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Liberty overpowers Buffalo, 55-27, moves to 3-0 to start season

Liberty Flames (WSET)
Liberty Flames (WSET)
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Liberty’s Kaidon Salter had a career day against Buffalo passing for five touchdowns and recording his first career 300-yard game to lead the Flames to a 55-27 road win at Buffalo on Saturday.

Salter finished the afternoon completing 16-of-26 passing attempts for 344 yards, becoming the Flames’ first quarterback to throw for 300-plus yards since Malik Willis in 2021 (Nov. 27 vs. Army).

The Flames’ defense, which came into the game leading the nation with seven interceptions, picked off two more passes on the day. Both interceptions came on tipped balls and were recovered by linebacker Tyren Dupree for his first two interceptions of 2023.

On the day, the Flames racked up a season-high 569 total offensive yards, rushing for 225 yards and passing for another 344 yards. Liberty limited Buffalo to 363 total offensive yards on the day, including only 87 yards on the ground.

Liberty had a pair of wide receivers record a 100-yard day in the same game for the first time since 2018. Treon Sibley finished the game with a career-high three receptions for 106 yards, while CJ Daniels hauled in four receptions for the same yardage.

Both receivers scored on the day, helping Salter finish the day with the most passing touchdowns (5) since Malik Willis threw for six touchdowns against Southern Miss (Oct. 24, 2020).

The Flames’ win today:

  • Enables the Flames to start out 3-0 for the third time in the last four seasons.
  • Keeps the Flames unbeaten against Buffalo at 3-0 and improves Jamey Chadwell's head coaching record versus the Bulls to 3-0.
  • Boosts the Flames' all-time record against MAC opponents to 7-10, including 2-0 this season.
  • Enables the Flames to win their first road game of the season for the fourth year in a row.
  • Improves the Flames' record to 2-9 all-time when playing in New York.
  • Makes Jamey Chadwell the second Liberty head coach ever to win his first three games with the Flames. Sam Rutigliano started 6-0 during the 1989 campaign, his first at Liberty.
  • Gives the Flames a third straight victory over a 2022 bowl team to open the 2023 campaign.

Play-By-Play Breakdown:

First Quarter

  • The Flames scored on the game’s opening drive, taking a 3-0 lead at 11:18 on a 39-yard Nick Brown field goal. A 26-yard pass play from Salter to Treon Sibley got the Flames to the Buffalo 23-yard line, but the Bulls’ defense held Liberty out of the end zone.
  • After several short passes to the sidelines, Liberty took a chance downfield that led to the first touchdown of the game. Salter hit Sibley in stride for a 56-yard scoring strike to push Liberty’s lead to 10-0 at 5:43.

Second Quarter

  • Another deep ball pushed Liberty’s lead to 17-0 at the 11:03 mark of the second quarter. A defensive pass interference play kept Liberty’s drive alive and the Flames took advantage of the extra opportunity on a 42-yard pass play from Salter to Elijah Smoot, capping a seven-play, 85-yard scoring drive.
  • Following the Flames’ nationally leading eighth interception of the year, Liberty extended its lead to 24-0 at 8:33. Two plays after Salter found Sibley open for a 24-yard strike, the sophomore quarterback called his own number and scored from two yards out.
  • Just like Buffalo’s fellow MAC conference foe Bowling Green did two weeks ago in the season opener, Buffalo scored twice late in the second quarter to trim Liberty’s halftime margin to the same 24-14 score.
  • Bulls’ quarterback Cole Synder hit Darnell Harding, Jr., on a seven-yard strike at 5:38 on the far side of the field, while Synder found Nik McMillan on a 33-yard pass play to the near side of the field with 28 seconds left before the break.

Third Quarter

  • On the third play of the second half, a Synder pass slipped through the hands of his receiver and Tyren Dupree picked up his second interception of the game. The Bulls’ defense held on the drive, forcing Liberty to settle for a 35-yard Nick Brown field goal at 12:13 to push Liberty’s lead to 27-14.
  • Following another strong effort by Liberty’s defense with a fourth down stop at the Bulls’ 42-yard line, Liberty’s offense pushed the lead back to 20 points, 34-14. Smoot caught his second touchdown pass of the game at the 8:40 mark, getting around a defender in the end zone on a 33-yard scoring pass play from Salter.
  • Buffalo answered on the following drive, getting into the end for the third time on the day on a two-yard touchdown pass from Synder to Ron Cook, capping an 11-play, 77-yard drive at 4:20 to trim Liberty’s lead to 34-21.
  • Facing a third-and-10 at his own 25-yard line, Salter rolled out of the pocket and found CJ Daniels open deep downfield on a 75-yard touchdown pass, quickly pushing Liberty’s lead back to 20 points, 41-21, 55 seconds later (3:25).

Fourth Quarter

  • The Flames put the game out of reach on the first play of the fourth quarter when Salter hit tight end Austin Henderson for his first touchdown of 2023 with a three-yard scoring pass at 14:57 to push Liberty’s lead to 48-21.
  • Both teams found the end zone during the final minutes of the game to account for the final outcome. Buffalo scored on a three-yard pass from Snyder to Maylyn Johnson at 10:14 and Aaron Bedgood scored for Liberty on a 49-yard run at 6:24.

What’s Next:

The Flames will look to move to 2-0 in Conference USA action when they travel to Miami, Fla., to face FIU at FIU Stadium. Liberty’s final Saturday football game until the month of November kicks off at 6:30 p.m

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