Fourth quarter comeback pushes Bucs past Liberty, 31-30; CSU clinches first-ever winning seasonNovember 12, 2005
By CSU Sports Information
|Sophomore Maurice Price makes game-winning grab for Bucs|
CHARLESTON, S.C. - Sophomore receiver Maurice Price grabbed a 10-yard pass from quarterback Collin Drafts with 1:10 remaining in the game to lift Charleston Southern past Liberty, 31-30, in Big South Conference action on Saturday afternoon at Buccaneer Field.
With the victory, Charleston Southern improves to 6-4 overall and 2-1 in Big South play, clinching the school's first-ever winning season and setting up a showdown with Coastal Carolina next Saturday for the Big South Conference championship. The win also was CSU's fourth consecutive victory, a school record as well.
The winning pass came on fourth-and-goal from the 10-yard line and the catch was Price's 13th of the game, tying a school record. The score capped a 13-play, 55-yard drive that consumed 5:29 of the clock.
"I'm so proud of this football team for their fight and for their belief in each other," said CSU head coach Jay Mills, who was 1-11 in his first season at CSU and 5-5 last season. "This team has overcome so many obstacles this year and today was just another case of their desire to be the kind of football team that Charleston Southern University can be proud of."
CSU trailed 30-18 with 12:09 left in the game before a 65-yard drive and Robert Adams seven-yard run with 9:57 remaining cut the lead to 30-25. That drive was kept alive by a successful fake punt in which backup quarterback Sidney Bryant completed a 15-yard pass to Price for a first down at Liberty's 25-yard line.
"I actually had called for a pooch punt but changed my mind at the last second and rushed Sidney into the game as an up back," said Mills. "We were fortunate that it worked out for us."
Liberty managed one first down on their next possession but was forced to punt with just under seven minutes remaining. Drafts, who completed 21-of-32 passes for 244 yards, took the Bucs downfield and needed eight plays from inside the 10-yard line to produce the winning score. His 19-yard run on third-and-12 gave CSU a first down at the Liberty 27.
On fourth-and-goal from the four, Drafts attempted a pass to Price in the endzone. The pass fell incomplete but a pass interference call gave the Bucs new life with a first-and-goal at the two-yard line. CSU went backwards to the 10 on the next three plays, setting up the second fourth-and-goal. The Bucs again went to Price, who reached high and hauled in the throw over the head of Liberty defensive back Jared Brogdon.
"We felt we had to try to get the ball to Maurice at the end," said Mills. "He's such a great player and he made another great play."
Charleston Southern grabbed a 15-2 first quarter lead on Drafts' four-yard run and a 73-yard pass connection from Drafts to Price. The Flames, however, answered with a 64-yard pass from quarterback Brock Smith to Wynton Jackson and a 12-yard pass from Smith to Brandon Turner to take a 16-15 lead at the half.
Smith, making only his second career start, completed 20-of-31 passes for 315 yards and three touchdowns on the day. His 34-yard pass to Jackson with 10:30 left in the third gave the Flames a 23-15 lead.
A Nick Ellis 20-yard field goal pulled CSU to within five at 23-18 but the Flames answered with a 79-yard drive, culminated by Rod Fluellen's one-yard run with 12:09 left in the game.
"I really have to give Liberty a tremendous amount of credit for the effort they gave today," said Mills. "They've had some tough losses this year but they came here to win today. I'm just glad that our players were able to make the plays when it counted most. Both teams left it all on the field."
Charleston Southern's defense, which allowed Liberty more than 300 yards rushing in last year's game, limited the Flames to only 95 net yards rushing. Linebackers Josh Mitchell and Jonna Lee, both sophomores, led the way with 10 tackles each. Freshman defensive end Tyrese Harris added eight total tackles.
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