In a game that delivered three overtimes, 121 points and 1,265 yards, it was a single defensive play that was the difference.
Senior Jarell Addo's acrobatic interception of Liberty quarterback Stephen Calvert in the end zone ended the Liberty scoring threat. The senior ripped the ball out of the sky in the third overtime. A few minutes later, Cooper Garcia hammered through a 22-yard field goal to complete a 62-59 win.
Addo made a couple of stellar plays in the run game just prior to the interception as well, finishing with 12 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and a forced fumble.
It was a defining play for the redshirt senior linebacker, who missed a portion of the season due to suspension for undisclosed reasons.
When Frank Boyd scored on his second touchdown run in about 20 seconds of gameplay to give the Flames a 45-31 lead, it looked like UMass might not have enough stops left to keep pace.
UMass converted two fourth downs on the next drive and scored to cut the lead to seven. However, a bad snap on a third down for Liberty was recovered by Calvert, but forced them to punt.
The Minutemen had 3rd and 19 on the following drives, but were able to move the chains and eventually Marquis Young would score with 25 seconds in regulation to tie the game.
Freshman Samuel Emilus was huge for the Minutemen, catching a pass on that third and long to make fourth down more manageable and would then score touchdown receptions in the first two overtime frames.
Offenses seize control
There just isn’t time to go over all the scoring.
The common phrase now is to say “they put up video game type numbers.” Even video games tend to have limits sooner than this.
Of that 1,265 yards of total offense, UMass accounted for 777 yards of that from scrimmage. Ross Comis threw for 540 yards and four scores. If Andy Isabella didn’t cement himself as the most prolific receiver in FBS before, Saturday it became official.
Isabella caught nine passes for 305 yards and two touchdowns. He managed to dwarf the production of Liberty’s stud 6’4” receiver Antonio Gandy-Golden, who was sensational with nine catches, 205 yards and two touchdowns.
Both teams supplemented their high-octane passing games with highly efficient running games, as well.
Young had 148 yards and two scores on the ground for UMass. Liberty’s current 1-2 punch of Boyd (83 yards, three TDs) and Frankie Hickson (133 yards, two TDs).
The combined seven turnovers certainly helped field position for some of the those scores.
Still, even video games have their limits.
Liberty sits at 4-4 with consecutive trips to Virginia and Auburn in the coming weeks.
The Flames will have to find temporary solutions to the holes in their back-seven to stay competitive and pull an upset or two down the stretch.
UMass moves to 4-6 and remains clinging to hope for a bowl berth. They will head down the road to Gillette Stadium this Saturday as the Minutemen host BYU. The Minutemen defeated the Cougars out in Utah last year for their biggest win of the season.
BYU is coming off a late loss at Boise State and are 4-5 on a season that has included a win over then-No. 5 Wisconsin.
A loss to UMass does not eliminate them from the postseason, but makes a bowl tremendously tougher.