RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -- Michael Strauss threw 20 of 34 for 210 yards and one touchdown to lead Richmond to a 30-21 victory over Liberty on Saturday night.
Coming into the game, Richmond (2-2) boasted the most prolific passing attack in the Colonial Athletic Conference, but it was the rushing of Jacobi Green that kept the Spiders in the lead most of the game. Green had 24 carries for 181 yards and T.J. Moon carried 7 times for 38 yards and two touchdowns.
The Spiders defense took center stage after halftime, forcing two Liberty (2-2) turnovers and blocking a John Lunsford field goal attempt in the fourth quarter. Lunsford also missed from 45 yards in the third. Late in the fourth quarter, Spiders' defensive back Wayne Pettus broke up two passes in a row from Josh Woodrum, ending a 9-play drive by Liberty on the game's final possession.
Junior safety Jacob Hagen was ejected during the second half for targeting the head. He used his helmet and hit a Richmond player in the helmet. It's the first time an LU player has been called for that penalty this season.
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From Liberty athletics:
RICHMOND, Va. – Second-half adjustments and deteriorating weather conditions slowed an offensively pushed game where No. 23/20 Richmond was able to walk away the victor, 30-21, over visiting Liberty, Saturday night, at Robins Stadium.
The victory snapped a two-game losing skid for the Spiders and gave former Flames head coach Danny Rocco (2006-11) his 10th victory at the helm of Richmond's program. The loss ends Liberty's two-game winning streak and makes both teams 2-2 on the 2013 season.
After the two teams traded punts on their opening possessions, the first scoring drive of the game was set up by a career-long run by Jacobi Green. The sophomore opened the third drive of the game with a 53-yard burst to the near side of the field to get the Spiders into Liberty territory.
Richmond elected to keep the ball on the ground four out of the next five plays and Liberty's defense was able to keep the home team out of the end zone. Brandon Jordi capped off the seven-play, 69-yard yard drive with a 41-yard field goal at 6:27 in the first quarter, staking the Spiders to the early 3-0 lead.
The Flames quickly answered back, taking a 7-3 lead just over three minutes later on a 20-yard passing play over the middle from Josh Woodrum to Brandon Apon. The scoring reception, which took place on a third-and-12 play, was Liberty's senior tight end's first touchdown reception of the season and the fifth of his career.
Liberty chose a different path to move the ball on its six-play, 68-yard scoring drive, as Woodrum completed all four of his pass attempts for 59 yards.
The Flames' lead was short-lived as the Spiders showcased their nationally ranked passing offense to help take a 10-7 lead with 52 seconds left in the opening quarter.
Richmond, who came into the game ranked No. 7 in the country in passing offense (313.7 yards per game), saw junior quarterback Michael Strauss complete a 15-yard route to Ben Edwards and 36-yard passing play to Stephen Barnette to quickly get the ball to the Flames' two-yard line.
On the next play, backup running back T.J. Moon scored his first career touchdown on a run up the middle, completing action in the first quarter of the game.
After forcing the Flames to quickly punt on their next drive, Richmond was able to keep its offense rolling and extend its lead to 17-7 with 12:22 left to play in the second quarter. The seven-play, 46-yard drive was capped off by an eight-yard completion to fullback Seth Fisher.
The Flames were finally able to get their offense back on track thanks to the dual threat of Woodrum. Later in the second quarter, the sophomore was able to avoid a sack deep in his own territory and find Dante Shells open downfield for a 32-yard reception.
Four plays later, Woodrum rolled left and, not finding any open receivers, decided to keep the ball for himself and score from nine yards out. The quarterback's second career rushing touchdown pulled the Flames within three, 17-14, with 3:46 left before halftime.
However, Richmond had one last offensive push to get back its two-possession lead. The Spiders quickly moved the ball down the field on three Strauss completions, setting up a 13-yard run to the far side of the field by Moon to push the Spiders' lead to nine.
Jordi connected on the initial point-after attempt, but Richmond was called for false start and the sophomore pulled his second attempt left to keep the score at the break, 23-14, Richmond.
The two teams, both of which boasted top-20 ranked defenses coming into the game, combined for 533 total offensive yards during the first 30 minutes of play.
Richmond's offense was paced by Strauss, who completed 15-of-23 passing attempts for 187 yards and a touchdown. Green carried the ball 12 times for 114 yards, while Moon scored on two of his four first-half carries.
The Flames' were led by Woodrum, who completed 12-of-19 passing attempts for 145 yards and a scoring completion. Liberty's rushing game was limited to 56 yards, which was led by Desmond Rice (25 yards) and Clifton Richardson (16 yards).
It did not take long for the team's offenses to showcase their abilities once again in the second half, as Liberty pulled within two points on the second play after halftime.
Following a 36-yard kickoff return by Kevin Fogg and a short completion to Henderson, Rice avoided three tacklers on the right side of the field and scored on his longest career run. The 46-yard carry trimmed Richmond's lead to two, 23-21, 56 seconds into the third quarter.
A continual mist during the first half turned into a heavy downpour as the third quarter progressed, leading to the two teams keeping the ball on the ground for most of the period.
The difficult playing conditions also might have aided in the game's first turnover, which helped push Richmond's lead back to nine, 30-21, with 8:24 left in the third quarter.
Rice was handed the ball deep in his own territory and was stripped of the football by linebacker Walt Sparks, giving the Spiders possession at the five-yard line.
Two plays later, Edwards found a sizeable hole on the right side of the line and the senior was able to score from eight yards out on the direct snap to the wide receiver.
Liberty had three more scoring opportunities during the remaining 20-plus minutes of the football game, but none would prove to put additional points on the scoreboard.
Flames' kicker John Lunsford had two field goal attempts blocked during the latter part of the game. The first was a 45-yard try with 55 seconds left in the third quarter, while the second was a 39-yard attempt with 11:33 left in the ball game. The two kicks marked the first time in 12 career games as Liberty kicker the sophomore has had a field goal blocked.
The final scoring chance by Liberty came during the game's final drive, as the Flames managed to move to the Richmond 12-yard line. But Spiders cornerback Wayne Pettus batted down two Woodrum passes in the end zone to end the contest.
The two teams combined for 814 total offensive yards, with Richmond edging the Flames in the statistical category, 428 to 386.
Richmond evenly spread its offensive attack with 218 rushing yards and 210 passing yards. In the Spiders' first three games of 2013, Richmond had rushed for 252 yards total.
Strauss finished the night 20-of-34 for 210 passing yards, while Woodrum was 23-of-42 with 241 passing yards. Both quarterbacks had one touchdown pass.
Green rushed for a career-best 181 yards on 24 carries, while Moon scored both of Richmond's rushing touchdowns and finished the game with seven carries for 38 yards.
Rice recorded his first career 100-yard rushing game, finishing the contest with 12 carries for 106 yards and a touchdown.
Edwards led all receivers in the game with nine receptions for 101 yards, marking the fourth career 100-yard game of his Richmond career. Gabe Henderson was Liberty's leading receiver with seven catches for 66 yards.
The Flames had a pair of double-digit tacklers with Jacob Hagen leading Liberty with 11 stops, followed by 10 tackles by Walt Aikens.
Sparks was the Spiders' top defender, finishing the night with 14 tackles, while Reggie Barnette added 10 stops.
The Flames will return to Williams Stadium next weekend for their final home game before the start of Big South play when they welcome Kentucky Wesleyan to Lynchburg. Kickoff against the Panthers is slated for 7 p.m.