By Todd Wetmore
Special to College Sports Journal
Editor’s Note: This story is courtesy of LibertyFlames.com
LYNCHBURG, VA. — Several Flames records fell on Saturday night at Williams Stadium, helping Liberty to a 45-35 Homecoming victory over Kennesaw State.
The win snapped Liberty’s two-game losing streak, evening the Flames overall record at 4-4 and moved the Flames to 1-2 in Big South play.
The Owls pushed the Flames for 60 minutes, scoring 21 of their 35 points during the final 15 minute of play. With the loss, the visitors fell to 5-2 on the season and suffered their first Big South loss during their first season in the conference (1-1).
With his 230 passing yards, senior quarterback Josh Woodrum became Liberty’s all-time career passing yards leader (9,614). He finished the night completing 15-of-21 pass attempts and moved past Liberty Athletics Hall of Fame quarterback Robby Justino’s 20-plus year record (9,548/1989-92).
Woodrum’s favorite target on the night was Darrin Peterson, who posted his school record 15th career 100-yard game. For the game, the senior had four receptions for 164 yards and three touchdowns. With his third career three-touchdown game, Peterson ties Chris Summers (2008-11) record of 26 career receiving touchdowns.
The last record to fall on the night was a national record. All-America kicker John Lunsford ended the first half with a 57-yard field goal, making him the NCAA FCS all-time career record holder with 12 career 50-plus yard field goals.
Todd Macon and Desmond Rice led the Flames rushing attack on the night, with each running back scoring a touchdown on the ground. Macon had eight carries for 81 yards, while Rice had 13 rushing attempts for 79 yards.
Kennesaw State quarterback Trey White continued to provide the Owls most of their offensive firepower. The junior finished the game completing 5-of-8 passing attempts for 71 yards and one touchdown pass. He also rushed the ball 29 times for 94 yards and scored three times on the ground.
Trey Chivers just edged White on the ground, leading the team with 97 rushing yards on 14 carries. Justin Sumpter finished the game with four of the Owls 10 team receptions, tallying 61 receiving yards. Jake McKenzie was a perfect 5-of-5 in relief of White under center, finishing the night with 57 passing yards and a touchdown pass.
Jimmy O’Grady had a career night, leading the Flames with 15 tackles, while Nick Newman followed with 11 stops. Dante Blackmon was Kennesaw State’s leading tackler with nine stops.
Kennesaw State scored on its opening drive of the game for the sixth time in seven games this season, jumping out to a 7-0 lead with 6:07 left in the first quarter.
After forcing the Flames to punt on the game’s opening drive, the Owls kept the ball on the ground for 11 of the drives’ 12 plays.
Kennesaw State, who entered the game leading the country in yards per completion (22.16), got into Liberty territory on a 33-yard strike from White to Sumpter.
Three plays later, White found an opening on the right side of the line to score his team-leading sixth rushing touchdown of the year from one yard out to give the visitors the early lead.
The Flames answered back on their following drive, as Woodrum completed all five of his pass attempts on the eight-play, 78-yard drive. The fifth completion was to Peterson, who caught the ball over the middle of the field then got to the outside to score on a 33-yard play and tie the game, 7-7, with 1:14 left in the opening quarter.
Following a fourth-down stop on the Owls’ next drive, Liberty’s quick-strike offense gave the Flames their first lead of the night. On the third play of the drive, Woodrum once again found his All-America wide receiver open over the middle and Peterson gave the Flames a 14-7 lead on a 39-yard touchdown reception with 11:30 left before halftime.
The Flames would add to their lead two more times before heading to the locker room for the intermission.
With 5:37 left on the clock, Peterson took a screen pass from Woodrum and scored on an 80-yard pass play, giving him three touchdown receptions in a game for the third time in his career and the Flames a 21-7 lead.
The scoring play put both Peterson and Woodrum in the record books. Woodrum passed Justino’s career passing record on the play, while Peterson tied Summers’ career receiving touchdown record.
Lunsford capped 24-unanswered first half points by Liberty when the senior connected on his record setting 57-yard field goal with 68 seconds left before halftime.
Just like the first half, the Owls made the most of their first possession of the second half. White connected on all three of his pass attempts on the 10-play, 69-yard drive, including a 12-yard slant pass to McKenzie at the 9:57 mark of the third quarter.
The Flames answered back on the next drive, pushing their lead to 31-14 with 5:12 left to play in the third quarter. Woodrum completed 3-of-4 passing attempts on the nine-play, 67-yard drive, including a nine-yard play to B.J. Farrow that saw the redshirt freshman make a nice move to get the ball into the end zone.
The two teams continued to trade scores during the final 15 minutes of play as they combined to score 35 points during the final quarter without a defensive stop.
Liberty’s two scores came on the ground, beginning with a one-yard run by Rice at the 8:36 mark. The second and final Flames score of the night came when Macon found a hole on the right side of the field to score from 44 yards out at 2:56, the longest rushing play of his career.
White scored twice for the visitors during the final 15 minutes of play, both on one-yard touchdowns at 12:48 and 4:40. The final score of the game came with 19 seconds left on the clock when McKenzie hit Xavier Harper on a slate route for the redshirt freshman’s first career touchdown reception.
Following eight-straight weeks of football, the Flames will get some rest next week during their annual bye week.
Liberty returns to action on Nov. 7 when they host Presbyterian College at Williams Stadium during Military Appreciation Week. The contest will begin play for the Flames in the month of November, a month during which Liberty has posted an 11-1 record in three season under head coach Turner Gill.
Kennesaw State will begin a two-game homestand next weekend when the Owls host Monmouth on Saturday at 1 p.m.