LYNCHBURG, Va. â€“ Libertyâ€™s season opener against St. Francis, Pa., turned out to be a throwback day in more ways than one. The Flames aired the ball out and rolled off 52-unanswered points en route to 52-7 win, Saturday afternoon, in front of 8,286 fans at historic Lynchburg City Stadium.
The contest was the first Liberty had played at Lynchburg City Stadium since Oct. 7, 1989, when the Flames upended No. 19 Eastern Illinois, 9-7. Liberty moved into Williams Stadium two weeks later and downed Towson State, 37-18, on Homecoming Weekend.
Lynchburg City Stadium was the home of Liberty football when the program started in 1973. The Flames have now won six-straight at City Stadium and are 44-35-1 all-time in the local municipal facility.
Reminiscent of the days of old, when some of Libertyâ€™s most prolific quarterbacks like Glenn Inverso (1977-80), Phil Basso (1981-84) and Paul Johnson (1986-89) used to roam the turf at City Stadium, Liberty used the passing game as its key to victory.
The Flames threw for 452 yards and six touchdowns against the Red Flash on Saturday. The yardage figure was the second most ever by a Liberty team in program history and the most since the Flames threw for 407 yards at South Florida on Oct. 27, 2001.
The beginning of the game belonged to the visitors, until one of several lengthy passing plays helped ignite the Flamesâ€™ prolific attack. St. Francis was the first team to dent the scoreboard, jumping out to a 7-0 lead five minutes into the contest. The Red Flash won the coin toss, but gave the ball to the Flames first.
Liberty managed to get the ball to the 35 yard line, but the 23-yard drive stalled after seven plays. All-America kicker Matt Bevins was called upon to attempt a career-long field goal, 52 yards, which just missed to the right of the uprights.
The visitors kept the ball on the ground for the first four times they had possession, with the fourth resulting in a touchdown. Kyle Harbridge carried the ball three of the four plays where he picked up a total of 59 yards. The last was a 38-yard scoring burst up the middle to put St. Francis up 7-0 with 9:55 left to play in the opening quarter.
The score remained the same until the fifth play of the second quarter, when Bevins knocked down a 33-yard field goal with 12:35 left before halftime.
Liberty was able to piece together a 12-play, 55-yard drive that penetrated the Red Flash 10-yard line. However, Mike Brown was sacked for an 11-yard loss on a third-and-two play from the seven-yard line, leaving the Flames to settle for the three-point play.
A back-and-forth defensive battle was broken up with five minutes remaining in the first half. After picking up 10 yards on a quarterback scramble, Mike Brown found Pat Kelly open over the middle of the field and the sophomore wide receiver bested two defenders before finding an open field for a 75-yard touchdown reception with 5:05 left before halftime.
The scoring sprint, tied for the fourth-longest scoring play during head coach Danny Roccoâ€™s five years a Liberty, seemed to jumpstart Libertyâ€™s offense.
Trailing for the first time in the game, 10-7, St. Francis tried to take to the air to move the ball down the field. However, Danny Broggin was able to step in front of a John Kelly pass, giving Liberty the ball back at the Red Flash 39-yard line.
Brown and B.J. Hayes teamed up on the ensuing quick scoring drive to push Libertyâ€™s lead to 10 points. Following a seven-yard screen pass to the junior, Brown found Hayes open again and this time, the wide receiver was able to sprint down the field for a 49-yard touchdown reception with 2:02 left to play in the second quarter.
Libertyâ€™s defense made a quick stand, forcing the visitors to punt the ball away after a three-and-out series. With just 42 ticks left on the opening half, Brown orchestrated the Flames fourth scoring drive of the game.
Following a pair of short-yardage receptions to Chris Summers and a third to Kelly that dwindled away the clock, Brown was left with his own option, a deep heave to the end zone. The 40-yard pass easily made it to the end zone with Summers finding a way to reach over top of several would-be defenders for a last-minute score to give Liberty a 24-7 halftime lead.
The Flames managed to post 195 more total offensive yards than St. Francis during the opening 30 minutes of play, as Liberty tallied 313 yards on 37 plays to the Red Flashâ€™s 118 yards on 28 plays.
More than 80 percent of Libertyâ€™s offensive yards came via the passing game, as Brown completed 14-of-19 passes for 260 yards and three touchdowns. Liberty only managed to rush for 53 yards on 17 carries during the first half, led by SirChauncey Hollowayâ€™s five rushing attempts for 24 yards.
Harbridge was the leading offensive player for St. Francis, as the running back carried the ball 15 times for 94 yards. Kelly completed 4-of-9 passes for 17 yards.
Following a three-and-out series to open the third quarter, Liberty quickly widened its advantage, moving the ball 74 yards on eight plays for their fourth-straight scoring drive.
The quarterbacking tandem of Brown and Tyler Brennan were a combined 4-for-4 on the drive for 50 yards, with the final 20 coming on a faded pass to Summers in the far corner of the end zone to give Liberty a 31-7 edge at 9:07 of the third quarter.
Summers and Brown found each other again on Libertyâ€™s next drive, with Brown lofting a 40-yard sideline pass to Brown before he was pushed out at the 12-yard line. On the next play, Holloway broke a few attempted tackles to bowl his way into the end zone for this eighth career rushing touchdown.
The scoring run pushed Libertyâ€™s lead to 31 points, 38-7, with 6:05 left in the third quarter and allowed the Flames to continue to control the pace of play the rest of the game.
Spotlighting the final 21 minutes of action were three plays of note for the Flames. The first was a blocked 33-yard field goal attempt by Brent Vinson, who nearly was able to pick up the loose football and return it for a score.
The second saw a pair of players pick up career firsts. Midway through the fourth quarter, Brennan found Kyle DeArmon open on the fair sideline and the former quarterback was able to break two tackles to score his first career touchdown on a 27-yard strike.
Following the fifth of six three-and-out drives for St. Francis on the day, Brennan and DeArmon hooked up again, this time for the gameâ€™s final score on a 10-yard strike with just over four minutes to play in the contest.
Prior to the game, three of Libertyâ€™s six former coaches were celebrated as John Cartwright (1974-76), Tom Dowling (1977-83) and Morgan Hout (1984-88) served as honorary game captains. Cartwright, the programâ€™s second head coach, handled the honorary coin toss.
The Flames rolled up 599 total offensive yards in the game, the most under a Rocco-led program. Since taking over the team in 2006, Liberty has posted eight games (out of 46) in which the team has finished with 500 or more total offensive yards.
Liberty finished with 75 percent of its yardage coming via the passing games, with 452 passing yards to 147 yards gained on the ground. Six of the teamâ€™s seven touchdowns on the day were scored on passing plays.
Conversely, Libertyâ€™s defense held St. Francis in check most of the day. The Red Flash finished the game with 219 total offensive yards, with 65 of those yards coming on the gameâ€™s opening scoring drive.
The last 11 times St. Francis touched the football, the Red Flash could only mount one drive that exceeded 20 yards, which was a 77-yarder that ended in the blocked field goal attempt.
Brown was the offensive star for the Flames, as the junior completed 17-of-22 passing attempts for 338 yards and four touchdowns. With the performance, which as the 15th-highest single game passing total in program history, Brown becomes the 10th player in school history to pass for 300 or more yards in a game.
Brownâ€™s primary targets each eclipsed the 100-yard mark, as Summers finished the game with 129 yards and two scores, while Hayes (110 yards) and Kelly (115 yards) each caught a scoring pass.
Liberty has only had one other game in program history where three players finished a contest with 100 or more receiving yards. Tony Dews (106 yards), Robert Butz (104 yards) and Dion Cook (100 yards) first accomplished the feat against Toledo on Sept. 17, 1994.
Brennan followed Brownâ€™s accuracy, finishing the game by completing 9-of-10 passing attempts for 114 yards and two scores. Both scoring passes were to DeArmon, who finished the contest with his first four career receptions for a total of 78 yards.
Libertyâ€™s biggest ground gainer on the day was Chase Barnett, who finished his first game in a Liberty uniform with eight rushing attempts for 56 yards. Holloway (48 yards) and Korrey Davis (38 yards) followed closely behind.
St. Francisâ€™ leaders on the day were Harbridge, who rushed for 133 yards on 26 carries, while Kelly completed 7-of-16 passing attempts for 77 yards.
Defensively, newcomer Chris Mayo led the team with 10 stops in his first collegiate football game, including seven assisted tackles and a tackle for a loss. Larry Claiborne followed behind him with six stops, while four other players finished with five tackles.
Brogginâ€™s second quarter interception started the Flames off on another good run at national recognition. In 2009, Liberty picked off 17 passes and finished the year ranked No. 16 in the country in the statistical category.
The 52 points scored will also help the Flames in the scoring offense category, one which Liberty led the nation in 2010 by scoring an average of 36.36 points per game.
The Flames will begin a three-game road swing next weekend, when they travel to Muncie, Ind., to square off against Ball State. Kickoff inside of Scheumann Stadium is slated for 7 p.m.
Following the three-straight road games, Liberty will return to Lynchburg for the grand opening of the expanded Williams Stadium when they host Savannah State on Oct. 2.
During the last nine months, Williams Stadium has undergone an extensive expansion project, one that will expand the stadium to 19,200 seats (from 12,000), add 18 luxury suites and an 11,000-square foot club pavilion room for certain levels of the Flames Club.