Hawks Hang Tough, But Fall Late to Liberty

The Hawks’ football team’s pursuit of their first Big South win will have to wait another week after falling to the Liberty Flames, 34-24. With their third straight loss, the Hawks’ record drops to 5-4 (0-3 in Big South) while the Flames improve to 7-3 (3-0 in Big South).

“I was really proud of the way our team played today,” said MU head coach Kevin Callahan. “They put forth a great effort and made some difficult plays in critical situations. Unfortunately, we were not able to pull the game out in the fourth quarter. I felt that we went into the game with a great plan on both sides of the ball and our players did a good job of executing it.”

Playing without six notable contributors, the Hawks stood tall and hung tough with the Flames, matching their each and every move with a big play of their own. However, the Hawks were unable to sustain momentum by yielding 10-points over the final 10-minutes of the contest. Senior quarterback Brandon Hill connected on 18-of-28 pass attempts for 189-yards and two scores despite not having two of his top targets, fifth year wide receiver Neal Sterling and senior wide receiver Eric Sumlin.

Both of his touchdown passes, a three yard dump-off to senior fullback Jake Mauro and a 37-yard rainbow to sophomore receiver Darren Ambush, tied the ballgame following Liberty scoring drives. Sophomore running back Lavon Chaney also contributed with 92-yards on the ground and 125-all-purpose yardage on 20-touches.

With the Hawks trailing early in the first quarter, the offense turned to a little trickery early when sophomore wide receiver Matt Choi took a reverse handoff and tossed a 68-yard touchdown pass to Hakeem Valles to even the score at seven. Choi’s touchdown pass was the second such touchdown this season tossed by a non-quarterback, the first was Chaney who threw two against Columbia on Oct. 11.

Liberty’s offense secured 407-yards in the game while MU’s offense was able to pick up 344-yards. However, the Hawks were a lot better in sustaining drives this week, going 6-of-12 on third downs, as opposed to last week against Charleston Southern, where MU was 1-for-13 on third down conversions.

Fifth year defensive lineman John Sieczjkowski led all Hawk defenders with 13-tackles, a new career high, while junior linebacker Tyler Thompson finished the day with 11-tackles, two for a loss and a fumble recovery. Sophomore Darnell Leslie and freshman Mike Basile each contributed with eight tackles a piece. The Hawks also had two sacks in the game, one by Thompson and another by Basile, doubling their sack total in the last three games.

The Hawks will resume play on Saturday, Nov. 15 as they travel to Conway, SC to battle against the 10-0 Chanticleers of Coastal Carolina, arguably the top team at the FCS level after North Dakota State’s 35-game winning streak came to an end by the hands of Northern Iowa this past weekend. The Chanticleers are coming off a 59-34 victory over UNC-Charlotte.

Kickoff for MU’s contest at Coastal Carolina is set for 3 pm and the game will be televised via ESPN3.

The Hawks should see the returns of Sterling, Sumlin, fifth year lineback Dan Sullivan, senior lineman Eric Macik, senior lineman Andrew Jurczynski, and sophomore defensive back Kevin Butler.