The Liberty Flames defeated the Gardner Webb Runnin’ Bulldogs in a 21-20 matchup Saturday afternoon at Williams Stadium. With this victory, the Flames have punched their ticket to their fourth consecutive bowl appearance.
The Flames competed in front of more than 20,000 fans this past weekend for the university’s 48th annual homecoming. Prior to this 25th-all-time meeting of the two teams, Liberty led the series 14-9-1.
Not only was this win special for bowl eligibility, but this game confirms six or more victories for the 17th straight year for the Flames. Liberty is 125-67 since the start of the 2006 season!
Liberty quarterback Johnathan Bennett completed 17-of-30 passing attempts for 222 yards and one touchdown. The Flames were limited to only 93 rushing yards for the night. Dae Dae Hunter (Liberty) led the flames with nine carries for 76 yards and a touchdown. Hunter ran 46 yards (of his 76 yards) on an explosive play right at the end of the fourth quarter.
Demario Douglas led the Flames in receiving yards with eight receptions for 87 yards. During the post-game interview, Douglas mentioned how much he loved the crowd participation Saturday night. He added that it was a great “blessing” for them to be bowl eligible once again. “A lot of people didn’t have us bowl eligible,” he mentioned.
Liberty linebackers Ahmad Walker and Mike Smith, Jr. had seven tackles each, leading Liberty’s defense in a crowd-hyped frenzy. The big momentum shift came when Liberty cornerback Daijahn Anthony picked off Gardner Webb quarterback Bailey Fisher. Anthony credited Liberty’s defensive lines for being one of the best groups on the team. Liberty’s defense was able to create three turnovers for the day (with Anothony’s interception included).
Head Coach Hugh Freeze said, “I like being an ugly 6-1 than being a pretty 4-3. It was a remarkable accomplishment to be bowl eligible even though we haven’t played our best football yet. Freeze added that the defense has been pretty solid all year, but must improve on “third and longs.”
In another post-game interview, Flames’ Dennis Osagiede said that it meant a lot to be able to play in his first bowl EVER. Osagiede was seen “sporting” a “2022 Bowl Bound” shirt that the players had been given in the locker room prior to the game.
Next week, Liberty will take on BYU at home once again to defend “The Mountain.” Time for kickoff is TBA.
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