For the second time this season No. 21 Freedom was queuing for a late field goal to beat an Atlantic Coast Conference team on the road.
Only this time We Jones and North Carolina State came up with the piece to end the Flames’ perfect season.
Jones blocked Alex Barbir’s 39-yard field goal attempt with 1:18 left to help Wolfpack beat Liberty 15-14 Saturday night, giving the Flames their first loss of the year.
It was an appropriate finish for Wolfpack (6-3), whose violent offense bounced much of the night while the defense and special teams came through with big games – especially in the fourth quarter.
“Everything that has come against them, they have reacted,” said Wolfpack coach Dave Doeren. “People have doubted this football team all year. For us to sit here with six wins and two (top-25 wins) says a lot about them. “
Liberty (8-1) tried to win a third victory against an Atlantic Coast Conference opponent this year, all on their way. The Flames had their shots to also extend the best start in program history by putting a drive to give Barbir – who had kicked a 51-yard field goal to beat Virginia Tech earlier this season – a shot in the lead.
This time it did not work.
“We talked about it on the headset and felt he deserved it,” Liberty coach Hugh Freeze said. “Of course we should have been more aggressive. We gave ourselves a chance to win it with him. The kick looked really low. “
Jones said Barbir’s kick hit him in the right elbow and initiated a sideline party for the NC state.
“It was just a block of desperation,” said Jones, who had blocked two points this season. “We go in and I’m the jumper in it. And I just jumped as high as I could. I remember seeing the ball come and just – boom – it hits me right here, in my elbow.
“I was like, ‘Oh, I blocked it, I blocked it!'”
Zonovan Knight ran after two touchdowns to lead NC State, including the clear 4-yard score with 6:53 left. This game was created by a scuba diver from the real first year reserve Aydan White.
Malik Willis threw for 172 yards and two touchdowns for Liberty, but had three interceptions, two of which came in the fourth quarter. He also ran in 44 yards as the Flames only managed 279 yards in total.
Liberty: The Flames arrived and sought to follow up on victories against Syracuse and Virginia Tech, who had marked football independence’s first victories against ACC teams after losing their first eight matchups. They scored a big touchdown with 19 seconds left before the break, then went on to go 14-7 midway through the third quarter to only see Wolfpack respond.
“It felt like our kids were playing hard, playing their gut out for us, and I felt like we didn’t have a good enough plan for them to score enough points,” Freeze said. “It’s just not a good feeling, but I’m proud of them, proud of the way they fought.”
NC State: Those are two wins in a row for Wolfpack, who beat Florida State last weekend after a skewed loss to rival North Carolina and a shootout loss to No. 12 Miami. NC State won despite having 14 penalties for 123 yards and fought offensively after scoring 79 points in its two previous games.
Liberty’s loss could drop the flames out of the AP Top 25 after three consecutive weeks marking the program’s first appearance.
Liberty’s 279 yards were by far the lowest of all this season, surpassing the previous mark of 357 yards against North Alabama.
“It’s all up to me,” Willis said. “I take the blame for that loss. I take the blame for turning the ball around and putting us in horrible situations where the defense picked me up every time. “
PAINT IT OUT
Knight also had a touchdown run in the first half and ran for 96 yards, while Ricky Person Jr. added 83 yards on the ground. It was part of a 167-yard rushing effort that pretty much had to bear Wolfpack’s offense with Bailey Hockman getting nothing to go consistently in the passing game.
EXECUTION OF THE CRIME
As the NC state offense fought for each farm, the defense and special teams came up with a key sequence for the third quarter that proved critical.
Hockman’s quick kick-point on a stopped offensive run was shot down at the Liberty 3-yard line, so Isaiah Moore filled Peytton Pickett on the next game for a safety with 3:34 left in the period.
Liberty: The Flames return home to host Massachusetts on Friday.
NC State: Syracuse will host Wolfpack in ACC games next Saturday.