Owls fall to Liberty in conference opener

Owls fall to Liberty in conference opener

The Liberty University Flames made their way to Kennesaw on Saturday, Oct. 15, and defeated the Owls 36-21 in front of a sold-out crowd.

The game marked the first Big South Conference competition for both teams this year. In its 2015 inaugural season, Kennesaw lost to Liberty on the road 45-35.

The Owls came in to Saturday’s game on a four-game win streak, the best in school history.

KSU got an early advantage when linebacker Brenton Wimberly recovered a mishandled punt that deflected off a Liberty defender.

The team quickly capitalized on the play when red-shirt sophomore quarterback Chandler Burks capped off a seven-play, 26-yard drive when he found the end zone on a one-yard touchdown run.

Liberty responded 18 seconds later, returning the ensuing kickoff for a 99-yard return and tying the game at seven points a piece.

The Flames broke the tie in the second quarter with a 47-yard field goal. Liberty extended its lead later in the quarter with another field goal to take a 13-7 lead.

The Owls answered when senior running back Chaston Bennett ripped a 63-yard touchdown run — his longest rush of the year — that put the Owls up 14-13 with just over 2 minutes left in the half.

The lead was short-lived as Liberty capped a 10-play 73-yard drive with a touchdown, heading into the half up 20-14.

In the third quarter, Liberty struck first with a three-yard rushing touchdown that extended the lead to two scores. The Owls responded by driving down the field with relative ease until they stalled at the goal line and failed to put points on the board.

Head coach Brian Bohannon made clear that the team struggled offensively in the red zone.

“We didn’t convert enough on offense,” Bohannon said.

Early in the fourth quarter, KSU rallied by scoring on the second play of the period with a 43-yard pass from Burks to Bennett. It seemed as though Kennesaw was poised to come from behind, but Liberty sealed the game with a 47-yard field goal and a 52-yard rushing touchdown.

Bohannon wasn’t happy with the outcome, but he gave credit where credit was due.

“We didn’t play good enough to win,” he said. “I thought Liberty came ready to play.”

Kennesaw suffered its second loss of the season, but Bohannon praised his team’s effort.

“Our kids played hard tonight and fought,” Bohannon said.

The Owls will look to get back on track when they go on the road to Gardner-Webb University (3-4, 1-0 BSC) at noon on Saturday, Oct. 22.

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