The Liberty football team got embarrassed by Charleston Southern, 48-26, as the Flames fall to 4-1 in Big South play and 6-4 overall.
Anthony Ellis: CSU’s defensive end dominated the line of scrimmage as he finished with 3.5 tackles for loss and 1 sack.
Darius Hammond: Hammond broke a kick return for 83 yards in the first quarter. He led the way for the Buccaneers with 208 all-purpose yards.
Shane Bucenell: Bucenell effectively managed the game for the Bucs. He finished the game with 170 yards passing, 65 yards rushing, and 4 total touchdowns.
RANKING THE TOP PLAYS FROM THE GAME
- Early in the game, Darius Hammond broke free for an 83 yard kick return to the Liberty 17 yard line. It led to a CSU field goal a few plays later, giving the Buccaneers a 10-6 lead.
- With the score 24-6, and the Flames letting the game slip through its hands, Dante Shells had what looked like a catch and a first down conversion on 3rd and 9; however, Shadarius Hopkins wrestled the ball away from Shells as they came down with it. On the next play, Charleston Southern went up 31-6.
- The Bucs were facing a 3rd & 5 at the Liberty 37 yard line with a 17-6 lead midway through the 2nd quarter. CSU had a low snap that Bucenell was able to pick up, and he found the middle of the field wide open as he scampered for 10 yards and a first down. Liberty was close to stopping the drive, instead Charleston Southern took a 24-6 lead.
- Leading 31-6 at halftime, the game was all but over. The final nail in Liberty’s coffin came one play after the Flames’ opening drive of the 2nd half went 3 & out. Bucenell broke free for a 57 yard touchdown run giving the Bucs an insurmountable 38-6 lead.
- On the 2nd play of the game, Chris Turner intercepted a Bucenell pass and returned it to the 14 yard line. The CSU defense held the Flames, forcing them to take a field goal. The defensive stand kept Liberty’s early momentum at bay.
WHAT IT MEANS
This game was what Liberty had been playing the entire season for. Win and you’re in the FCS playoffs. A loss is one thing, but to get completely manhandled is another. The Buccaneers racked up over 500 yards of total offense, include 344 rushing yards against the Flames. Meanwhile, Liberty had trouble picking up a first down. The final margin of 22 is not indicative of how much of a blow out this game was. It was virtually decided before the first half was over.
That’s 3 straight wins by Charleston Southern against the Flames, something that didn’t seem possible just a couple seasons ago. It’s really hard to imagine when comparing the two programs on paper. Liberty’s football budget and resources are so much larger than those of the Buccaneers. Of course, you can’t buy wins, and CSU, under Jamey Chadwell, has built a solid FCS program.
What does this game mean for Coach Gill? Is it his last game as Liberty’s head coach? No, he won’t be fired before the Coastal game, but he is suspended for that one. 5 years and just one playoff bid (unless there’s a surprise next week) is not what is expected. If the Flames lose to Coastal Carolina next week, that will be three 6-5 seasons in Gill’s 5 years.
The Flames must try to quickly rebound from such a devastating loss as they travel to Myrtle Beach to take on the Chanticleers on Thursday night. Liberty will fly out on Wednesday, after just a couple days of practice, to play in a game that doesn’t really matter for either team. Coastal Carolina is not eligible for the FCS playoffs, and it’s not a conference game so it won’t affect Liberty’s chances at the Big South’s auto-bid. Of course, there’s a small possibility the Flames could get an at-large bid with a win over the Beach Chickens, but those chances are slim.
Due to a self-reported NCAA recruiting violation, Gill must serve a 1 game suspension this season, and he will do so against Coastal. Solomon McGinty told us postgame that Gill will not be travelling with the team. We’ll have more on this situation as the week progresses.
The Chanticleers are 8-2 after they defeated Bryant, 31-21, this week. Their 2 FCS losses are the same as Liberty’s, to Jacksonville State and Charleston Southern. Granted, Coastal lost to those 2 by a combined 2 points whereas Liberty lost by a combined 51 points. The Chants also have wins over Big South foes Gardner-Webb (17-7), Presbyterian (48-17), and Monmouth (38-17). Coastal is an FCS Independent this season, as they are in the midst of a 2 year transition period to the FBS and Sun Belt.
With the game being on a Thursday, we can all focus on the Kennesaw State-Charleston Southern game next Saturday. If the Owls win, Liberty gets the Big South’s automatic bid to the playoffs. If CSU wins, then the Buccaneers get the auto bid.
BY THE NUMBERS
344 | The Buccaneers rushed for 344 yards. They averaged 7.5 yards per rush. CSU outgained the Flames 344-70 on the ground.
5-5 | Liberty entered the game as one of the top red zone defenses in the country, but Charleston Southern was a perfect 5-5 in the red zone.
5 | Buckshot Calvert was sacked 5 times by CSU defenders.
15-36 | Buckshot finished the game 15-36 passing. His numbers improved greatly in the 2nd half when the game was already out of reach.
7 | Liberty failed to pick up a first down on 7 of its first 9 drives. When the Flames gained possession of the ball for its 10th drive, the game was well in hand at 38-6.
THEY SAID IT
Flames head coach Turner Gill on the loss:
“We have to play better than that, I apologize for our performance today to our fans. We will rebound here and get ready for Coastal.”
Safety Solomon McGinty on the “chippiness” near the end of the game:
“Well, you got seniors that’s trying to handle it the best way they can, but Charleston Southern over there trying to say whatever to get in our heads. But I just told them ya’ll here to share a championship not get it outright, it is what it is. Congratulations, but go home, do whatever. Yeah, they were saying all types of things. (I was) trying to get our guys to stay focused, and go on to the next play. When you got the other team saying whatever, not trying to point fingers because we were saying things back, but that’s all it was. Football players being football players.”
Cornerback Chris Turner on having to pull for KSU:
“I really hate depending on other people and that’s the type of position we’re in right now. We’ve just got to depend on somebody else to put us in the playoffs when we had the opportunity to do it ourselves. It hurts, man, it definitely hurts.”
Tight end Kendall Couamin on processing the loss:
“It’s very difficult, very difficult. I know that exciting feeling we had in 2014 when we beat Coastal at Coastal to go to the playoffs. Just to think about how we could have taken home the trophy today and be in the playoffs. It’s very emotional, but I just got to know God is going to put us in the right position. We still have to have faith, and be prepared and beat Coastal.”
Linebacker Dexter Robbins on what the loss means:
“It’s a stinging loss, but I still take comfort in the fact that we still put ourselves in the position to where we clinched a share and we still clinched an opportunity for the playoffs. That was one of my goals was to win the Big South title and put ourselves in a position to where we have a chance to go to the playoffs. There’s still a chance for us, it’s just not in our hands now. We’ve still secured the co-championship at least. We’ve just got to see how it all plays out.”