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The Bye Week: Liberty 19, "That School in Easton" 13

The blurry athlete pictured at left was Liberty sophmore WR Chris Summers, and he did this quite a lot last night in leading Liberty to a 19-13 win over the Leopards. He made 14 grabs - more than a few like the leaping grab shown here - for 138 yards and 1 touchdown. (Boy, I wish I hadn't moved the camera.)

Backup Liberty sophomore QB Mike Brown - playing for the injured senior QB Tommy Beecher, who was held out in a gametime decision - was an efficient 29-for-36 with 88 yards rushing, 256 yards passing and a touchdown pass and a TD run for good measure. Against what is historically considered the top defense of the Patriot League, the Brown/Simmons express racked up 361 yards of total offense.

Right off the bat Lafayette seemed to be put on the back foot after Liberty unexpectedly lined up in the empty formation, with Brown hitting Summers for a 7 yard gain to set the tone early. But the efficient Liberty drive, which put the Flames up 7-0, would be the only scoring until the second quarter as Lafayette's tough defense held up for most of the first half.

Overall, senior LB Mark Leggerio (15 tackles) and junior LB Michael Schmidlein (14 tackles) led a game defensive effort and definitely let "that school in Easton" hang around probably longer than Liberty head coach Danny Rocco might have liked. And the Leopards, to their credit, stopped Liberty's rushing game cold, with 105 total yards rushing on only 2.8 yards per carry, and limited Liberty to only one field goal in the second half. But the Flames defense did a very good job of stuffing the Leopards' running game as well on their own, holding them to 70 yards rushing overall, and Liberty also kept them off the field as well, holding them to 48 offensive plays and only 11 first downs.

The crowd, a healthy 8,000+ for a night game in Easton, was a feisty crowd - on both sides, as Liberty traveled extremely well. They brought what looked like a 256 piece band (with 5 marimbas - are there even 5 marimbas in the entire Lehigh Valley?) and were loud, filling the stadium and even rivaling that AC/DC music that blares out of Fisher Field's loudspeakers. In addition, there was a very strong sea of red on the other side taking up 1/3 to 1/2 of the visiting stands. Liberty looks like they will be a sought-after dance partner in FCS: they bring fans in the seats.

Overall, it was a nice night for football. Lafayette proved that their defense will be as tough as ever once Patriot League play comes around. Liberty showed that James Madison is going to have to be very, very careful next week. And while the Patriot League brass might have hoped that Lafayette might have poached a win here at home, it wasn't meant to be at Fisher tonight.

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