Buccaneers Upset at Liberty 34-20; Streak Ends at 14 GamesNovember 11, 2006
By CSU Sports Information
|C.J. Hirschman had 12 tackles and one punt return for a touchdown|
LYNCHBURG, Va. – The Liberty Flames (5-5, 1-2) took the momentum early with two, 80-yard drives and held off Charleston Southern (9-1, 2-1) for a 34-20 victory on Senior day at Williams Stadium. The loss ended three winning streaks for CSU, who held the Nation’s second-longest winning streak at 14 games.
Liberty gained 179 total offensive yards in the first quarter, to CSU’s 48. Quarterbacks Smith and Terrell combined to go 6-6 through the air for 135 yards for the Flames, while Drafts started the game just 3-6, gaining 38 yards. Drafts would go on to complete 12 of his next 14 passes before giving way to Eli Byrd who ended the day 8-13 with one interception. Drafts threw for 116 yards, while Byrd added 71 in his first appearance at quarterback of his career. Junior wide receiver Maurice Price hauled in a record-tying 13 passes for 61 yards. Defensively for CSU, C.J. Hirschman led the way with 12 tackles, including one tackle-for-loss. Linebacker Jonna Lee added 11 stops for the Buccaneers. Manny Rojas had 11 stops for the Flames, picking off one pass and recording one tackle-for-loss.
The Flames would amass 354 total yards on the day, while CSU managed 265, despite running more offensive plays, holding a 60-56 edge in that category. The Buccaneers also had three turnovers, while Liberty did not turn the ball over at all.
“We certainly didn’t protect the ball very well,” said Mills. “But we didn’t give them the ball, they did a good job of taking it away.”
A team known for a stifling defense, the Flames’ offense wasted no time putting points on the board as they used just six plays to go 80 yards. After a successful run to start the game, a couple of long passes put Liberty on the CSU side of the field. From there, first-year head coach Danny Rocco decided to strike early, calling a rare trick play throwing a backwards pass from one quarterback to another as Brock Smith tossed it to Zach Terrell, who threw it back across the field to Smith who had blockers setting him up for a 27-yard gain down to the CSU 12 yard line. An 8-yard run by Terrell would cap the drive and put Liberty up 6-0 with 11:45 to go in the first quarter, after Zac Kolegue missed the extra point.
The Buccaneer offense looked like it would answer right back, starting the offensive drive with a 27-yard strike from Collin Drafts to Markus Murray across the middle. The drive would stall at midfield, though, as CSU would be forced to punt the ball back to the Flames.
“They were a very physical team, on both sides of the ball,” said CSU head coach Jay Mills. “We knew that it was something that Coach (Danny) Rocco emphasized, but they controlled us on the line of scrimmage.”
The result would be a 56-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Turner, putting Liberty up 13-0 just 8:12 into the game. The touchdown marked the first time in 2006 that the Buccaneers have trailed by more than 10 points. CSU trailed Wingate 10-0 in the third quarter on Sept. 16 of this season.
The Buccaneer defense would get their first stop, as they forced a 44-yard field goal attempt that hooked wide left.
A Nick Ellis punt would pin the Flames back inside the 10 and after a stop by the defense, C.J. Hirschman would go back deep to return the punt. Hirschman found a hole up the middle taking it 63-yards for the first Charleston Southern score of the day, cutting the lead to 13-7.
Liberty had an answer, though, as Wynton Jackson took the ensuing kickoff back 80-yards for a special teams touchdown of their own, increasing the lead back to 13. a fumble by Drafts would give the ball back to Liberty, and the Flames would take advantage, going 57 yards in seven plays to increase their lead to 27-7 with just over two minutes remaining in the first half.
“The kick return was a killer,” said wide receiver Maurice Price, who tied the single-game receptions record for CSU with 13 catches. “We really thought the punt return by C.J. (Hirschman) would give us some momentum on both sides of the ball, but that really knocked the air out of us.”
Senior linebacker Manny Rojas picked off a Drafts pass just before halftime, setting up another Flames scoring opportunity, but consecutive sacks by the Buccaneers pushed Liberty out of field goal range and keeping the CSU deficit at 27-7 going into halftime.
The second half would be more of the same as the first CSU drive stalled near midfield, resulting in the fourth CSU punt. After allowing a short Liberty drive, a Josh Warrior sack made it fourth down and 12, causing the Flames to punt back to CSU. The offense would be faced with a daunting task, needing to go 92 yards against a Flame defense that had shut them out for 38 minutes and counting. Backed up third-and-long, Drafts completed a 13-yard pass to Murry to keep the drive alive, and repeated the feat to Rucks. The next play, Drafts would catch the whole stadium’s attention as he scrambled from the pocket and went down on the play, giving way to freshman quarterback Eli Byrd. Byrd’s second play of the game was an interception deep in Liberty territory. That would be the end of the third quarter, as neither team could put a scoring drive together, leaving CSU facing a 20-point deficit with just 15 minutes to play and the ball in the hands of the redshirt freshman Byrd to mount a comeback.
It was not to be as the Bucs gave the ball back to Liberty, and the Flames would go 80-yards with a 45-yard touchdown strike from Smith to Jackson to put the dagger in the Buccaneers.
A 31-yard touchdown pass to Bryant Burch on fourth-and-22 cut the lead to 34-13 and avoided the offensive shut out, giving Byrd his first touchdown pass of his career. He would follow that up with a one-yard touchdown run with under a minute to go to cut the lead to 34-20, but the Bucs would run out of time as the winning streak ends at 14 games.
“We have no choice but to refocus for the Coastal Carolina game now,” said senior quarterback Collin Drafts. “As a senior, and a leader of this team, I have to make sure everyone knows that our season is not over.”
Charleston Southern will face the Nationally-ranked Chanticleers at Conway, S.C. next week, in a game that still has major Conference and National implications.
Post Game Notes
*** The Flames had only scored more than 30 points one time, as they beat Glenville State 31-7 in the second game of the season.
*** The loss ended three winning streaks: Overall at 14 games, season at nine, and Conference at five.
*** Collin Drafts was held without a touchdown pass for the first time in 19 games, dating back to the shut out loss to Presbyterian on Sept. 10 of last year.
*** Maurice Price caught 13 passes, tying the school record for receptions in a game. He tied his own record, set last year against Liberty on Nov. 12, and with the late Eddie Gadson, who caught 13 against Presbyterian on Sept. 11, 2004.Related Item: Box Score