Liberty wins playoff debut at James Madison

Harrisonburg, VA ( – Liberty aspires to move up to the FBS
level, but the Flames have taken a quick liking to the FCS playoffs.

In the first postseason game in program history, the Flames went across state
to stun James Madison, 26-21, in the first round.

Big South co-champion Liberty (9-4) will visit another CAA Football team,
sixth-seeded Villanova (10-2), in the second round next Saturday.

Coach Turner Gill’s program, which has sought a move to the FBS, won a strange
playoff debut by jumping to a 10-0 lead in the second quarter, falling behind
21-10 by halftime and then scoring 16 unanswered points in the second half.

The winning points capped a 17-play, 85-yard, 11-minute drive in the fourth
quarter. Fullback Nicky Fualaau scored on a 1-yard run to lift Liberty from a
21-20 deficit with 2:53 remaining.

James Madison (9-4) drove the ball to the Liberty 27, but on a fourth-down
play, quarterback Vad Lee’s intended pass to Daniel Brown was broken up by
Flames cornerback Kenny Scott.

Liberty committed four turnovers to JMU’s one, but held the ball for 39
minutes, 1 second. D.J. Abnar rushed for 69 yards and two touchdowns, and
place-kicker John Lunsford had a 56-yarder among his two field goals. He has
the three longest field goals in the FCS this season (60, 57 and 56).

Lee threw for 139 yards and one touchdown with an interception, adding 57 yards
and a touchdown on the ground. Jauan Latney finished with 119 yards and a
touchdown on 15 carries.

Safety Dean Marlowe added two interceptions for James Madison, which entered
the matchup on a seven-game winning streak.