It was dubbed the biggest home game in school history and the Liberty Flames (7-1) did not disappoint the record crowd of 24,012, defeating the BYU Cougars, 41-14.

“The vision Dr. Falwell cast many decades ago, to be able to walk in that today, to see the stadium full, the excitement around campus today,” said Liberty head coach Hugh Freeze as he tried to put into words what the win meant following the game.

The Flames fell behind 14-3, but would score 38 unanswered points to roll away to a dominating victory. BYU was limited to just 142 yards of offense following the first quarter.

After forcing a three and out for BYU to begin the game, Liberty responded with a long drive that stalled out inside the 10 yard line. The Flames would settle for a 22-yard Nick Brown field goal to take the early 3-0 lead after Charlie Brewer was stuffed on a 3rd and goal run from the 2. Brewer was making his first game appearance since the season opener after breaking his right hand against Southern Miss. He played three snaps on the opening drive while Johnathan Bennett got the start.

On the ensuing BYU drive, quarterback Jaren Hall found Puka Nacua on a screen pass on third and 11 that the receiver would take 46 yards to the house to give the Cougars the 7-3 lead. Two plays later, Bennett was intercepted, setting BYU up with prime field position at the Liberty 27-yard line. It only took two plays for the Cougars to get back in the end zone to push their advantage to 14-3 nearing the end of the first quarter.

There wouldn’t be much more for the BYU fans that made the trek to Lynchburg, Virginia had to celebrate the rest of the night.

Behind a very poised Johnathan Bennett, the Flames would respond in a big way. The redshirt-junior quarterback guided the team on an 11, play 75-yard drive that was capped by a Shedro Louis three-yard touchdown run to bring the score with 14-10.

Following a punt by the Cougars, Liberty would take nearly seven minutes off the clock and get into the end zone for the second time thanks to a five yard touchdown pass from Bennett to tight end Austin Henderson. Liberty took the 17-14 lead following the 13-play, 80-yard drive.

Liberty’s defense would force a BYU turnover on downs with 1:15 left in the opening half. The Flames took over on their own 39 yard line. Bennett would move the Flames into field goal range as time was running out, setting up a 37-yard Nick Brown field goal. Liberty took a 20-14 lead in the locker room at halftime following a 17-0 2nd quarter edge over the Cougars.

It was more of the same in the second half. Liberty marched down the field and put another touchdown on the board to open the final 30 minutes, capped by a Shedro Louis 6-yard touchdown run on 4th and 1. After a BYU punt, Dae Dae Hunter would break free and then break a few tackles on his way to an 80-yard touchdown run to make the score 34014 and put it out of reach for the visiting Cougars. Bennett would connect with CJ Daniels for a 25-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter for the final margin.

The Liberty quarterback has had ups and downs throughout the season as he fought to maintain his spot on the field following injuries to Charlie Brewer and Kaidon Salter. The Bennett we saw on the field against BYU was a confident, poised quarterback. He finished the game completing 24 of 29 passes for 247 yards, 2 touchdowns, and an interception. He also ran the ball eight times for 46 yards.

“He’s been with us for all four seasons,” Freeze said of Bennett. “He’s a mature young man. Quarterbacks are going to get criticized. We’ve been inconsistent. He’s been inconsistent to this point through the year, but I’ve seen him at times be really hot too. I’ve seen him practice. I do think that I probably freed him up more this week to make sure he loved the plan. I told him I believed in him. I texted him one night this week and said, ‘Dude, you can execute this plan. Just go believe it.’ Heck, I’ve been with quarterbacks that got criticized, criticized, criticized, but I want to say this, the bottom line for a quarterback is the overall win-loss record. I believe he is 4-0 as a starter. We will take the criticism and will deal with it and tell him to keep winning games.”

Hunter finished the game with 213 yards rushing and one touchdown on 23 carries. He also caught four passes for 31 yards. He became the first Liberty running back to eclipse 200 rushing yards in a single game since Rashad Jennings did so in 2008 against Youngstown State.

“You have to give credit to the OLine and the tight ends, they did block really well, but he did run really well,” Freeze said of Hunter. “I almost lost it on him on that 4th down where he took the swing to him out of the backfield and started dancing around the marker, I almost panicked. I literally almost threw up, right there on the sideline. He gets so emotional into the game, but sometimes he kinda loses sight of what’s really happening right here on this play that got it. But boy did he lay it all out there, for sure.”

With the win, Liberty improves to 7-1 on the season. The Flames will play at Arkansas on Nov. 4 following a bye week.

“To have the opportunity to come to a place that loves you for who you are, that gets to know you and judges you for who you are, good and bad,” said Freeze. “Then, gives you the reigns to prove that you can have field-stormings at a place like this, it makes my gratitude level is pretty high. I’m just thankful. They are all fun, but this one, right now, it ranks way up there.”