Flames Thrill 50th Anniversary Homecoming Crowd with Victory

Sports

LYNCHBURG, Va. – With alumni in the stands from all five decades of Liberty University history, the Flames rolled to a 41-13 Homecoming Weekend victory over Middle Tennessee, Saturday afternoon, at Williams Stadium.

       Liberty University, founded in 1971, welcoming its 50th anniversary alumni crowd back to campus during a special weekend to celebrate the school’s history.

       The Flames did not disappoint their returning graduates, nearly doubling up the Blue Raiders in total offense (Liberty 449 yards; MTSU 265 yards).

       With the win, Liberty moves to 33-14 all-time during Homecoming Weekend games, including a 11-3 mark in its last 14 Homecoming contests.

       The victory also pushed Liberty’s home winning streak to 14 games in a row, extending its program record. Entering the day, Liberty’s win streak ranked as the fourth-longest home FBS win streak in the country.

       Liberty rushed for 200-plus yards for the third time this season. The Flames finished the contest with 227 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns. Joshua Mack led all rushers with 91 yards and a touchdown.

       Malik Willis followed Mack with the quarterback rushing for 80 yards and a touchdown. The redshirt junior finished the game completing 17-of-30 passing attempts for 222 yards and two touchdowns, but he was picked off three times on the afternoon. Liberty came into the game as one of five FBS teams in the country without having a pass intercepted.

       Demario Douglas posted his second 100-yard game in a row, leading all receivers with 10 receptions for a career-high 156 yards and his fourth touchdown in 2021.

       The Flames’ standout defensive, which held its fourth opponent this season below 20 points, was paced by Skyler Thomas, who finished with nine tackles (five solo, four assisted).

Box Score Highlights:

Final Score: 41-13

Liberty (5-1)

Middle Tennessee (2-4, 1-2 CUSA)

Location: Williams Stadium (Lynchburg, Va.)

Attendance: 19,935

Turning Point:

       The first five drives of the game for both teams set the stage for the afternoon. Liberty scored three touchdowns on its first five drives, opening up a 21-0 lead midway through the second quarter.

       Conversely, Middle Tennessee struggled early to mount any type of offensive threat. The Blue Raiders picked up only four first downs on their first five drives that ended in a turnover on downs, three punts and an interception.

Play-By-Play Breakdown:

First Quarter

·       The Flames displayed their strengths on both sides of the ball during the first five minutes of the game, taking a 7-0 lead at 10:59. Following a fourth-down stop nearly midfield on the Blue Raiders’ first drive, Willis found Demario Douglas open for a 35-yard touchdown on Liberty’s third offensive play of the game.

·       The Flames doubled their lead on the second to last play of the quarter, pushing their advantage to 14-0 with 13 seconds left. Willis capped a quick 2:22 drive with a five-yard scoring pass to the back of the end zone to a wide open Jerome Jackson on the six-play, 84-yard drive.

Second Quarter

·       Each team scored a touchdown during the second quarter, while the Flames added a 37-yard field goal by Brayden Beck with 40 seconds left to send Liberty into the locker room with a 24-7 lead.

·       Liberty pushed its lead to 21-0 at the 6:55 mark when T.J. Green scored his first rushing touchdown in a Flames uniform. The one-yard run capped an 11-play, 80-yard drive.

·       The Blue Raiders pieced together their most successful drive of the game to end the half, getting on the scoreboard at 2:56. The nine-play, 84-yard drive ended on a six-yard pass play from Chase Cunningham to Jimmy Marshall.

Third Quarter

·       Liberty’s defense continued to make its presence known during the third quarter when Henry Chibueze sacked Cunningham near the goal line and the loose ball was recovered in the end zone for Liberty’s first safety since 2016.

·       Willis’ third interception of the game allowed the visitors to score for the second time in the game. On a fourth-and-10 play, Cunningham found Jarrin Pierce open for a 31-yard touchdown reception at 8:07.

·       However, the Flames put the game away with their ground game on the following drive. Liberty kept the ball on the ground for all eight plays of the 67-yard scoring drive that ended with a Mack two-yard touchdown run at 3:25, pushing Liberty’s lead to 34-13.

Fourth Quarter

·       The Flames use the same formula for moving the ball on their final scoring drive of the game. Midway through the fourth quarter, Liberty kept the ball on the ground all seven plays of a 48-yard drive that ended with Willis scoring his seventh rushing touchdown of the season at the 4:17 mark.

What’s Next:

       Following the Flames’ lone home game over a five-game stretch, Liberty returns to the road next weekend to face ULM at Malone Stadium in Monroe, La. The game will be broadcast on ESPN+ and kicks off at 7 p.m., the final night game currently on Liberty’s remaining 2021 slate.

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