Courtesy of Liberty Athletics
MOON TOWNSHIP, Pa. â€“ A 29-yard field goal by Matt Bevins left enough time on the clock for Robert Morris to drive the length of the field and score the game-winner with 22 seconds left. A 12-yard run by Myles Russ lifted the Colonials to a 30-23 victory over No. 15/14 Liberty, Saturday afternoon, inside of Joe Walton Stadium.
The 12-yard burst completed a day where Robert Morris controlled the pace of the game and handed the Flames (2-1) their first loss of the year. The victory was the Colonialsâ€™ second in a row and ups the home teamâ€™s record to 2-1 on the season.
Robert Morris thrilled the home fans who were out for the Colonialsâ€™ first home game of the season, as they jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead just two minutes into the game.
Liberty looked like it was going to force Robert Morris to punt the ball away following a three-and-out series, as the Flames flushed Jeff Sinclair out of the pocket and nearly sacked the sophomore quarterback.
However, the hurler scrambled and found Myles Russ open over the middle of the field. The halfback made two or three moves with the last juke opening up the field for a 67-yard touchdown reception at the 12:54 mark of the first quarter.
Liberty quickly answered back, scoring on a nine-play, 60-yard drive to knot the game at 7-7 with 8:39 left in the first quarter.
On a third-and-12 play from the Colonialsâ€™ 24-yard line, Libertyâ€™s offensive line gave Mike Brown enough time to find Chris Summers open in the corner of the end zone. The 24-yard strike was the fifth touchdown reception for the junior this year, who came into the weekend as the nationâ€™s No. 1-ranked wide receiver, averaging 137.5 receiving yards per game.
Following a pair of series where both teams were halted on short yardage fourth-down plays, Liberty took over possession around midfield late in the first quarter.
The Flames managed to move the football inside the Colonialsâ€™ 20-yard line, but a 16-yard passing play to Pat Kelly was called back following a holding penalty.
Liberty was able to get the ball into lengthy field goal range, but Matt Bevinsâ€™ 51-yard attempt missed just to the left to leave the score tied at 7-7. The failed attempt marked the third time this year Bevins has been called upon to try a 50-plus yard attempt, with all three tries narrowly missing the uprights.
The score remained the same until the final two minutes of the opening half. Robert Morris was able to piece together its longest drive of the half, an eight-play, 75-yard scoring drive to reclaim the lead, 14-7, with 1:31 left before halftime.
Sinclair dropped back on a first-and-10 play and got just enough protection to unload a 25-yard strike to Jamie Cobb before he was taken to the ground by a Liberty defender.
Cobb was able to leap over two downfield defenders and pull in the 25-yard reception, giving the Colonials a seven-point lead with 91 seconds left in the first half.
The remaining time was enough for Liberty to add points to the scoreboard when Bevins knocked down a 37-yard field goal with six seconds left before intermission.
Brown was able to quickly move the Flames downfield and nearly connected with Summers for his second touchdown reception of the game. On a third-and-eight play from the 16-yard line, Brown dropped back and tried to thread the needle for a scoring strike to Summers, but Ryan Nearhoof batted the ball down at the goal line, forcing Liberty to settle for three points on the drive and a four-point deficit at the break.
Liberty led the first half statistics recap in almost every category except the score. The Flames outgained Robert Morris, 210 to 172 yards, including 138 to 112 passing yards and 72 to 60 rushing yards.
Brown, who completed his first 12 passing attempts of the game, finished the opening half 15-of-21 for 138 yards and one touchdown. The junior was also Libertyâ€™s No. 1 rusher, finishing with nine carries for 56 yards. B.J. Hayes led four different Liberty receivers, finishing the opening 30 minutes with six receptions for 54 yards.
Liberty took to the ground to open the second half, getting back-to-back lengthy rushing plays by running backs Korrey Davis (13 yards) and SirChauncey Holloway (17 yards) to set up Bevinsâ€™ second field goal of the day.
His 23-yard field goal at the 12:26 mark of the third quarter trimmed Robert Morrisâ€™ lead to 14-13, and finished off a nine-play, 54-yard second half opening scoring drive.
After Robert Morrisâ€™ next series, Nick Schirtzingerâ€™s 51-yard punt pinned Liberty at its own two-yard line. After two failed attempts to move the football, Mike Brown dropped back into the end zone for a sideline pass to the near side of the field on a third-and-10 play.
However, Liberty was called for holding on the play, resulting in the first safety Liberty has allowed since the Presbyterian game, last season, and gave Robert Morris a 16-13 edge with 6:07 left in the third quarter.
Following the free kick, the Colonials looked like they might extend their lead again, as a 37-yard pass play to T.J. Green drove Robert Morris deep into Liberty territory. But, Libertyâ€™s defense came up with a stand and forced the home squad to punt the ball away.
The defensive stand seemed to spur Libertyâ€™s offense, as the Flames put together their best drive of the day to take their first lead of the afternoon.
Brown dropped back to pass on back-to-back plays, but was forced to tuck the ball and run to pick up short-yardage gains and set up a third-and-five play at the Colonialsâ€™ 36-yard line.
On the next play, Brown got enough time to throw the ball down field and he found Ervin Garner open in single coverage. The sophomore was able to pull in the reception and beat his defender, scoring his first career touchdown on a 36-yard reception to give Liberty a 20-16 lead with 13:01 left in the final quarter.
However, the advantage was short lived, as the Colonials quickly marched downfield and regained the lead in a little over two and a half minutes.
A 34-yard pass from Sinclair to Anthony Coleman got Robert Morris near the red zone and a personal foul penalty gave the Colonials the ball at the four-yard line. Following a failed pass play to Shadrae King on a slant route, Russ took a handoff and found room on the outside to score and give Robert Morris a three-point lead, 23-20, with 10:20 left in the game.
The two teams traded unsuccessful drives during the next five minutes, leaving the Flames down three with just over five minutes left in the game.
Two double-digit yard pass plays from Brown to Summers got the Flames inside the Robert Morris red zone, but the pair could not complete a third, forcing Liberty to settle for Bevinsâ€™ game-tying 29-yarder with 1:19 left on the game clock.
Sinclair took to the air in an attempt to move his team into field goal range. The sophomore completed four-straight pass attempts for a combined 68 yards, including a 32-yard strike to Green to get to the Flamesâ€™ 12-yard line.
Trying to position the ball near the center of the field, Robert Morris elected to hand the ball to Russ one last time and the senior found a hole on the right side, scoring the eventual game winner from 12 yards out with 22 seconds left.
Liberty managed to pick up one first down on the ensuing drive, but Brownâ€™s â€œHail Maryâ€ pass downfield on the gameâ€™s final play was picked off by Michael Landers in the end zone to give Robert Morris its first-ever win over a ranked FCS opponent.
The final game statistics shadowed the closeness of the game, as Robert Morris outgained Liberty by 12 yards, 417 to 405, including a 271 to 267 edge in passing yards and a 146 to 138 advantage in rushing yards.
Brown finished the day completing 24-of-40 passing attempts for 267 yards and two touchdown passes, his third-straight 250-yard passing game this year.
Brown was Libertyâ€™s leading rusher, as well, as the junior carried the ball 16 times for 77 yards. Davis (41 yards) and Holloway (19 yards) each carried the ball, but Liberty did not score a rushing touchdown, breaking a string of 42-straight games where the Flames had a rushing touchdown.
Summers led the squad in total receptions, as the junior pulled in nine passes for 88 yards and a score. Garner became the fourth Liberty receiver this year to post a 100-yard game, as the sophomore finished the afternoon with five catches for 106 yards and his first career score.
Russ was the offensive star for Robert Morris, finishing with 229 yards of total offense and three of the Colonialsâ€™ four touchdowns. The running back rushed for 153 yards and two scores on 20 carries, while hauling in two receptions for 76 yards.
Kyle Oâ€™Donnell and Terry Adams finished the day as Libertyâ€™s leading tacklers, as both players ended the day with six stops. KaJaun Lee and Doncel Bolt followed behind them with five stops each.
The Flames will conclude a three-game road swing next weekend when they travel north to Harrisonburg, Va., to face in-state foe James Madison. Kickoff is slated for 6 p.m., inside Bridgeforth Stadium.
Last weekend, Liberty and James Madison were two of four FCS programs who knocked off FBS teams. Liberty posted a 27-23 victory over Ball State, while James Madison stunned Virginia Tech, who was ranked No. 13 in the FBS poll, 21-16 in Blacksburg, Va.
The contest will mark the 15th meeting between the two Commonwealth programs, with James Madison leading the series, 9-5. The Dukes have won the last four meetings, including a 24-10 victory over the Flames, last year, inside of Williams Stadium in a torrential downpour on Sept. 26.