The Flames were able to move the ball fairly consistently against the Tar Heels finishing the game with 346 yards. In the one quarter where the game got away (3rd quarter) Liberty’s offense picked up just 1 first down and had 3 turnovers. It was certainly the turning point of the game.
Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers. Liberty had 6 turnovers which the Heels converted into 28 points. No way a FCS team beats a ranked FBS team with those results.
Darrin Peterson had a solid game with 4 catches for 96 yards. There were times it felt like he couldn’t be covered by the inexperienced Carolina secondary, and other times he had issues hanging on to the ball. Hopefully he keeps his confidence, and has a breakout season this year which he is certainly capable of.
I feel much more confident in the rushing attack now than before the game. D.J. Abnar and redshirt-freshman Todd Macon both showed well in their first game as the feature backs. Macon led the Flames with 67 yards and 2 touchdowns on 13 carries. Abnar added 60 yards and 1 touchdown on 18 carries.
Quarterback Josh Woodrum struggled much of the game, finishing 16/33 for 189 yards and 2 interceptions. Entering the game, I thought he would have a good chance to test the Carolina secondary. He should be fine against FCS competition though.
At the beginning of the game, it looked as though the Flames’ D wasn’t going to be able to keep the Heels in check as UNC opened the game with touchdowns on 2 of their first 3 drives. The group recovered well as the half wore on until eventually surrendering the 3rd touchdown of the game to the Heels just before the half ended.
The Liberty defense was able to force 3 Carolina turnovers converting them into 21 points. Kenny Scott, Alpha Jalloh, and Gary Sampson each had interceptions. Jacob Hagen picked up a loose ball and returned it for a touchdown.
Hagen led the Flames with 7 tackles on the evening while Chima Uzowihe and JaRon Greene each recorded a sack. The Flames were unable to get consistent pressure on Carolina’s quarterbacks though.
One of the big keys to the game was the Flames being able to hold UNC’s returners, namely Ryan Switzer, in check. Liberty’s special teams units were able to do that pretty well as Switzer ended up with a long of 30 and 70 total punt return yards on 7 returns. A valiant effort by new punter Trey Turner and the punt team.
It was true freshman Avery Echols’ first crack at college football. He was perfect on his 4 PATs. His kickoffs left much to be desired though, as he typically got the ball to just the 10 or 15 yard line. Once John Lunsford has served his 2 game suspension, he will surely return to his kickoff duties as he usually gets the ball well into the end zone. As for the field goal and extra point duties? We’ll just have to wait and see.
The one kickoff Zac Parker brought out of the end zone really cost the Flames. Parker was brought down at the 12 yard line. Woodrum was picked off the next play. Experience for Parker will help him make better decisions in the future. Most FCS kickers don’t knock the ball 7 yards deep into the end zone every kickoff, so he will have a better chance to showcase his return abilities the rest of the season.
Liberty went toe-to-toe with a top 25 FBS team for 35 – 40 game minutes before a 5 or 10 minute stretch of game action in the 3rd quarter completed shifted the momentum and course of the game. Not a bad start to the season, but not great either. Next Saturday against Norfolk State will be a better test for Coach Gill’s 2014 squad.