The Liberty Flames opened the 2017 season with its first ever win over a Power 5 opponent as they defeated Baylor, 48-45, in Waco.
Antonio Gandy-Golden: The sophomore wide receiver finished the game with career-highs of 13 receptions, 192 yards, and 2 touchdowns. Those marks nearly matched his season totals from 2016 of 21 receptions, 315 yards, and 3 touchdowns.
Buckshot: The Flames’ signal caller finished the game 44-of-60 for 447 yards and 3 touchdowns. Those are school and Big South records for completions, attempts, and yards.
Alex Probert: He was a perfect 4/4 on field goals and 4/4 on extra points. His kickoffs routinely were out the back of the end zone.
RANKING THE TOP PLAYS FROM THE GAME
- Facing a 3rd and 11 at the Baylor 26, Buckshot found a wide open Spencer Jones who walked into the end zone as the Flames scored what ended up being the winning touchdown to take a 48-38 lead with 6:12 left in the game.
- After sitting out the first half due to a team suspension, Chris Turner made his presence known just 3 plays into the 2nd half as he jumped in front of an Anu Solomon pass and returned it 32 yards as Liberty reclaimed the lead, 24-17.
- With the Flames hanging on to a 3 point lead, Buckshot turned to his right to hand the ball to Frankie Hickson on a 2nd and goal play from the 8. Unfortunately, Calvert was supposed to turn to his left, but it worked out for Liberty. Buckshot made a couple Baylor defenders miss as he high-stepped into the end zone.
- On Liberty’s first play from scrimmage, Carrington Mosley found a huge hole in the middle of Baylor’s defense and scampered 36 yards to midfield. The Flames would go on to score a field goal to take a 3-0 lead to start the game.
- On Liberty’s final drive, they faced a 3rd and 7 near midfield with just under 3 minutes left. Buckshot was able to find Marquis Fitzgerald for an 8 yard gain and first down. That first down allowed the Flames to run the clock down to 32 seconds left in the game and forced Baylor to exhaust all of their timeouts.
WHAT IT MEANS
Wow, what a win! This wasn’t a fluke either. The team went toe to toe with a Big 12 opponent. The Flames would get knocked down, but always responded. Baylor continually answered Liberty’s scores, but the Flames never backed down. With the pending FBS move, and this being the only game in 2017 against an FBS opponent, it makes a bold statement to the rest of the college football world.
Antonio Gandy-Golden grew up seemingly overnight. He showed flashes during his true freshman season a year ago, but against Baylor he was the best player on the field. He hauled in open catches, he made one handed grabs, and he brought the ball in when being tightly covered. There were many comments made by Baylor media during the game that #11 would be playing on Sundays one day.
Buckshot Calvert had one of the most impressive performances by a quarterback in recent memory. Statistically speaking, it was the best performance in school and Big South history. He never got rattled, he went through his progressions when needed, and he led his team to over 500 yards against a Power 5 school.
When nobody mentions the offensive line, it’s been a good performance, and that was the case Saturday night. After the line struggled all of 2016, they put together an impressive performance against the Bears’ defensive front. The Flames’ offensive line only gave up one sack and helped the team average 3.2 yards per rush.
A win like that will vault forward the positive momentum the program began in February with the FBS announcement. It should help the team get into more homes and hopefully win a few more recruiting battles as it looks to beef up its roster to compete with FBS teams week in and week out.
As great as the win was, it would be that much more devastating if the team can’t respond positively next week against Morehead State. The Eagles opened their season with a 56-14 win over Kentucky Christian and are coming off a 4-7 season where they lost to JMU, 80-7.
The team is ineligible for the FCS playoffs and Big South Championship this year, but that doesn’t mean the rest of the season doesn’t matter. The Flames want to leave the FCS and Big South with an emphatic statement, something that a 10-1 or 11-0 season would do. Yes, a 10-1 or 11-0 is a reasonable expectation at this point, but that can only happen one week at a time.
B.J. Farrow was the team’s leading returning receiver and was expected to be one of its top targets again this year. Farrow was a late scratch from making the trip to Waco due to a verification of his eligibility, according to Liberty athletic department officials. That sounds like an academic issue, but that is purely conjecture at this point. Hopefully we will find out more this week.
BY THE NUMBERS
103 | Liberty ran 103 plays against Baylor compared to the Bears’ 64 plays. The Flames also had the ball for over 38 minutes of game action.
8-95 | The Flames overcame 8 penalties for 95 yards in the win.
0 | In one of Coach Gill’s keys to the games, Liberty had 0 turnovers.
10 | For a stretch in the 2nd half, Liberty converted 10 consecutive 3rd downs and finished the game converting 15 of 24 3rd downs.
6-6 | Liberty finished the game a perfect 6-6 on red zone chances.
THEY SAID IT
Flames head coach Turner Gill on what the team means for the school:
“I think Liberty’s brand name just went out pretty strong here across the country, not just for football, but for the whole school. That’s what sports is all about. It raises the name brand of the university, and this is what that win does. This is absolutely going to help us in recruiting, not only in football, but in every sport. Now, people are going to know about Liberty University. They’re going to watch us a little bit more. They’re going to push that button a little bit more on the internet, and research us a little bit more about who we are, what we’re about, what we stand for. Therefore, we have that opportunity, and God’s going to intervene. All we have to do is pray about it, and God’s going to put the right people at Liberty University.”
Buckshot Calvert on B.J. Farrow not making the trip:
“We found out really late, before we got on the plane, but we didn’t let that get to our heads. We weren’t going to use that to down our play. We actually used that as motivation. He’s been working so hard this offseason, and for him to come out and miss this whole game we had to dedicate it to him. I know he’s at home happy, and we played for him.”
Antonio Gandy-Golden on when he knew he could make plays against Baylor’s secondary:
“The first quarter. They didn’t seem like they wanted to cover us. Seeing Marquis get those first 2 catches, back to back, from there we knew we could make some plays.”
Antonio Gandy-Golden on if Baylor’s secondary was as big as he expected:
“To be honest, I thought they’d be bigger, but we have the best strength coach in the country. He gets us ready every week.”
Jeremy Peters on what this win means:
“Very big win. We want to put our name out there. People were doubting us and that’s what we did tonight.”
Alex Probert on what the locker room is like:
“A lot of smiles, a lot of cheering, a lot of smiles. Guys are really happy, they worked really hard for that.”