LIBERTY 28, STONY BROOK 14 | BOX SCORE | WATCH HIGHLIGHTS
The Flames equaled their entire season turnover total on Saturday and kept Walter Payton Award candidate Miguel Maysonet in check, securing a 28-14 victory over No. 6/8 Stony Brook on Senior Day at Williams Stadium.
Beside its 16-member senior class, Liberty Athletics also honored all branches of the armed forces on the day during Military Appreciation Day.
The 14-point win comes against the highest-ranked team Liberty has beaten in program history and was the Flames' first over a ranked opponent under first-year head coach Turner Gill. With the win, the Flames level their season record at 5-5 and up to 4-1 in Big South play.
The win also extended the Big South's longest home Conference winning streak, as the Flames have now won 18-straight League games dating back to 2006.
The loss brings to a close the regular season schedule for the Seawolves. Stony Brook finishes 2012 with a 9-2 overall mark and 5-1 in Big South play. SBU suffered its first Conference loss since the season finale at Liberty in 2010. The Seawolves are assured a share of the Big South title for the fourth year in a row, but their postseason fate will be determined following the completion of next week's Big South schedule.
Stony Brook scored on its first drive of the game, jumping out to a 7-0 lead thanks to two large gains by quarterback Kyle Essington on third-down plays.
The first came on a career-long 41-yard gain on the ground, as the senior faked a handoff to Maysonet on a third-and-six play. The deception created an empty field on the near side and the senior was able to scamper downfield before being pushed out of bounds.
Three plays later, Essington found fullback Chris Fenelon open in the flat for a 15-yard gain on a third-and-six play and was stopped at the one-yard line by Brent Vinson. Maysonet scored his Big South leading 18th touchdown on the next play, giving the visitors the early lead with 9:19 left to play in the first quarter.
The two teams battled for field position until the Flames used a little of their own misdirection to tie the game with 12:12 left to play in the second quarter.
After 30-yard punt by Wesley Skiffington gave Liberty its best starting spot to begin a drive in the game, Liberty brought in back-up quarterback Brian Hudson.
The Flames "wildcat" quarterback rolled out of the pocket and completed his first touchdown pass since earlier this year against Norfolk State. The junior found Desmond Rice open on the far side of the field and the running back found the end zone 49 yard later to tie the game.
On the next drive, linebacker Nick Sigmon forced the Seawolves to punt the ball away with back-to-back stops. On the first, the sophomore broke up a pass over the middle and then stopped Maysonet on a run up the middle on a third-and-seven play.
On the first play of the ensuing drive, Josh Woodrum connected with senior Pat Kelly, who was able to shake off his defender and gain 67 yards. The reception pushed the senior over the 2,000 career receiving mark and put the Flames back in the red zone.
Following a roughing the passer penalty on Stony Brook, Hudson was back under center for Liberty and the quarterback called his own number to score from four yards out and give the Flames the 14-7 lead with 9:03 left to play before halftime.
Both teams tried to find the end zone one last time before heading to the locker room and the visitors had the best look at adding points to the scoreboard.
With just over three minutes left before halftime, Essington tried to go downfield, but his deep pass to the far side of the field was picked off by senior Brent Vinson at the 29-yard line to end the final scoring threat of the opening 30 minutes.
The two teams finished the first half with similar numbers with Stony Brook outgaining the Flames by five yards (201 to 196).
Stony Brook's total offensive yards were evenly split between rushing (95) and passing (106), while Liberty relied mainly on the arms of its quarterbacks with 167 passing yards.
Woodrum completed 9-of-13 passing attempts for 118 yards to go along with Hudson's 49 touchdown pass. Essington finished the first half 6-of-11 for 106 yards.
Aldreakis Allen led the Flames' limited rushing attack with seven carries for 21 yards, while Maysonet finished the first 30 minutes of the game with 11 carries 28 yards.
The game's second turnover led to the next points added to the scoreboard. After the two teams traded failed drives, Stony Brook took over at its own 12-yard line. After a failed pass attempt by Essington, the senior tried to pick up a first down over the middle of the field, but Sigmon stepped in front of the pass and return the interception 21 yards for a 21-7 Liberty lead with 9:49 left to play in the third quarter.
Liberty's defense continued to keep Stony Brook off balance, sacking Essington on a third-and-long play on its next drive and Jacob Hagen intercepted the senior two drives later to keep the Seawolves from possessing the football.
Stony Brook finally was able to mount its first offensive drive since the start of the game late in the third and into the fourth quarter.
The Seawolves converted twice on fourth-down plays, including a 13-yard run by Maysonet to the near side of the field to pull Stony Brook back within seven, 21-14, with 13:31 left to play in the game.
Liberty looked like it might give itself a two score cushion midway through the fourth quarter. However a holding penalty on a third-and-nine play pushed the Flames back 10 yards. Freshman kicker John Lunsford was brought on to attempt his second longest field goal of the year, which the rookie missed to the right with 4:53 remaining in the game.
On the next drive, the Seawolves tried to go back to the offensive leader, but Maysonet lost control of the football when he was struck by Sigmon. The loose ball was scooped up by Hagen and returned 44 yards for a score to secure Liberty's historic victory.
The Flames, who came into the game ranked No. 26 in the country in total offense, had their lowest offensive output of the season at 259 yards.
The telling statistic in the game was the five turnovers Liberty forced, two of which led to Liberty's four scoring opportunities. The last time the Flames scored two defensive touchdowns in a game was last year against Charleston Southern, when Liberty returned two interceptions for touchdowns in a 38-16 road victory.
Essington, who came into the game ranked No. 1 in the country in passing efficiency, was picked off four times, equaling his season total during the first 10 games of the year.
Liberty held Stony Brook's rushing attack in check, allowing the Seawolves to rush for 156 yards on 40 carries. Stony Brook came into the game ranked No. 5 in the country in rushing offense (304.0 yards per game) and below the 200-yard rushing mark for the first time in 2012.
Maysonet ranked No. 2 in the country in rushing offense came into the day (165.1 yards per game), but the senior was limited to 70 yards on 25 carries. He did score both of Stony Brook's touchdowns, giving him 19 rushing touchdowns on the year. He finishes the regular season with 1,721 yards rushing.
Liberty finished the game with 62 team rushing yards, led by Allen's 15 carries for 36 yards.
Essington was 15-of-31 for 227 yards, while Woodrum finished the afternoon 13-of-22 for 148 yards. Hudson only had two offensive plays during the game, but both led to the Flames' two offensive scores. The first was the 49 yard touchdown pass to Rice and the second was the four-yard touchdown run.
Kelly became the fifth player in program history to surpass the 2,000 yard career receiving mark, finishing the game with six receptions for 113 yards. With the senior's third 100-yard game of the year, Kelly now has 2,064 career receiving yards.
Kevin Norrell led all Seawolves with five receptions for 118 yards -- his Big South-record sixth consecutive 100-yard receiving game, followed by Myles Campbell's four receptions for 39 yards.
The Flames' stout defense was paced by Sigmon, who finished the game with nine tackles, two tackles for a loss, a forced fumble, a 21-yard interception return for a touchdown and a pass breakup. Vinson, one of 16 seniors honored prior to the game, followed with eight stops and a 26-yard interception return, while Chris Mayo added seven stops.
Stony Brook's defense was led by Reginald Francklin and Grant Nakwaasah, who both had a half-dozen stops on the afternoon.
The Flames will play for a share of the 2012 Big South Conference football title next week, when Liberty travels to Lexington, Va., to face the Keydets of VMI on ESPN3. Liberty will be looking to secure its fifth Big South title in the last six seasons (Big South titles in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010). Kickoff at Foster Stadium is set for 1:30 p.m.
How many teams share the title will be determined next weekend with both Liberty and Coastal Carolina heading into the final week of the season with a 4-1 Big South record. The Chanticleers will host Charleston Southern at home. Kickoff at Brooks Stadium is 3:30 p.m.
Stony Brook wins the title outright and the League's automatic bid to the FCS Playoffs should both Liberty and Coastal Carolina were to lose. If the Flames defeat the Keydets and Coastal Carolina falls to Charleston Southern, Liberty shares the title with Stony Brook and earns its first-ever FCS Playoff berth based upon its head-to-head victory over the Seawolves today.
If both Liberty and Coastal Carolina win their season finales, the Big South season ends with its second three-way share of the title in two years. In this scenario, Coastal Carolina wins the tiebreaker and the League's automatic bid to the FCS Playoffs based upon its perfect 3-0 record in road Big South games in 2012 -- the fourth tiebreaker in the Conference's tiebreaking procedure..
CHARLESTON SOUTHERN 28, GARDNER-WEBB 10 | BOX SCORE
Charleston Southern held Gardner-Webb to 207 total yards and posted 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to beat the visiting Bulldogs, 28-10. The win moves CSU to 5-5 and 3-2 in Big South Conference action, while GWU falls to 2-8 and 1-4 in League play.
The win gives the Bucs a 4-1 home record for 2012 and sends the CSU seniors out with a four-game home winning streak.
The seniors played a big part in the win. Safety Austin Wald had a fourth quarter interception to set up the Bucs for a two-possession lead, and senior Charles James intercepted his 12th career pass to set the CSU all-time for career interceptions.
The Bucs held Gardner-Webb to three yards per play and physically controlled the game, eventually wearing down the Bulldogs. The defense continued to give the Bucs' offense opportunities, then things all came together at once in the fourth quarter.
Quarterback Malcolm Dixon ripped off touchdown runs of 69 and 15 yards, while Teddy Allen added a 31-yard touchdown run as the Bucs blew the game open. Wald's interception and return set up Dixon's second run as the Bucs piled up 212 yards of offense in the final quarter after just 121 through three quarters.
Gardner-Webb put together the first potential scoring drive of the game but Trevor Austin's 38 yard field goal attempt from the left hashmark was pushed wide right with 3:21 left in the quarter to keep the game scoreless. GWU quarterback Lucas Beatty kept the drive alive with a 14 yard completion to Seth Cranfill on third-and-4 to move the ball into Buccaneers territory, but CSU's defense forced the field goal attempt following a Beatty incompletion in the end zone.
Charleston Southern broke the seal on the end zone in their first drive of the second quarter as Elijah Lee took the reverse pitch from Mike Davis, shrugged off a defender in the backfield and out-raced the defense to the left pylon for the touchdown from 10 yards out. CSU kept the drive alive on fourth-and-6 from the Gardner-Webb 25 yard line as Dixon connected with Will Hunt up the left seam for a 15 yard gain, setting up Lee's first rushing touchdown of the season.
Larry Jones III added a 20 yard reception while Allen had a 29-yard carry on the drive as CSU went up 7-0 following T.J. Higgins' extra point attempt with 9:08 left in the first half.
The Runnin' Bulldogs put their first points on the board late in the second quarter as Beatty connected with Kenny Cook in the left corner of the end zone on fourth-and-goal from the 10 yard line as GWU took advantage of a CSU fumble on the punt return. Set with the short field, the Runnin' Bulldogs took advantage of two fourth down conversions with Juanne Blount connecting with Demetrius Fairley for 14 yards on fourth-and-10 and Beatty found Cook four plays later in the end zone. Austin's extra point evened the score with 1:36 remaining in the half.
Austin gave the Runnin' Bulldogs their first lead of the game with 7:10 remaining in the third quarter, connecting from 22 yards out following a 10-play, 47-yard drive as GWU started their drive on their own 48 yard line. Beatty connected on an 11 yard pass to Deonte Swinton on the first play of the drive and Blount added a 12 yard carry in the mix, but CSU's defense held strong at the goal line as the James knocked down a pass in the front left corner of the end zone, forcing the field goal attempt.
Dixon responded at the beginning of the fourth quarter, faking the handoff up the middle in the read-option offense and the senior quarterback broke through the defense, carrying the ball up the right sideline and shedding two tackles along the way before crossing the goal line for the 69 yard touchdown run. The carry was the longest scoring play of the season for the Buccaneers and Dixon's longest carry in his collegiate career as the Buccaneers went up 14-10 following Higgins' extra point with 14:04 left in the game.
On the following drive, Wald stepped in front of a Beatty pass at the 40 yard line and weaved his way back to the GWU 15, setting the Buccaneers up in prime scoring position. Dixon called his own number on the following play, faking the pitch to set up the defense and carried the ball across the goal line with 12:09 on the clock in the fourth quarter and Higgins converted the extra point putting the score at 21-10 in favor of the home team.
James added his 12th career interception late in the fourth quarter taking over sole possession on top of the CSU career interception leaderboard after stepping in front of a Beatty pass at the GWU 43 yard line, returning it to the 39. Three plays later, Allen found a hole up the middle and sprinted pass the defense, scoring the fourth rushing touchdown of the day for the Buccaneers from 31 yards out and Higgins converted the extra point to put the Buccaneers up 28-10 with 2:47 remaining in the game.
Allen finished the game with 16 carries and 107 rushing yards, his third 100+ rushing performance on the season in the victory, while Dixon had 56 yards and two scores on the ground, in addition to 90 yards through the air of 7-for-10 passing.
Jones III had 55 yards on four receptions, while James put the Buccaneers offense in prime position all afternoon with 74 punt return yards in his final game at Buccaneer Field.
The Buccaneers defense held the Gardner-Webb offense to 207 total offensive yards, keeping the Runnin' Bulldogs to 98 yards in the second half with Matt Hardy and Calvin Bryant leading the defense with six tackles apiece. Hardy added two tackles for loss, while defensive tackle Isaac McKenzie had four tackles and a sack.
Beatty was 11-for-33 through the air for Gardner-Webb, throwing for 101 yards and a touchdown, but his two interceptions led to a pair of Charleston Southern scores in the loss. Kenny Little led the Runnin' Bulldogs offensive attack with 55 yards on 18 carries to pace the offensive attack.
Gardner-Webb's Lonnie Johnson led all players with 12 tackles, including two sacks and three tackles for loss.
The Bucs travel to Coastal Carolina next Saturday at 3:30 p.m. live on MASN. CSU, with a win, would finish with a winning season for the first time since 2009. Gardner-Webb closes out its season at home against Presbyterian College at 1:30pm.
COASTAL CAROLINA 65, PRESBYTERIAN COLLEGE 7 | BOX SCORE
After missing last week's game with an injury, Coastal Carolina quarterback Aramis Hillary tied a school and Big South record with five touchdown passes - all in the first half and two to Matt Hazel - and finished with 261 yards passing, while Marcus Whitener added 143 rushing yards and two scores, in the Chanticleers' 65-7 win at Presbyterian (2-8, 0-5 Big South).
Coastal (6-4, 4-1 Big South) established a school record with 44 points in the first half, the most since scoring 42 in the first half versus Savannah State in 2006. The 65 total points is fourth on the CCU all-time list. Coastal also posted single-game top 10 performances in total offense (second with 625), most all-purpose yards (second with 752), nine touchdowns (third-tied with 9), rushing yards (fourth with 365) and average yards per play in total offense fourth-tied with 8.8).
Over the last two weeks, Coastal has amassed 1,221 yards of total offense. Including the 625 today, Coastal had 596 last week at Gardner-Webb with back-up quarterback Alex Ross at the reigns, which now ranks third on the CCU's single-game list.
Hillary, who played only the opening series of the second half without a pass attempt, completed his first nine passes of the game and finished the contest by completing 19-of-22 passes for his 261 yards - 23rd on the CCU single-game list - and five scores with his first interception in 190 attempts. He added 81 rushing yards came on seven carries for an average of 11.6 per attempt.
Whitener, who had three carries for six yards in the first half, turned in the ninth-best single-game rushing total with his 143 yards. He averaged 11.0 yards on his 13 carries with TDs of four and 61 yards. He helped Coastal rush for more than 200 yards for the fifth straight week, tying a CCU record set in 2004. Hazel led all receivers with six catches for 78 yards.
Coastal took the opening kickoff and scored in nine plays. Hillary had an 11-yard rush early and was 6-of-6 passing on the drive, including a 10-yard shuttle pass to senior Kenny Jones. It marked Jones' second career TD and his first since his freshman season. Coastal followed with a successful two-point play as holder Austin Cain completed a jump pass to Thomas Pauciello.
On the Blue Hose's first drive, Coastal forced a three-and-out. On the punt, Coastal would have had the ball on the 41. However, PC elected to punt again after a running into the kicker penalty on Coastal. The second Presbyterian punt was a booming 50-yard effort. Niccolo Mastromatteo caught the ball on his own 13 yard line, escaped four tacklers and out-ran the coverage for an 87-yard touchdown. The return tied for the second-longest punt return in CCU history (as Mastromatteo owns the record for longest punt return with a 91-yarder in 2010) and ties for the third-longest scoring play in CCU history.
Presbyterian began to move the ball midway through the first quarter, reaching the CCU 24, but the Blue Hose missed a 41-yard field goal. The Chants wasted no time putting their third score on the board. Hillary had a 28-yard run and, three plays later, hit Hazel for a 23-yard score to give the Chants a 22-0 lead.
After an interception to start the second quarter, Presbyterian got on the board for its lone score, trimming its deficit to 22-7, with a 56-yard Kaleb Griffin pass to Jordan Hallums.
The Chants answered right back, putting eight points on the board in five plays and just over two minutes. Hillary hit David Duran down the left sideline for a 43-yard score. The TD was Duran's second of the season and fifth of his career. Cain then took the direct snap and ran the ball in for a two-point conversion for a 30-7.
On PC's ensuing drive, Dontavais Johnson forced and Jamel Davis recovered a fumble. Two plays later, Hillary went down the left sideline again to throw a 50-yard score to DeMario Bennett to put Coastal on top 37-7.
Coastal ended the half with Hillary hitting Hazel for an 11-yard touchdown, the fifth score through the air in the half for a 44-7 advantage at the break.
Coastal forced a punt to open the third quarter and were fortunate not to have a safety after muffing the punt and the ball going out-of-bounds in the end zone. Undeterred, Coastal turned to Whitener as he carried the ball six times for 65 yards, including a 44 yarder to start the drive and a four-yard touchdown to end the drive.
The Blue Hose were driving on the following possession until Mike McClure picked off a pass on the PC 11. This offensive series for CCU, Whitener accounted for all four plays and all 72 yards vie the run, including a 61-yard touchdown. Grant Clayton's point after made the score 58-7.
In the fourth quarter, Ross milked the game clock each snap and capped 13-play, 55-yard drive with 10-yard touchdown. The drive consumed 8:06, which is the second-longest in terms of time in school history. (CCU had a drive take 8:28 off the clock at Clemson in 2009.)
Coastal Carolina will return home for the 2012 regular-season finale, hosting Charleston Southern. Kickoff is set for 3:30 pm and the game will be telecast on MASN. Prior to the game, Coastal will honor is 2012 season class. Presbyterian closes out its season at Gardner-Webb. Kickoff is 1:30pm.
THE CITADEL 27, VMI 24 | BOX SCORE | WATCH HIGHLIGHTS
Despite a furious fourth-quarter comeback, the Virginia Military Institute football squad fell in the Military Classic of the South 27-24 to former Southern Conference foe The Citadel.
Down 24-10 heading into the final quarter of play, the Keydets, led by Eric Kordenbrock's 191 passing yards, scored twice in the fourth quarter, pulling within a field goal of the Bulldogs with just over three minutes to play.
After Mario Thompson caught a four-yard dart from Kordenbrock, the Keydets trailed just 27-24, but after failing to recover an onsides kick, The Citadel, which claimed the coveted Silver Shako with the win, ran out the clock to preserve the win.
Kordenbrock finished with 191 passing yards, 81 of which came in a single passing play to Jabari Turner in the fourth quarter, setting up a VMI touchdown. The Keydet rushing attack was paced by Derrick Ziglar, who netted 51 yards. Turner picked up another 46 ground yards, including a 20-yard scamper.
An option team, The Citadel (6-4) ran the ball 62 times, amassing 262 yards on the ground. Quarterback Aaron Miller threw for 72 yards while teammate Ben Dupree completed all three of his pass attempts for 49 yards. Miller was picked off once, as VMI's Mike Smith snapped the ball out of the air and returned it 17 yards.
On the defensive side, Adam Morgan led the Keydets with 15 total tackles, including six solo stops. Another three Keydets managed double-digit tackles as well, with Smith, Ty Garvin and Weston Reber each logging 11 stops.
The Citadel jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead just five minutes into the game as Dupree ran for 10-yards, capping a 10-play, 54-yard drive. But the Keydets answered back, marching 39 yards on 11 plays, setting up a Jeff Sexton field goal.
In the second quarter, The Citadel struck twice, first on a one-yard run by Vinny Miller, ending a 77-yard drive. During the series, the Bulldogs completed a pair of plays that each went for 20-yards, helping put them on top 14-3. Towards the end of the quarter, The Citadel picked up a field goal from Thomas Warren to go into the break up 17-3.
Despite the halftime deficit, VMI (2-8) rallied and out-scored The Citadel 21-10 in the second half, aided by big plays from the defense and special teams units.
As the Bulldogs slowly mounted a drive, reaching VMI's 24-yard line, The Citadel set up for a field goal attempt, but the kick was blocked, allowing Logan Staib to recover the ball. Two plays later however, the Bulldog defense got to Kordenbrock, forcing a fumble that Derek Douglas recovered for a touchdown after a 22-yard run to the endzone, extending The Citadel's lead to 24-3.
That would be the last time the Bulldogs reached the VMI endzone, as the Keydets scored the game's next 14 points. With four minutes left in the third, Jabari Turner punched in the first of VMI's two rushing touchdowns on the day. His scoring play was setup by special teams miscues by The Citadel, which was hit with a facemask penalty and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, setting the Keydets up at the Bulldogs' 18-yard line.
Opening the fourth quarter, Kordenbrock and Turner connected for the 81-yard catch and run off a swing pass VMI's longest play of the season thus far, along the VMI side of the field. Two players later, Cody Shirley helped VMI get within a touchdown of the Bulldogs' 24-17 lead.
But the Bulldogs pushed the lead out to 27-17 with just under five minutes left in the game as Warren kicked another field goal, following a clock-chewing drive of 13-plays in 6:52, covering on 33 yards.
VMI responded quickly, scoring two minutes later on a six-play, 59-yard drive. It became a one-score game as Kordenbrock zipped his lone passing touchdown of the day into Thompson. It was too little, too late however, as the Bulldogs escaped with the 27-24 victory in the 68th meeting between the two teams.
VMI concludes its 2012 campaign next Saturday when it hosts local foe Liberty University. Action between the two Big South Conference opponents is set to kickoff at Foster Stadium at 1:30 p.m. and will air on ESPN3.