The Liberty football team moved to 3-0 in Big South play with a 23-20 win in overtime over Gardner-Webb. Dexter Robbins blocked the Runnin’ Bulldogs field goal attempt in overtime to secure the victory.
Dexter Robbins: Not only did the senior captain from Tennessee have the game-winning blocked field goal, he also led the team with 7 tackles.
Alpha Jalloh: Jalloh was all over the field, particularly early in the game. He finished the game tied for the team lead with 7 tackles. He got credited with 1 pass breakup, but he had his hands on 3 of Tyrell Maxwell’s passes in the first 2 drives.
Carrington Mosley: Mosley led the Flames in all-purpose yards with 101. He had 69 rushing yards and 32 receiving yards.
RANKING THE TOP PLAYS FROM THE GAME
- The Flames led 23-20 in overtime with the Runnin’ Bulldogs lining up to attempt a 36 yard field goal to send the game into a 2nd overtime. Liberty’s Dexter Robbins had other ideas as he was able to push his way through Gardner-Webb’s line and get his right hand on the ball.
- On 2nd and 4 from the 19 yard line in overtime, it looked like Maxwell was going to connect with Jonathan Blackmon for a big gain inside Liberty’s 5 yard line, but Chris Turner closed the distance between himself and Blackmon in no time knocking the pass away. The Flames held on 3rd down and forced the Runnin’ Bulldogs into the field goal attempt that was blocked.
- On the opening drive of the 2nd half, Jaylan Foster jumped in front of Buckshot Calvert’s pass and returned it 42 yards for a touchdown as Gardner-Webb took the lead, 13-7.
- With Liberty’s offense struggling to move the football and put points on the board, Calvert was able to connect with Dante Shells for a 29 yard touchdown pass, giving the Flames the 20-13 lead with 8 minutes left in the game. Shells made a great play on the ball and went up and wrestled the ball away from the GWU defender.
- On Liberty’s final drive of regulation, Buckshot found Carrington Mosley in the flat and looked like he was going to be stopped short of the first down on the 3rd & 8 play. Mosley made a terrific play, eluding several defenders, and running over a couple, on his way to a 27 yard gain.
WHAT IT MEANS
The Flames were favored to win by 14.5 points, so the 3 point overtime win was not expected. A win is a win though, and Liberty moves to 3-0 in conference play. Winning a close game like this can help the team’s confidence if they are in a similar situation before the year is over.
After a couple of successful weeks on offense, including nearly 700 yards against Monmouth a week ago, Liberty’s offense suddenly was unable to consistently move the football against the Runnin’ Bulldogs. The Flames’ running backs only gained 2.2 yards per carry on 50 rushing attempts. Buckshot Calvert improved to 4-0 as a starter, but had his worst outing in the 4 games. Calvert completed 14 of his 23 pass attempts for 182 attempts, 1 touchdown, and 2 interceptions. The true freshman quarterback was sacked 5 times, and on a couple of occasions he had the ability to throw the ball away but failed to do so.
Liberty’s defense held Gardner-Webb to 265 yards of offense. Tyrell Maxwell and Khalil Lewis entered the game as the top two rushers in the Big South, but were each held below 50 yards rushing on the afternoon. The Flames’ defensive line forced pressure on Maxwell on several of his dropbacks, and single-handedly stalled drives on certain occasions. Of course, the defense did allow a 12 play, 83 yard drive that resulted in a touchdown with 3 minutes left in the game to tie the score and force overtime. Defensive coordinator Robert Wimberly’s squad did make up for it in overtime, forcing Gardner-Webb to attempt a field goal that was blocked.
Alex Probert had an opportunity to win the game on the final play of regulation with a 39 yard field goal. After the Runnin’ Bulldogs called 3 straight time outs to attempt to ice him, he missed the field goal badly. He did rebound to make what turned out to be the game-winning field goal in overtime.
The Flames head to Clinton, South Carolina to face the Presbyterian Blue Hose on Saturday at 2pm. PC is 2-6 on the season with wins over Campbell and Monmouth. Presby is 1-2 in Big South play, with the win over Monmouth, 17-13, and losses to Gardner-Webb (24-3) and Charleston Southern (35-3). The Blue Hose are coming off a 48-17 loss at home to Coastal Carolina this past Saturday. Liberty has won 7 straight meetings against Presbyterian, including a 21-13 in Lynchburg a season ago. The Flames lead the all-time series, 9-4, with PC’s last win coming in Clinton in 2008.
In all honesty, the game at Presbyterian means nothing to Liberty’s chances of winning the Big South automatic bid to the FCS playoffs. The Flames could lose to PC and beat Charleston Southern to finish conference with a 4-1 mark. Charleston Southern can finish no better than 4-1 if Liberty beats them.
As was announced last week, Turner Gill must serve a 1 game suspension due to a minor recruiting violation, and it is likely he could serve it against the Blue Hose. We should, hopefully, find out more about that during Tuesday’s press conference.
BY THE NUMBERS
291 | A week after putting up 681 yards of total offense, Gardner-Webb held Liberty to just 291 yards of total offense.
109 | The Flames were only able to run the ball for 109 yards on 50 carries, just 2.2 yards per carry.
5 | Buckshot Calvert was sacked 5 times by the Runnin’ Bulldogs.
4-4 | Liberty was perfect in the red zone, scoring on all 4 opportunities; however, the Flames were only able to score a touchdown on 1 of those occasions.
0 | Liberty’s defense forced 0 turnovers on the afternoon.
THEY SAID IT
Flames head coach Turner Gill on the team finding a way to win:
“If you play 11 football games, you’re going to have a game or two like this one, and you’ve got to find a way to win it. It happened to be this week and our guys responded in the right way. It’s great to see our guys respond as it gives them even more confidence moving forward.”
Wide receiver Dante Shells on Gardner-Webb slowing the offense down:
“They did a good job scouting us the last couple games. They had a good defensive scheme. And our coaches preached to us, ‘no let-ups.’ Gardner-Webb, a good team, is going to come here thinking they can win again after giving us that woopin’ last year. This game helped us out in finishing the season. We can’t come out like this anymore. We can’t take teams for granted.”