fOR THE SANFORD HERALD
Behind a balanced offensive attack that rolled up 537 yards of total offense, Liberty defeated Campbell, 48-7, on Saturday in the 2021 season opener for both teams at Williams Stadium.
Malik Willis paced the Flames (1-0) offense, connecting on 15-of-23 passes for 217 yards and a touchdown, while running for 55 yards and another score. Johnathan Bennett came off the bench to tack on 102 more passing yards in the second half to give LU 319 for the night, distributed to nine different receivers.
Campbell’s 319 passing yards allowed marked the first time in 27 games that the Camels surrendered 300 or more yards through the air, last coming in their 2017 finale against Drake.
Demario Douglas hauled in 84 yards receiving and a TD on seven catches, while Joshua Mack’s 60 yards with a touchdown led Liberty on the ground.
Javon Scruggs notched seven tackles for the Flames, while Skyler Thomas recorded five tackles, including 2.0 of Liberty’s seven stops for loss as a unit.
Hajj-Malik Williams guided Campbell with 183 yards and a score on 15-of-32 passing, adding 26 rushing yards. Lynchburg native Caleb Snead, who missed the 2020 season due to injury, collected 70 yards receiving, including a 40-yard TD from Williams in the second quarter, bringing the Camels within 14-7 with 10:41 to go before the break.
The Flames led 14-0 after the first quarter, taking a 20-7 lead into the half before shutting out the Camels in the second half.
Keshawn Thompson collected a career-high 13 tackles on the defensive side for the Camels, while Roy Yancey made eight stops with 2.0 tackles for loss in his CU debut.
Malik Grate also broke up a pair of passes, adding four tackles.
The game marked Campbell’s fifth straight against an FBS foe after playing four road games last fall in an abbreviated 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the team’s sixth straight contest on the road, dating back to 2019.
Former Big South rivals from 1991-94 and again from 2011-18 in Olympic sports, Saturday was the first meeting between Campbell and Liberty, which transitioned to FBS status in 2018, in football.
Next up, Campbell will make its 2021 home debut, hosting Elon on September 11, 665 days since last hosting a football game at Barker-Lane Stadium (vs. No. 15 Monmouth, November 16, 2019).
Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. at Barker-Lane Stadium.
The game will be the first ever meeting between the Camels and Phoenix, and the first time a CU team has faced a Colonial Athletic Association squad since traveling to Old Dominion in 2012.