Corbin Jackson blocked a potential game-winning field goal as time expired, allowing No. 19 Liberty to escape with a 42-41 win over Indiana State in front of 16,060 entertained fans on Saturday night at Williams Stadium.
With the win, Liberty moves to 3-0 for the first time since 2008 and the seventh time in school history. Indiana State remains winless at 0-3 in 2017, despite more than doubling its offensive output during its first two games of the season (437 total yards) in the contest.
Liberty’s Stephen Calvert once again provided most of the offensive firepower for the Flames. The sophomore finished the night by completing 30-of-42 passing attempts for 379 yards and four touchdowns. Through three games this year, he has thrown for 1,107 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Antonio Gandy-Golden posted his second 100-yard game of the season with seven receptions for 171 yards and a touchdown. Damian King ended the night with 11 receptions for 90 yards and his second touchdown of the season. B.J. Farrow turned two of his four receptions into touchdowns, finishing the night with 25 receiving yards.
Carrington Mosley surpassed the 100-yard mark on the ground for the second time this year and third time in his career. He finished the night with 22 carries for 102 yards and scored two rushing touchdowns
Juwan Wells led the Flames’ defensive effort with nine tackles, followed by eight tackles from Jaylyn McKinney and seven for Rion Davis. Jimmy Faulks recorded his first career interception late in the fourth quarter to stop one of three fourth-quarter drives by the visitors.
Indiana State quarterback Cade Sparks had a career night, throwing for 405 yards and two touchdowns, as he completed 22-of-36 passing attempts.
LeMorte Booker led the Sycamore’s ground attack with 26 carries for 95 yards and a touchdown Bob Pugh finished the night with eight receptions for 260 yards and two touchdowns, while Jacquet McClendon had nine receptions for 115 yards and a touchdown.
A miscue by the Sycamores on a special teams play helped jumpstart Liberty’s offense three-plus minutes into the first quarter. After trading a trio of three-and-out series, a Liberty player was pushed into Rondell Green as he attempted to field a punt, causing a fumble which the Flames recovered.
Following a Flames’ fumble recovery, Calvert finished off a quick four-play, 30-yard scoring drive with a slant pass to Farrow for the first score of the night at the 11:35 mark.
The quick pace continued to be the Flames’ key to offensive success during the first half with three of their four scoring drives ending in less than three minutes.
Mosley scored twice during the first 30 minutes of play, starting with a one-yard score at the 5:02 mark of the first to finish off an 11-play, 75-drive. Midway through the second, the redshirt senior burst into the end zone from 22 yards out at 9:59 mark of the second, finishing off a six-play, 64-yard drive to give Liberty a 21-7 lead.
The Sycamores stayed in the game, scoring three times during the final nine minutes of the half. The first came on a 43-yard field goal by Jerry Nunez at the 8:26 mark. Four minutes later, Nunez came back onto the field to attempt a 47-yard field goal, but Indiana State pulled off a trick play. Holder Jeremy Patterson connected with tight end Jacquet McClendon on a 31-yard touchdown pass at 4:35 to move within four points of the Flames at 21-17.
Both teams would find the end zone one last time before halftime, starting with a 13-yard bullet from Calvert to Gandy-Golden over the middle of the field at 3:18. Sparks showcased his downfield passing game three plays later, hitting Bob Pugh in stride for a 64-yard touchdown play to trim Liberty’s halftime lead to four points, 28-24.
The Sycamores scored on the first drive of the second half, capping off an eight-play, 65-yard drive when Booker scored from one yard out at the 11:31 mark for their first lead of the contest, 31-28.
Liberty scored the next two times it touched the ball, both ending in Calvert touchdown passes. The first was a deep 32-yard passing play to King at the 9:09 mark, while Farrow caught a six-yard strike to the sidelines with 5:22 left to play in the third quarter, pushing Liberty’s lead to 42-31.
The visitors scored the game’s next 10 points, starting with a 31-yard scoring play from Sparks to Pugh at the 1:58 mark of the third.
Calvert had his first pass intercepted this season early in the fourth quarter, but his defensive teammates forced a quick stop. The visitors had to settle for a 43-yard field goal by Nunez with 11:46 left to play to move to within one on the scoreboard, 42-41.
The kick was the final time either team added points to the scoreboard, as the two defensive units took over down the stretch.
Faulks ended a potential scoring drive by the Sycamores when he intercepted a pass at the 5:50 mark of the last quarter. Liberty managed to get to the Indiana State 31-yard line, but Alex Probert’s 48-yard field goal hit the cross bar as the sophomore missed on a field goal try for the first time this season.
A fourth-down conversion near midfield and a 25-yard over-the-shoulder catch by Rontrez Morgan moved Indiana State to the Liberty six-yard line to set up the game’s dramatic final conclusion.
The Flames will play their final non-conference road game of the year next weekend when they travel to Jacksonville, Ala., to face No. 5/6 Jacksonville State. Kickoff from Burgess–Snow Field is scheduled for 7 p.m. (EST).
Flames Head Coach Turner Gill
On the Final Play: “We call it ‘All Out’ where all 11 guys are going after the block. We have about three or four guys in the middle trying to get a big push and then we have some guys behind them like Corbin Jackson who got his hand on it. Tolen Avery, Gregg Story and the big guys were trying to get close together and they attack one guy in the guard area and try and knock him back. So they got good penetration and that allows him to get into the backfield and I think that is what happened.”
Offensive Performance: “That is why we make sure that it is a team win. Every win is a team win and I think our guys responded in a crucial situation. We kind of talk about it. We call them crucial situations: ‘How do you respond?’ I think our guys responded tonight.”
Flames Sophomore Corbin Jackson
On the blocked field goal: “We practice field goal blocking every day, especially when we like a specific field goal block so we just ran it and it got the block. To God be the Glory.”
On being a part of the blocked field goal at Gardner-Webb and tonight’s block: “That’s a memory people will never forget. Like you will never forget that.”
On Indiana State’s Offense: “They run a lot of unbalanced sets and they have a lot of good receivers so that was a good football team we played against tonight.”
On the defense stepping up: “As a defense that is like what you want. Game on you, last two minutes, got to stop for a win. That is what you want and we came through tonight.”
Having to come back on the field after fourth down: “Got to get another stop. Before the game we talked about being relentless and that is what we showed tonight. You got your heart broken for a second and then you got to get back up and play another play and that’s what happened.”