The Liberty Flames lose their 4th straight game, falling to Monmouth, 56-39.
RANKING THE TOP PLAYS FROM THE GAME
- After leading 49-19, Monmouth had lost all momentum with the Flames scoring 20 consecutive points to close the game to just 10 points. The Hawks desperately needed some positive momentum when Kenji Bahar connected with Reggie White, Jr for a 61 yard touchdown strike on the first play of the drive to push Monmouth’s lead to 56-39. It was one of the final nails in the coffin for the Flames’ comeback hopes.
- For the 2nd week in a row, Liberty scored on the opening drive of the game to take a 7-0 lead. On the ensuing kickoff, Pete Guerriero returned it 95 yards for a touchdown to tie the game at 7. It set the tone for how the afternoon was going to go.
- Antonio Gandy-Golden found pay dirt for a 33 yard touchdown reception on the final play of the 3rd quarter to bring the Flames within 10 points.
- With 7 minutes left in the game, the Flames trailed by 17 points and faced a 4th and 5 at the Monmouth 25 yard line. A field goal would bring the team within two scores, and keep hopes alive. Instead, Liberty decided to go for it, and when Buckshot’s pass intended for Damian King fell incomplete, all hope was lost.
- With the Flames trailing 21-7 early in the 2nd quarter, it seemed as though the rout was on. However, Buckshot found B.J. Farrow who sprinted down the sideline for a 76 yard touchdown to bring the Flames back within 1 score.
WHAT IT MEANS
Liberty’s defense has just been atrocious the past two weeks, giving up 98 points and 862 rushing yards in games that were decided by halftime. Those two performances have to rank near the worst in back-to-back defensive outings in school history. It looks like the last time the Flames had allowed that many points in consecutive games was in 2005, when Liberty gave up 157 in 3 straight games.
Each of the last two weeks, Liberty’s offense has scored on their opening drive, then had trouble moving the ball, before finally scoring points on consecutive possessions in the 3rd quarter when the game is already out of reach. When the Flames have been forced to throw the ball on every play, the team has had success in each of the past 2 games. Is it because of the defense playing soft, or should this be the offense’s strategy from the beginning of the game?
The offense’s tempo has also slowed down tremendously since the season opening win over Baylor. In that game, the Flames ran 103 plays. Since then, the offense is averaging 70.6 plays per game.
The Flames have lost 4 straight games for the first time since the first 4 games of the Turner Gill era, when Liberty opened the season 0-4 in 2012. That streak was actually 5 straight losses, as Liberty lost the season finale in 2011 at Stony Brook. The last time the Flames lost 5 straight in one season was in 2005 when they lost 10 straight to finish the year 1-10.
The Flames remain on the road next week as they travel to Boiling Springs, North Carolina to take on the Gardner-Webb Runnin’ Bulldogs. GWU is 1-6 this season with their only win coming against Division II Shorter. Gardner-Webb is coming off a 17-3 loss at Kennesaw State. In 3 of their 7 games this season, the Runnin’ Bulldogs have failed to score a touchdown.
Liberty will be looking to avoid falling to 0-3 to start Big South play for just the 2nd time in school history and first time since 2005. Of course, 2005 was the year that the Flames were 1-10 on the season, including an 0-4 Big South mark. Head Coach Ken Karcher was fired just prior to the final game of the season.
Quarterback Tyrell Maxwell, the Big South Preseason Player of the Year, leads the Runnin’ Bulldogs in rushing and passing. Maxwell is rushing for 86.7 yards per game and also has 5 rushing touchdowns. He’s thrown for 762 yards and 5 touchdowns, but is only completing 46.6% of his passes and has 7 interceptions. Many Liberty fans still have nightmares from the last trip to Spangler Stadium when Maxwell rushed for 173 yards and 3 touchdowns, leading GWU to the upset win.
56 | The 56 points scored by the Hawks ties the most allowed by Liberty in a Big South game. Elon also scored 56 during the Flames’ first season in Big South play in 2002.
364 | For the 2nd consecutive week, Liberty’s defense was gashed by the opposing team’s rushing attack. Monmouth ran for 364 yards led by Eric Zokouri’s 193 yards and Pete Guerriero’s 162 yards.
3/3 | Liberty’s defense continues to struggle in the red zone, as Monmouth scored touchdowns in all 3 of their red zone trips.