The Flames went on the road as a heavy underdog Saturday for the second straight week, and for the second straight week Liberty came out on top. Two wins over two of LU’s biggest rivals definitely feels great, and the Season of Redemption (yes, we are formalizing that as a title now) continues to the Round of 16. Here are our team grades for the 26-21 win over James Madison:
The Flames’ offense had some really good moments in this one. The 4th quarter, 11 minute drive to win the game was epic. Liberty controlled the clock, kept JMU’s hurry up offense off the field, and won the game because of it. A healthy Todd Macon meant the Flames were able to take some pressure off of D.J. Abnar. Liberty’s 205 yards gained on the ground was a solid effort against a tough opponent. QB Josh Woodrum was able to shake off 3 turnovers (2 INT, 1 Fumble) and pass for 244 yards on 27 attempts. He also gained 46 yards on the ground, at times looking quite elusive. Another great performance by Gabe Henderson, who led the Flames in receiving with 7 catches for 92 yards. He has been on another level the past 2 games. The 4 turnovers cannot happen again. You won’t win many games like that, but the bottom line is that Liberty did enough to win on offense, and did what they had to when it counted. The coaching staff deserves a big pat on the back for a game plan that gave Liberty a chance to win this one.
Two weeks in a row, the oft maligned Liberty defense has come up huge. The Flames made JMU QB Vad Lee look ordinary, something almost no one has been able to do as of late. After a tough 2nd quarter in which JMU started with short fields, the defense locked JMU down in the second half. Madison was only able to get 1 first down in the second half until the final drive. Absolutely dominant against a top tier FCS offense. The defense produced 1 turnover, and held JMU to 336 yards. Tons of credit to Robert Wimberly for making big time adjustments in two straight weeks. Liberty hasn’t allowed a point in the 1st, 3rd, or 4th quarters in two straight road games against ranked opponents. That’s big time defense, and that is why Liberty finds itself in the Round of 16 this week. Tremendous effort all around.
Special Teams: A
Wow. I never thought I would type that heading this season. Liberty isn’t going to do anything spectacular in the return game. They just don’t put the personnel on the field for that to happen. Nevertheless, Alpha Jalloh and Dakota Kelly got the job done in solid fashion Saturday. There were no bad returns given up either by the coverage teams. The big plays were game changers. Liberty dialed up a fake FG in the second half that turned the momentum of the game and set up the touchdown that got the Flames back in it. Fantastic call, and excellent execution by the unit. Javan Shashaty had what will probably be the biggest play of his collegiate career, carrying the ball 26 yards and keeping the drive alive. John Lunsford continues to be on another planet. He went 2-2, including a 56 yarder to get the Flames within a point. That kick would have been good from 65 yards. He also scored 5 touchbacks out of 6 kickoffs. Big time stuff from him. If he stays healthy and keeps up this consistency, he will be playing on Sundays one day.
Fantastic team effort. The Flames performed in all phases of the game, and they came away with the biggest win in school history for the second straight week. The team is showing a tremendous amount of focus and heart. Major kudos to the coaching staff as well, as the game plans have been very strong for 2 straight road games against big name opponents. Liberty will have to bring their A game again this week against the 6th seeded Villanova team.