Defense, Run Game Gets Liberty a Win
LYNCHBURG, Va. (AP) -- Desmond Rice rushed for 97 yards and three touchdowns to help Liberty dominate Morgan State 38-10 Saturday night.
Liberty QB Josh Woodrum was 9 of 15 for 101 yards and one interception. But it was the running game that gave the Flames (2-1) the winning advantage with 330 total yards rushing. Rice was joined in the backfield by Clifton Richardson who had 86 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries.
The Flames were up 28-3 at halftime and never looked back, adding to their lead in the second half with a Rice rushing touchdown and a John Lunsford field goal.
Morgan State's (0-3) passing game was almost non-existent. Moses Skillon held to just 3 completions and 28 yards. Skillon rushed for 90 yards. Freshman running back Herb Walker, Jr. scored the Bears lone touchdown in the fourth quarter after a 14-play, 75-yard drive.
From Liberty athletics:
LYNCHBURG, Va. - Liberty rushed for a season-best five touchdowns and 330 yards en route to a 38-10 victory over Morgan State, Saturday night, at Williams Stadium, capping off Hall of Fame weekend on Liberty Mountain.
Liberty, now 2-1 on the year, won its second-straight home game and opens a home schedule with a pair of wins for the first time since 2010. Morgan State falls to 0-3 on the year.
Liberty's defense was quickly able to get the ball in the hands of its offense, forcing the Bears into a three-and-out series on the game's opening drive.
Six plays later, Liberty jumped out to quick 7-0 lead at the 9:41 mark on a 14-yard touchdown run by Desmond Rice to the far side of the field. The junior's fourth career rushing touchdown capped off a six-play, 66-yard scoring push by the home team.
The drive marked the third time the Flames have scored the first time they have touched the football in a game under head coach Turner Gill. The six-play drive was spotlighted by completions from Josh Woodrum to Dante Shells (11 yards) and Brandon Apon (23 yards).
Liberty's run game continued to manifest itself the next time the Flames had possession of the football, this time with Clifton Richardson carrying the rushing load.
The Virginia transfer was called upon six times during the 10-play, 71-yard scoring drive to carry the ball. On the sixth and final time, Richardson followed a similar play pattern as Rice, scoring from seven yards out on the far side of the field to extend Liberty's lead to 14-0 with 1:06 left to play in the first quarter.
Morgan State followed the Flames' offensive success on the next drive, keeping the ball on the ground seven times on the 10-play, 53-yard scoring drive that finished with a Chris Moller 35-yard field.
Quarterback Moses Skillon picked up 38 of the team's 53 yards on the drive, calling his own number twice, including a 30-yard gain to get into Liberty territory. Eight plays later, Moller's 35-yard kick trimmed Liberty's lead to 11, 14-3, with 12:06 left to play until halftime.
Liberty looked like it might have to answer with its own three-point score, as Morgan State had the Flames in a third-and-18 situation on the Bears' 26-yard line. However, Woodrum was able to scramble and pick up 16 yards, his longest career carry, to get the 10-yard line.
Gill kept his offense on the field for the fourth down play and Liberty's offensive line was able to open a hole on the left side of the field for Rice to score from 10 yards out and push Liberty's lead to 21-3 with 6:24 left in the first half. Rice's second score of the game capped off an 11-play, 96-yard drive for the Flames.
Following the Bears' second three-and-out series of the first half, Liberty's passing attack set up the Flames' final scoring drive of the opening 30 minutes of play.
Liberty continued to keep the ball on the ground until Woodrum found Gabe Henderson open over the middle of the field to get into the red zone on a 28-yard passing play.
On the next play, Richardson took the pitch left and was just able to get the nose of the football over the pylon to score from three yards out and give Liberty a 28-3 edge heading into the locker room at halftime.
The Flames dominated the first half stat sheet, outgaining the Bears, 287 yards to 87. Liberty finished the first half with 35 offensive plays and 24 times offensive coordinator Aaron Stamn called for Liberty to keep it on the ground, resulting in 193 rushing yards.
Morgan State's 87 team yards were came mostly on the ground, as well, as the Bears finished with 84 rushing yards.
Rice and Richardson led Liberty's ground attack with Rice finishing the first half with six carries for 66 yards, while Richardson rushed 11 times for 64 yards. Both running backs found the end zone twice.
Skillon was Morgan State's top offensive weapon during the first half, carrying the ball eight times for 67 yards. He completed 1-of-6 passing attempts for three yards, while Woodrum was 7-of-11 for 94 yards.
During halftime, Liberty honored the five members of its 2013 Hall of Fame class, who were officially inducted at a banquet last night. Liberty Athletics Hall of Fame class included Anthonia (Akpama) Oyedele (volleyball), Bailey Alston (men's basketball), Brenda Bonheim (volleyball and women's basketball coach/SWA), Nancy (Davis) White (women's soccer) and Robby Justino (football).
The Flames punctuated their potent rushing attack after taking advantage of a Morgan State special teams miscue.
Liberty's Grant Bowden's punt from his own three-yard line was touched by Morgan State's Andrew King and recovered by D.J. Abnar.
Five plays later, Rice capped off his career night when the junior took a handoff from Woodrum and found the end zone from 20 yards out, pushing Liberty's lead to 35-3 with 6:02 left to play in the third quarter.
Both teams managed to dent the scoreboard one last time during the remainder of the game, piecing together lengthy scoring efforts.
Lunsford capped off Liberty 38-point scoring night when the sophomore lifted a 40-yard field goal through the uprights at 7:20 left to play in the third quarter to finish off a 13-play, 64-yard drive.
The final points of the night were scored when Herb Walker crossed the goal line on a four-yard run with 7:44 left to play in the ball game. The 14-play, 75-yard drive, which took 7:44 off the game clock, marking the first rushing touchdown the Flames had allowed since the fourth quarter of its matchup with Stony Brook on Nov. 10, 2012.
The Flames nearly tripled Morgan State's offensive numbers, finished the game with 431 total offensive yards to the Bears 171 offensive yards.
Liberty has its second-most successful rushing effort under Gill, rushing for 330 yards and five touchdowns.
Both Rice and Richardson had career nights, with Rice leading the way with 97 rushing yards on nine carries. He doubled his career rushing touchdown total with three scoring runs. Richardson followed with 14 carries for 86 yards and two rushing touchdowns.
Woodrum finished the night 9-of-15 for 101 yards and failed to throw a touchdown pass for just the second time as the Flames starting quarterback. Henderson led the Flames with two receptions for 34 yards.
Skillon accounted for 118 of Morgan State's 171 total offensive yards. He completed 3-of-12 passing attempts for 28 yards and carried the ball 16 times for 90 yards. Walker added 10 carries for 34 yards and the fourth quarter rushing touchdown.
Liberty's defensive effort was evenly spread out among 29 different players who finished with tackles on the night. Three players led the team with four tackles each (defensive back Jacob Hagen, linebacker Andrew Jauch and defensive lineman Jibrille Fewell).
Morgan State middle linebacker Cody Acker led all defenders on the night, finishing the game with 12 tackles (nine solo, three assisted). Free safety Darien Irby followed with six stops (four solo, two assisted).
The Flames hit the road for the second time this year when the travel to the Commonwealth's capital for their first-ever matchup with Richmond next Saturday.
The Spiders, ranked No. 15 by the Sports Network and No. 11 in the FCS Coaches polls this week, are coming off a 12-10 road loss at Big South foe Gardner-Webb earlier today.
Kickoff at Robbins Stadium is 6 p.m. and the game will be carried live on the Liberty Flames Sports Network (TV) and ESPN3.