Courtesy of Liberty Athletics
LEXINGTON, Va. – A dominating first-half performance, spotlighted by a record-setting day by Chris Summers, allowed the Flames to capture a 41-7 Big South victory over VMI, Saturday afternoon, inside of Foster Stadium.
The convincing victory moves the Flames to 5-2 on the season and 2-0 in conference play, following the Flames’ third victory in a row. VMI suffers its first loss of the season at home and drops to 2-4 overall and 1-2 in Big South action.
It took a few drives for the two teams to feel each other out, as the game remained scoreless until the midway point of the first quarter.
Following the first three-and-out series of the day by VMI, Liberty took over at its own 16-yard line. After Tyler Brennan completed short-yardage passes to Mike Brown and Pat Kelly, Brown returned under center found Summers open deep downfield.
On the seventh play of the 84-yard scoring drive, Brown faked a handoff to SirChauncey Holloway, causing the Keydets’ defense to come to the line of scrimmage. However, Brown pulled the ball back and found Summers open down the sideline for a 54-yard touchdown reception at the 7:44 mark of the first quarter.
Following a second-straight three-and-out series by the home squad, Liberty took to the air to set up its next touchdown, doubling up its lead to 14-0.
Brown completed three 10-plus yard passes on the five-play, 52-yard drive to Tommy Shaver (15 yards), B.J. Hayes (16 yards) and Peter Gagliardi (11 yards). The trio of passing plays set up a three-yard burst up the middle by Holloway to give the Flames a two touchdown lead at the 3:30 mark.
VMI’s offense, that finished the first quarter with negative two yards of total offense on nine plays, continued to struggle and was forced to punt the ball away after a fourth three-and-out series in a row.
The Marc Ray punt only sailed 19 yards, giving the Flames their best field possession of the first half at the VMI 40-yard line.
Four plays later, Brown and Summers hooked up for a record-setting pass play, as Brown found Summers open over the middle for a 23-yard touchdown pass to push Liberty’s lead to 21-0 at 10:57 in the second quarter.
The scoring play gave Summers his 11th touchdown reception of the year, breaking Liberty’s previous single-season school record of 10 touchdown catches by Eric Green in 1989.
The Keydets managed to pick up their first new set of downs on the afternoon on a 16-yard pass play from Adam Morgan to T.J. Talley, but VMI was forced to kick the ball away four plays later.
During the last nine minutes of the half, Liberty was able to extend its margin by 10 additional points, thanks to a third Summers touchdown and a 25-yard field goal by Matt Bevins.
The drive where Liberty picked up three points by virtue of Bevins’ 42nd career field goal, was aided by a special teams mishap from the Keydets.
Liberty was forced to punt the ball away a three-and-out series, but Mike Larsson’s 43-yard punt was mishandled by Mike Smith and Kevin Fogg recovered the turnover at the VMI 18-yard line.
On Liberty’s next possession, Brown completed his last three pass attempts on the eight-play, 56-yard scoring drive, when he threaded the needle for a 17-yard strike to Summers with 1:14 left before the intermission.
The Flames controlled all aspects of the game during the opening 30 minutes of play, outgaining VMI, 322 to 40 yards. Liberty managed to record 18 first downs to VMI’s two, while the Flames held a 19:25-10:35 time of possession edge.
Brown and Summers continued to add to their stellar seasons. Brown finished the first half 14-of-21 with 204 passing yards and three touchdowns, while leading the team with 36 rushing yards on six carries. Summers caught five passes for 115 yards and three scores.
Morgan was limited during the first half, as the quarterback was 4-of-11 for 32 yards, but lost 23 yards on three different sacks. Chaz Jones carried the ball six times for 21 yards.
VMI tried to make a push to get back into the game early in the third quarter. However, the Keydets were forced to punt on the first drive and Cameron Jones was intercepted by Danny Broggin on their next drive, ending any threat the home squad had of making a comeback.
Liberty did manage to add 10 additional points during the last 30 minutes, while VMI ended the threat of the seventh shutout under head coach Danny Rocco with a fourth quarter rushing touchdown by Chaz Jones at 10:15.
The Flames used the Broggin interception to jumpstart one scoring drive. Seven plays after the turnover, Korrey Davis recorded his first rushing touchdown at Liberty, when redshirt sophomore burst up the middle to score from six yards out at 4:45 of the third quarter.
Bevins gave Liberty its last score, when the kicker capped the first drive of the fourth quarter with a 42-yard field goal at 12:30. The lengthy kick gave Bevins his 43rd career field goal, which tied him with Daniel Whitehead (1991-94) for the program’s career record.
Liberty, who came into the game ranked No. 7 nationally in total offense, finished the game with 447 total offensive yards. It marked the third-straight game the Flames have passed the 400-yard mark the fifth time in seven games this season.
The Flames posted their second-best team rushing total of the season, running for 174 yards on 40 carries and two rushing touchdowns. The Flames hit the 200-yard passing mark for the seventh-straight game by passing for 273 yards and three scores.
Brown was once again Liberty’s No. 1 option during the game, as the junior quarterback finished with 277 total offensive yards. He completed 17-of-28 passing attempts for 231 yards and three touchdown passes, while leading the team with seven rushed for another 46 yards.
Davis finished second on the squad, rushing for 32 yards on six carries, while Irwin Coleman carried the ball nine times for 28 yards.
Summers posted his fourth 100-yard game of the year, as the junior caught six passes for 120 yards and three scores. Following his second three-touchdown game of the year, the junior currently leads the nation with 12 touchdown receptions.
Liberty’s dominating defensive effort, which just yielded 213 total offensive yards to VMI, was a team effort, with the Flames’ leading tackler finishing with five stops.
Doncel Bolt and Patrick Bannon, who was playing in front of a hometown crowd, led the squad with five stops each, with both defenders posting a sack.
Broggin finished with Liberty’s other two sacks, totaling a loss of 15 yards, while adding three solo tackles and his second interception of the year.
The Flames will have the next week off before returning to Big South action in Clinton, S.C, against Presbyterian College on Oct. 30. Kickoff is set for 1:30 p.m., inside of Bailey Memorial Stadium.