The Liberty Flames move to 3-0 on the season for the first time since Rashad Jennings was on the squad back in 2008 thanks to Corbin Jackson’s blocked field goal as time expired, preserving the 42-41 win.
RANKING THE TOP PLAYS FROM THE GAME
- The previously mentioned blocked field goal. It was just a 23 yard attempt for the win, but Jackson got his right hand on the ball to seal the win. That’s 3 blocked kicks on the final play of the game to clinch a win by the Flames’ in the past 4 seasons (Coastal Carolina, 2014 & Gardner-Webb, 2016).
- It actually ended up not being a play, but it has to find its way on this ranking. Liberty held Indiana State and forced a turnover on downs with 40 seconds left in the game. Or so we thought. As has been discussed, Coach Gill called a timeout before the ball was snapped, forcing the Flames to have to stop the Sycamores on 4th down again, something they were unable to do.
- Midway through the 3rd quarter, with Liberty trailing 31-28, Buckshot threw a jump ball to AGG. Gandy-Golden was able to get one hand on the ball to tip it up in the air, he would then haul the ball in for a highlight reel 28 yard catch.
- On the very next play, Buckshot was forced out of the pocket to his right, then back to his left when he threw an off-balance strike to Damian King as the Flames regained the lead at 35-31.
- While it wasn’t a Liberty highlight, it’s worthy of a mention. Indiana State was lined up for a 43 yard field goal, but they faked it. Holder Jeremy Patterson floated a ball deep to Jacquet McClendon who out fought Rion Davis to haul in the catch for a score to keep the Sycamores in the game late in the 2nd quarter.
WHAT IT MEANS
A win is a win. We can sit here and debate plenty of things, but at the end of the day the team found a way to win. To be able to fight back after all that transpired in the final minutes of the game, and be prepared mentally to make the play to block the field goal is incredible. Many teams would have just folded after the 4th down/timeout fiasco. This team didn’t. They fought through the adversity and found a way to win.
The Flames were very close to seizing control of this game and putting Indiana State away in the first half. It didn’t happen that way, but after all that transpired in the 2nd half, it’s easy to forget. Liberty led 21-10 midway through the 2nd half and had possession of the ball. A score there, and it was likely the Flames would put Indiana State away. At that point in time, the Sycamores had just 79 yards of total offense with the exception of two big pass plays that set up their two scores. The defense had played very well up until that point. With a 21-10 lead and possession of the ball at midfield, the Flames faced a 3rd and 1 play. Offensive Coordinator Joe Dailey called a 30 yard pass down the sideline to Gandy-Golden that was just out of his reach. On 4th and 1, the Flames went to the jumbo package and 3rd string running back Kentory Matthews was unable to pick up the first down. Neither one of those plays by themselves are bad play calls, but both of them consecutively raises a few questions. That was a drive where Liberty could put ISU down by 3 scores and perhaps play from ahead the rest of the way.
Late in the 4th quarter, Chris Turner was benched in favor of Jimmy Faulks. Turner had gotten beat a couple times during the game. Faulks, a sophomore, played very well in coverage late in the game and even made an interception. It will be interesting to see how the reps are distributed among the cornerbacks moving forward.
Liberty’s biggest test of the season lies ahead with the #5 Jacksonville State Gamecocks on the horizon. JSU is 1-1 this season with a 27-13 win over Chattanooga in their season opener followed by a 37-10 setback to Georgia Tech in week 2. The Gamecocks are coming off a bye week, and are looking to duplicate last season’s 48-19 win over the Flames in Lynchburg.
John Grass, the 4th year head coach of the Gamecocks, is 31-4 in the regular season during his career at JSU. Those 4 losses came against Michigan State, Auburn, LSU, and Georgia Tech.
This is not the same Jacksonville State team from the last couple of years as those teams were led by quarterback Eli Jenkins. Jenkins spearheaded a high-scoring offense that advanced to the National Championship game in 2015. This season, the Gamecocks are led by running back and Auburn transfer Roc Thomas. Thomas is averaging 104 yards rushing per game, and he is also the team’s leading receiver with 87 yards receiving in JSU’s first 2 games.
Not to get ahead of ourselves or jump the gun, but this could be the game that stands between Liberty and an undefeated season. Every other game on the schedule, the Flames will be favored, and in many of the games will be double digit favorites.
BY THE NUMBERS
500 | With 500 total offensive yards, the Flames have now had at least 500 yards of offense in each of its first 3 games this season.
171 | Antonio Gandy-Golden had his 2nd huge game of the season, as he had 7 receptions for 171 yards and a touchdown.
1 | Liberty’s first team offense committed its first turnover of the season when Buckshot had a pass intercepted in the 4th quarter. The Flames’ first unit had gone 9+ quarters without committing a turnover.
THEY SAID IT
Flames head coach Turner Gill on the timeout call on the 4th down play:
“I think it was called beforehand. On the headsets, the defensive staff was saying ‘I need a timeout, give me a timeout coach, timeout coach.’ So, I responded to my defensive coordinator to take a timeout, and it was the right call. I called the timeout probably right before the play. I couldn’t tell because I was running down the sideline to make the call.”
Corbin Jackson on the blocked kick:
“That’s a memory people will never forget, you’ll never forget that.”
Buckshot on the end of the game:
“That last minute was crazy, it was a lot of stress flowing, a lot of nerves, and then when they said Coach Gill called the timeout it was just (deep breathe) another play. Then they got the first. We never gave up on our defense. The fans, they helped us out a lot.”
Juwan Wells on the blocked kick:
“It all started with fall camp. We’re always working on the movement that we did. We got some blocks in camp, so we felt like we did pretty good. The guys beside me, Tolen Avery and Gregg Storey, they got, we all got a good push and allowed Corbin to block it over the top.”
Jimmy Faulks on the past week with Hurricane Irma that affected his family in Florida:
“I heard about Irma about to hit Florida. So, I tried to call all my family members. I was wondering if everything was going to be okay. The day that it hit, I got a call from my mom that she was up here. I was thankful that my mom and my brother were up here. I was happy. Then, they went home, and I didn’t know what they would go back home to. I thought they would go back home to a flat house, no house, no nothing. God blessed us. We really didn’t get hit by anything, no flooding, no fallen trees. I thank God for that.”