Liberty knocks off Syracuse

SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Liberty earned its first-ever win over an ACC opponent, rolling to a 38-21 victory at Syracuse, Saturday at the Carrier Dome.  

One year after rushing for -4 yards in a 24-0 season-opening loss to then No. 22 Syracuse, Liberty registered 338 yards on the ground in today’s historic win. Liberty came into the game ranking seventh in the nation in rushing yards per game (250.8), while Syracuse allowed 237.5 rushing yards per contest.

With the victory, Liberty improves to 5-0 for the first time since opening the 2008 season with six straight wins. The Flames pushed their winning streak to seven games, their longest since a program-record 11-game winning streak spanning Oct. 20, 2007 through Oct. 11, 2008.

Shedro Louis had a breakout game for Liberty, rushing for 170 yards on 10 carries, scoring touchdown runs of 75 and 52 yards. Peytton Pickett rushed 23 times for 115 yards and a score, giving Liberty two 100-yard rushers in a game for the first time since the season opener at Western Kentucky. Malik Willis passed for 182 yards (16-for-20) and a touchdown while adding 58 yards and a touchdown on the ground. 

Syracuse’s Rex Culpepper passed for 211 yards, three touchdowns and one interception, while Sean Tucker rushed for 111 yards on 21 carries.

For the game, Liberty outgained Syracuse, 520-308. Syracuse led the nation with 14 takeaways coming in, and the Orange won the turnover battle, 2-1. However, Liberty scored seven points off of its lone takeaway and Syracuse came up empty on two tries after turnovers.  

Box Score Highlights: 

Final Score: 38-21 Liberty

Liberty (5-0)

Syracuse (1-4)

Location: Carrier Dome (Syracuse, N.Y.)

Attendance: 0

Turning Point: 

With Liberty leading 21-14 at halftime, the Flames opened the second half with a quick four-play, 78-yard drive that put the guests up by two scores, 28-14. The Flames held Syracuse to seven points in the second half, pulling away for a 38-21 victory.  

Play-By-Play Breakdown:

First Quarter

  • Culpepper led Syracuse on a nine-play, 61-yard scoring drive, giving Syracuse the lead 7-0 with a 17-yard pass to Taj Harris with 8:32 left in the first quarter.
  • The Flames wasted no time in responding, as Louis rushed for a 75-yard touchdown on Liberty’s second play of the ensuing drive, tying it at 7-7.
  • Liberty rushed for 69 yards during an 11-play, 88-yard drive, with Willis scoring the go-ahead touchdown on a four-yard plunge shortly before the close of the first quarter.

Second Quarter

  • Syracuse gained great field position at Liberty’s 14-yard line when Demario Douglas muffed a punt early in the third quarter. However, Liberty’s defense held off a fourth-and-one at the five, giving the Flames the ball back on downs. 
  • The Orange stopped Liberty inside its five-yard line and took over on the Flames’ 36-yard line after an Aidan Alves punt. A three-play drive was capped by a Culpepper to Aaron Hackett touchdown pass, tying it at 14-14.
  • Midway through the quarter, Louis broke free for a 57-yard touchdown run, giving Liberty a 21-14 lead. The Flames rushed for 258 yards in the first half, but Willis fumbled inside the Orange five-yard line with 29 seconds left, keeping it a one-score game at halftime. 

Third Quarter

  • The guests doubled their lead with a quick touchdown drive to start the second half, running down the field before Willis found Stubbs for a 36-yard touchdown pass, making it 28-14 Flames.
  • Liberty stretched it to 35-14 on a 16-yard rushing touchdown by Pickett with 2:58 left in the third period.

Fourth Quarter

  • Syracuse drew to within 35-21 midway through the fourth quarter when Culpepper hit Anthony Queeley from 21 yards out for the Orange quarterback’s third touchdown toss of the day.
  • Barbir’s 20-yard field goal pushed Liberty’s lead to 17 points with 5:20 remaining. Syracuse turned the ball over on downs before the Flames ran out the clock on their historic win.

What’s Next: 

Liberty finishes up a stretch of four home games in five weeks, hosting Southern Miss next Saturday at 1 p.m. at Williams Stadium. The Flames are currently in the midst of an eight-game home winning streak and will host Head Coach Hugh Freeze’s alma mater for the first time. 

Date: Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020

Location: Lynchburg, Va. (Williams Stadium)

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

TV: ESPN3

Kickoff: 1 p.m. (EST)