s first offensive play. Cox took a handoff and found a hole on the right side of the field, allowing him to score from 38 yards out to give the home team a 7-0 lead eight seconds in.
The Flames answered back on their first drive of the game when Abnar finished off a 13-play, 75-drive with a 1-yard plunge to tie the game at 7-7 with 8:23 of the first quarter.
The drive was spotlighted by two third-down conversions, including one on a 22-yard pass from Woodrum to Peterson.
After the game’s first turnover, a fumble recovered by Liberty, the Flames took their first lead of the game with 46 second left in the quarter. Woodrum capped off a seven-play, 88-yard drive by hitting Dexter Herman over the middle and the tight end dragged his defender into the end zone on the 24-yard scoring reception.
The back-and-forth battle continued with the Mountaineers knotting the game at 14-14 on the first play of the second quarter. Lamb hit McElfresh on a slant route over the middle of the field and the wide receiver scored from 63 yards out, Appalachian State’s longest play of the 2014 season, to tie the game 11 seconds in the second quarter.
A special teams’ misplay allowed Appalachian State to regain the lead, 21-14, with 11:50 left before halftime. After Liberty’s defense forced a three-and-out series, the Mountaineers punted the ball away. However, the Flames tipped the ball near the goal line and Aaron Krah covered it up in the end zone for a touchdown.
But the lead was short lived, as Liberty tied the game, 21-21, on the next offensive play. Woodrum dropped back and found Shells open on the near side of the field. The sophomore turned the over-the-should catch into a career-long 75-yard touchdown reception to knot the score.
The game’s second turnover allowed Liberty to regain the lead midway through the second quarter. Cox got to the outside on a run, only to be stopped and have the ball stripped by Jacob Hagen. Scott scooped up the loose ball and returned it 39 yards to give Liberty a 28-21 lead with 6:58 left before intermission.
The Flames failed to score on the third turnover by the Mountaineers, allowing the home team the ball back just before the break. Appalachian State was able to cut its deficit to four, 28-24, four seconds before halftime on a 33-yard field goal by Bentlee Critcher.
Liberty, who finished the first half with three rushing yards on 12 carries, got 41 yards on one carry by Abnar after he got to the outside to set up the first score of the third quarter. The long run moved the Flames into the red zone, but Liberty was forced to settle for a 33-yard field goal by John Lunsford to push its lead to 31-24 with 12:11 left in the third quarter.
Appalachian State was able to tie the game for the fourth time on the afternoon 35 seconds later. Lamb found Beathard deep down the field on a 60-yard scoring route to knot the game at 31-31.
The Flames continued to move the ball down the field and get into the red zone on its second drive of the quarter. However, just like the first, Appalachian State was able to keep Liberty out of the end zone, causing the Flames to settle for a 34-31 lead on a 35-yard field goal by Lunsford at 8:29 of the third quarter.
The Mountaineers continued to find a way to free themselves of Liberty’s defensive backfield on the next drive, resulting in a 48-yard touchdown pass by Lamb to Shaedon Meadors. After Critcher missed the extra point attempt, Appalachian State led 37-34 at the 6:42 mark of the third quarter.
Appalachian State took advantage of Liberty’s first giveaway of the afternoon, an intercepted Woodrum pass as the defender fell out of bounds, to widen its lead on its next drive. Five plays and 27 yards later, Critcher split the uprights with a 38-yard field goal to give his team a 40-34 lead at 4:47 of the third.
The see-saw battle continued with Liberty responding with a nine-play, 75-yard scoring drive to regain the lead, 41-40, with 29 second left in the quarter. Abnar scored from one yard out to give the Flames their fourth lead of the afternoon.
Liberty tried to lengthen its lead on its next possession, but Lunsford’s field goal try from 57 yards out fell short.
On the next play, Upshaw avoided several defenders at the line of scrimmage and scampered 60 yards downfield to put the Mountaineers ahead for the fourth time in the game. Lamb followed by completing a two-point conversion pass to Beathard to give Appalachian State a 48-41 lead with 12:46 left to play in the game.
The Flames responded tying the contest at 48-48 on a 12-play, 75-yard scoring drive that was finished off by a 13-yard quarterback keeper by Woodrum with 6:19 left to play. Liberty kept the ball on the ground for nine plays of the drive, including a five-yard run by Abnar up the middle on a fourth-and-third play to keep the drive alive.
Appalachian State tried to set up the game winning-drive by keeping the ball on the ground for 10 of its 14-play, 60-yard. Following back-to-back carries for lost yards by Upshaw, Critcher was brought back on the field for this third field goal try of the night.
However, his 32-yard missed just to the right of the upright and after a booth replay review, the game was sent into overtime.
Liberty kept the ball for four consecutive plays in overtime, setting up Woodrum’s game-winning pass to Peterson near the back of the end zone on the fifth play of the drive.
Following a bye week, the Flames will begin Big South action on Oct. 25 against Gardner-Webb at Williams Stadium. Kickoff for the Family Weekend game is set for 3:30 p.m. and the game will be broadcast on ESPN3 as part of the Big South television package.