Flames down hokies

BLACKSBURG, Va. – Liberty senior Alex Barbir made a 51-yard field goal with one second remaining in the game, giving the No. 25 Flames a 38-35 win at Virginia Tech, Saturday at Lane Stadium.

The longest field goal of Barbir’s career punctuated a frenetic final two minutes in Blacksburg which featured 17 points and an apparent Virginia Tech game-winning touchdown return of a blocked field goal. 

The Flames, ranked in the AP Top 25 for the first time in program history, have started 7-0 for the first time ever. Liberty pushed its overall winning streak to nine games, the Flames’ longest since a program-record 11-game winning streak spanning Oct. 20, 2007 through Oct. 11, 2008.  The Hokies fall to 4-3 on the season.

The Flames’ first-ever victory over the Hokies evens their all-time series with Virginia Tech at 1-1. Liberty is 2-0 against ACC opponents (Syracuse, Virginia Tech) in 2020 after going 0-8 in program history against the ACC prior to this season.  

Liberty’s Malik Willis passed for 217 yards on 20-for-30 attempts with three touchdowns, while adding a team-high 108 yards rushing and one rushing touchdown. Joshua Mack rushed for 90 yards on 19 carries. CJ Yarbrough led Liberty with five catches for 65 yards and one touchdown reception. 

Virginia Tech quarterback Hendon Hooker (156 yards rushing, 217 yards passing), like Willis, passed for three touchdowns and scored one rushing touchdown. Tre Turner totaled 90 yards on six catches with one receiving score.

In a battle of two of the top six rushing teams in the country, Liberty outgained Virginia Tech 249-201 on the ground. Both teams passed for 217 yards, giving the Flames a 466-418 advantage in total yards. The Flames (4-for-4) and Hokies (2-for-2) both converted all of their fourth-down conversion tries. Virginia Tech turned two Liberty turnovers into 10 points, while the Flames scored seven points off of one VT turnover.

Box Score Highlights: 

Final Score: 38-35 Liberty

Liberty (7-0)

Virginia Tech (4-3)

Location: Lane Stadium (Blacksburg, Va.)

Attendance: 1,000

Turning Point: 

There were 17 combined points scored in the last 1:41 of the game. Barbir had a 59-yard kick blocked and returned for a touchdown with eight seconds remaining, but it was taken off the board due to a Virginia Tech pre-snap timeout. Liberty converted on fourth-and-six on an eight-yard pass from Willis to Yarbrough, setting up the winning kick by Barbir.

Play-By-Play Breakdown:

First Quarter

  • Liberty took the opening kickoff and staged a nine-play, 75-yard drive. After Liberty converted on fourth-and-three with a 14-yard rush by Mack, Willis found Yarbrough with a 32-yard touchdown pass.
  • The Hokies took advantage of a short field after making it to their own 43 on a punt return. Virginia Tech moved into position and got on the scoreboard on a 41-yard field goal by Brian Johnson.
  • Liberty controlled play in the first quarter, outgaining the Hokies 101-31 and holding the ball for 10:51.

Second Quarter

  • The Flames converted on fourth-and-three with 12:48 left in the second, as Willis escaped a blitz and found Kevin Shaa down the sideline for a 35-yard pass to the three-yard line. A two-yard touchdown pass to Jerome Jackson capped a 14-play, 80-yard drive and gave Liberty a 14-3 lead.
  • Virginia Tech answered with a touchdown drive of its own, going 65 yards on seven plays. Hooker’s fourth-down, three-yard pass to Nick Gallo trimmed the deficit to 14-10.
  • Willis fumbled on his own 30-yard line, and the Hokies turned it into a go-ahead touchdown when Hooker took it in from 12 yards out.
  • Liberty drove to within the five-yard line, but Willis fumbled at the Virginia Tech nine with 1:46 remaining. The Hokies turned the miscue into three points, with Johnson’s field goal making it 20-14 Virginia Tech at the intermission.

Third Quarter

  • Willis drove the Flames 95 yards down the field on their first drive of the second half. He scampered in from 19 yards out for a 21-20 Liberty advantage.
  • The Hokies missed a potential go-ahead 50-yard field goal with 4:29 left in the third quarter, giving the ball back to Liberty.

Fourth Quarter

  • After a muffed punt by the Hokies’ Tayvion Robinson gave Liberty the ball at the Virginia Tech five, Willis hit Huntley for a touchdown connection to push the Flames’ lead to 28-20.
  • The Hokies knotted it up at 28-all on a fourth-down, nine-yard pass from Hooker to Kaleb Smith. The two-point conversion tied it at 28-28 with 5:46 left.
  • Liberty drove for the go-ahead score, with Pickett rushing for a nine-yard touchdown with 1:41 left. Virginia Tech then needed just 49 seconds to march 75 yards for the tying score.
  • The Flames took over on their own 25-yard line with only 52 seconds left but picked up 42 yards to set up Barbir’s game-winner.

What’s Next: 

Liberty returns home, hosting Western Carolina next Saturday at noon. The Flames will look to extend their home winning streak to 10 games, as Liberty won its last five home games last year and is 4-0 at Williams Stadium this season. Western Carolina will be making its 2020 season debut on Saturday, while Liberty will be playing its eighth game of the campaign.

Date: Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020

Location: Lynchburg, Va. (Williams Stadium)

Radio: LFSN Radio (Flagship Station: The Journey 88.3 FM Lynchburg)

TV: ESPN3

Kickoff: Noon