Courtesy of Liberty Athletics
LYNCHBURG, Va. â€“ For the first time since head coach Danny Rocco instituted his unique scoring system for his annual spring football game, Libertyâ€™s defense walked away the victor, as they controlled the offense and captured a 38-25 victory.
The Saturday afternoon scrimmage, which was held in front of 2,486 fans inside Williams Stadium, brings to a close Libertyâ€™s spring practice schedule.
After a nice 21-yard reception by B.J Hayes from a sharp pass by Mike Brown over the middle of the field on the second play of the game, Libertyâ€™s white-clad offense looked like it was going to pick right back up from last year. In 2009, Liberty finished the year as the nationâ€™s top-ranked FCS scoring offense, as the Flames averaged 36.36 points per game.
However, three plays later, Mike Larsson was called onto the field to kick his first of six punts during the afternoon, as Libertyâ€™s offense failed to pick up a second first down on the drive.
Libertyâ€™s second-string offense followed its first-team counterparts on the ensuing drive, as Tyler Brennan completed a 16-yard strike to Ervin Garner on the first play. However, once the offense crossed the 50-yard line, Libertyâ€™s blue-jerseyed defenders came up strong again and forced the Flames to punt after a six-yard drive.
The drive pattern continued until midway through the second quarter, when Brandon Robinson stepped in front of a Brennan pass and picked it off, scoring three points for the defense on the takeaway.
It was not until the final drive of the half that Libertyâ€™s offense started to come together, as Brown was able to lead his first-team group into the red zone for the first time during the game. But the drive stalled and the offensive squad was forced to settling for a 29-yard field goal by Matt Bevins. The three-point kick trimmed the defenseâ€™s lead to 21-14 at the break.
During the â€œhalftimeâ€ festivities, the Flames made public three of their major program honors, which were officially bestowed upon the recipients during last nightâ€™s annual spring awards banquet.
Offensive lineman Stan Herring and defensive back Brent Vinson were named the winners of the Samkon Gado Award, given annually to the most improved offensive and defensive player during the spring.
CoSIDA Academic All-American Chris Rocco, who was part of a senior class that led the Flames to three Big South titles and 32-13 record, was named the programâ€™s Luke 2:52 Award winner. The honor is given each year to the graduating senior who best embodies the programâ€™s Whole Person Development ambition.
Finally during the break, Rocco announced his six team captains for the 2010 season, which include Brown, offensive lineman Alex Stadler and Soeren Wendland, along with linebackers Doncel Bolt and Chad Brown and defensive end Patrick Bannon.
Following the break, the action returned to the field, where Libertyâ€™s offense looked to have regrouped and was ready to chip away at the defenseâ€™s seven-point lead. Brown completed a 16-yard pass play to Garner that got the Flames to the 23-yard line; however, Vinson showed why he was named one of Libertyâ€™s most improved players this spring by intercepting the next pass and returning 25 yards before being tackled.
The picked off pass set the tone for the remainder of the game, as Libertyâ€™s defense controlled the pace of action the rest of the way to secure the 13-point victory.
Since bringing the unique scoring system to Liberty for the 2007 spring game, Libertyâ€™s offense has posted three-straight wins during the annual scrimmage. The Flamesâ€™ offense won 45-25 in 2007 and 2008, while posting a 42-25 win, last year.
Today, Libertyâ€™s offense was held to 331 total offensive yards on 82 plays, as the squad averaged 4.0 yards per play. Last year, Libertyâ€™s defensive unit finished the year ranked No. 24 in the county in scoring defense (19.09 point per game), as they allowed an average of 323.09 total offensive yards per game.
Brown was the teamâ€™s leading rusher, as the quarterback ran seven times for 19 yards, followed by Chase Barnett, who racked up 19 rushing yards on four carries.
Brown finished the day by completing 15-of-27 pass attempts for 138 yards, while Brennan was 13-of-18 for 105 yards. Both quarterbacks threw an interception, the only giveaways Libertyâ€™s offense had all day. Brian Hudson also completed 5-of-6 passing attempts for 24 yards.
The leading receiver on the day was Pat Kelly, who caught six passes for 67 yards. Garner (47 yards), Hayes (36 yards), Chris Summers (35 yards) and Jimmy Eden (19 yards) each followed with four pass receptions.
Larsson was one of the busiest players on the field, as the punter finished the day with six kicks and averaged 39.3 yards per punt, while dropping four of his six inside the 20-yard line.
Consensus first-team All-American kicker Bevins was 1-of-2 on field goal tries on the day, as the rising junior knocked down his 29-yard attempt to end the first. His lone miss of the day was a 55-yarder that had the distance, but sailed just wide to the left of the uprights.
Omar Clark and Doncel Bolt were the two leading tacklers during the scrimmage, as they both finished with five stops. Vinson, Kyle Oâ€™Donnell, Cory Freeman, Robinson, Asa Chapman and Terry Adams each followed with three stops apiece.
The Flames finished the day with two interceptions, seven sacks and nine tackles for a loss. Freeman and Paco Varol led the squad with two sacks each.
Liberty will have the next 139 days to prepare for its first opponent of the 2010 season, when they welcome St. Francis (Pa.) to a newly renovated Williams Stadium on Sept. 4.