Home Return of Desmond Rice sparks Liberty football to season-opening win

Return of Desmond Rice sparks Liberty football to season-opening win


liberty-flames21Redshirt senior Desmond Rice, who sat out the 2014 season with an injury, rushed for 139 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Flames to a 32-13 win over Delaware State, Saturday evening, at Williams Stadium.

For the first time since 2010, Liberty opened the season with a victory, moving to 1-0 on the year. The Flames squared off against a FBS opponent the previous four seasons. The loss drops Delaware State to 0-1 on the year.

Liberty opened a season at Williams Stadium for the first time since 2008 and fans responded with a top 10 stadium attendance figure of 18,803.

Rice finished the game as Liberty’s top offensive weapon, rushing 20 times and posting his third career 100-yard game. D.J. Abnar, who rushed for 1,289 yards and 15 touchdowns in Rice’s absence last year, followed him with 13 carries for 80 yards.

Josh Woodrum continued his climb up Liberty’s career record books during the night. The senior finished the game completing 19-of-32 passing attempts, and throwing for 188 yards and two touchdowns.

With his effort on the evening, Woodrum moved into second place on Liberty’s all-time career touchdown passes (51) and total offense (8,091 yards) lists.

All-America wide receiver Darrin Peterson led the Flames on the night, finishing the game with eight receptions for 83 yards and two touchdowns. His pair of scores move him into a share of second place on Liberty’s all-time career touchdown list.

Linebacker Dexter Robbins finished as Liberty’s top tackler, posting five tackles, followed by Chima Uzowihe, Corbin Jackson and Avery James each adding four stops in the victory.

Delaware State quarterback Esayah Obado finished the game with 227 of the team’s 269 total offensive yards. He completed 16-of-27 passing attempts for 227 yards. The redshirt junior also had nine carries and a touchdown.

Jamaal Jackson led the Hornets with 15 carries for 37 yards and a touchdown, while Malik Golson was Obado’s top target (seven receptions, 74 yards).

Linebacker Malik Harris led all tacklers with 12 stops, while safety Kevin Jocelyn had 11 tackles and an interception.

After trading opening possessions, Liberty got on the scoreboard on its second drive of the game to take an early 7-0 edge.

Woodrum found Peterson three times on the five-play, 54-yard drive, finishing off the scoring effort on a 26-yard scoring pass to the back of the end zone with 7:17 left in the first quarter.

The Flames defense stepped up on the next drive when Wesley Scott got in front of a pass from Obado for his second career interception at the Delaware State 37-yard line.

Rice was given the ball on the next three plays and the third carry pushed Liberty’s lead to 14-0 at the first quarter’s 4:53mark. The redshirt senior scored from 23 yards out, marking his first touchdown since the final game of the 2013 season.

Delaware State cracked the scoreboard midway through the second quarter, scoring on an eight-play, 75-yard drive. Obado completed all three of his pass attempts on the drive, including an 11-yard complete to Golson on a fourth-and-one play and 47-yard play to Aris Scott.

The Hornets kept the ball on the ground the final three plays of the drive, capped by two-yard quarterback keeper by Obado to put the visitors on the scoreboard. Delaware State elected to try for two on the extra point and Liberty’s defense was able to come up with a stop to keep the score at 14-6 with 8:05 left to play before halftime.

The Flames scored twice prior to the end of the first half, pushing their lead at the break to 19-6 on a John Lunsford field goal and the Flames’ first safety since Liberty’s opener in 2014.

Lunsford, who made five 50-plus yard field goals last season, connected on his first in 2015 when he knocked down a 52-yarder to push Liberty’s lead to 17-6 with 2:56 left before halftime.

Four plays later, Nick Newman sacked Obado in the end zone and the bounding ball bounced out of the end zone to stake the Flames to their 13-point halftime edge.

Both teams managed to find the end zone during the third quarter with the Flames scoring on their first drive of the quarter.

Rice carried the ball five times for 47 yards, setting up Woodrum’s second touchdown pass of the game to Peterson. The six-yard strike at the 8:15 mark moved Peterson into a share of second place on Liberty’s all-time career touchdown reception list (22).

Liberty attempted to convert on a two-point conversion, but Woodrum’s pass was unsuccessful to give Liberty a 19-point lead, 25-6.

The Hornets answered right back on their next drive, scoring on their longest drive of the game (76 yards). Obado was three-of-three on the drive, including a 15-yard strike to Kamal Abrams to get into the red zone. On the next play, Jamaal Jackson to the handoff and scored from two yards out to pull the visitors back within 12, 25-13, at the 5:32 mark.

Rice capped off his return to the playing field, scoring for the second time on the night with a six-yard run on the first play of the fourth quarter. Rice’s 20th career rushing touchdown completed a 12-play, 65-yard scoring drive for Liberty and was the final scoring play of the night.

The Flames will hit the road for the first time in the 2015 season when they travel to Morgantown, W.Va., next weekend to face the Mountaineers of West Virginia. Kickoff is slated for 3 p.m., at Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium.



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