Liberty Tops JMU for First Ever Playoff Win
By: C. Denton Day II
The NCAA FCS playoffs began this weekend and for the first time ever Liberty University was a part of the action. The 8-4 Liberty Flames traveled to Harrisonburg, Virginia to take on the 9-3 Dukes of James Madison University.
Liberty had to win their last regular season game and win the Big South conference to get in to the playoffs and the Flames did just that. They defeated rival Coastal Carolina 15-14 on a field goal block to win the game and ruining Coast Carolina’s perfect season.
JMU received an at large bid after a relatively dominant season and were considered to be the favorite in the game against Liberty.
Liberty got on the board first and had a quick 10-0 lead but JMU answered back in the second quarter and scored 21 unanswered points to go into halftime with a 21-10 lead. In the first have the Flames turned the ball over two times and each of those turnovers resulted in a JMU touchdown.
“We were stopping ourselves,” Head Coach Turner Gill said.
In the second half that is the mentality the Flames had. Liberty established their run game and dominated the time of possession in the second half with 21 total minute of possession compared to JMU’s 9 minutes.
“We thought we had a good opportunity to stop them, but we just needed to make sure our defense wasn’t on the field a whole lot,” Gill said.
The defense held JMU to three three-and-outs and only allowed seven yards on their final four possessions. Liberty’s defensive performance put the offense in great position to make plays, which put tremendous pressure on JMU’s defense.
Liberty got a huge help from their special teams on a fake field goal that swung the momentum into the Flames corner. Quarterback Javan Shashaty was in position to hold the ball for a 57 yard field goal but instead sneaked around the side and picked up a 26 yard gain. The Flames would score three plays later
Liberty relied on their running game to help them take the win. Junior D.J. Abnar and redshirt freshmen Todd Macon combined to rush for 109 yards and two touchdowns.
Liberty finished strong in the 4th quarter holding the ball for a 20 play 11 minute drive that was capped off on a one yard touchdown run by Junior fullback Nicky Fualaau that put Liberty ahead 26-21.
JMU had one final opportunity to come back and score a touchdown to win the game but that came up short when Senior defensive back Kenny Scott batted down a fourth down pass to seal the win for the Flames.
“Last week I had the chance to end the game and it didn’t happen so this time I made a promise to myself that if they threw at me I would make it happen,” Kenny Scott said. “I didn’t come up with the pick but I made a play on the ball and we won the game.”
Liberty now will advance to the second round of the playoffs for the first time in school history. The Flames will travel and take on the Villanova Wildcats on Dec. 6 at 4:30 p.m.
Word Count: 530
Liberty’s First Playoff Game a Success
By: C. Denton Day II
- First playoff game in school history
- Woodrum led offense to over 300 total yards
- Flames win 26-21
For the first time since being founded in 1971 Liberty University qualified for the FCS playoffs. Liberty finished the regular season 8-4 and was crowned the Big South champions after defeating rival Coastal Carolina in the regular season finale.
Liberty traveled to Harrisonburg, Virginia to take on the 9-3 James Madison Dukes. Madison was considered the favorite but Liberty came out firing.
The Flames took an early 10 point lead but two costly turnovers in the second quarter helped quarterback Vad Lee and the Dukes score 21 unanswered points to go into half time with a 21-10 lead.
The second half was a different story for the Flames and their defense. Liberty’s defense held JMU scoreless in the second half and only allowed 55 yards in the second half from the Dukes offense.
Thanks to the Flames defense the Flames offense was able to establish a running game which was the key for Liberty in the second half. Running backs D.J. Abnar and Todd Macon combined for 109 total rushing yards and two touchdowns.
The play of the game was on the defensive side of the ball when Kenny Scott batted away a fourth down pass, which ended up being the Dukes’ final play.
“We’ve always sort of had the stigma around Liberty that we can’t win in state and we can’t beat a CAA team, but I think tonight we proved that we can do whatever we want as long as we execute and follow the coaches game plan,” Quarterback Josh Woodrum said.
Woodrum led the Flames to over 300 total yards on offense in his first game back since Nov. 8.
“I’m so proud of this football team when they could’ve given up a whole lot of times this season but they have not given up they continued to fight,” Head Coach Turner Gill said.
The Flames will now travel to Philadelphia to take on the Villanova Wildcats on Saturday Dec. 6 at 4:30.
Word Count: 326
The eight and four Liberty Flames traveled to Harrisonburg to take on the nine and three JMU Dukes// Liberty was the underdog in this game but they started off hot taking an early ten to nothing lead/ but in the second quarter JMU scored three touchdowns and went into halftime leading twenty-one to ten//In the second half the Flames defense really stepped up and their running game produced two touchdowns to give the Flames a late twenty-six to twenty-one lead// Following a late batted down pass by Kenny Scott on fourth down the Flames were able to pick up the victory 26-21///
Word Count: 102