Liberty runs all over Syracuse, improves to 5-0

Shedro Louis rushed for a career-high 170 yards and two touchdowns as visiting Liberty recorded a 38-21 victory over Syracuse on Saturday for its first-ever win over an Atlantic Coast Conference opponent.

Peytton Pickett rushed for 115 yards and a touchdown as the Flames improved to 5-0 for the first time since 2008 when they were an FCS program. Their victory on Saturday was their first against an ACC foe in nine tries.

Malik Willis threw for a touchdown and rushed for another for Liberty, which rolled up 258 of its 338 yards on the ground in the first half despite playing without leading rusher Joshua Mack (illness). By comparison, the Flames mustered minus-4 rushing yards in their last encounter with Syracuse — a 24-0 loss on Aug. 31, 2019.

Liberty’s rushing success on Saturday was a familiar refrain for the Orange (1-4), who were gashed for 363 yards on the ground last week in a 38-24 loss to previously winless Duke.

Syracuse’s Rex Culpepper completed 19 of 40 passes for 211 yards and three touchdowns along with one interception in place of Tommy DeVito, who sustained a left leg injury versus the Blue Devils.

Taj Harris had team-leading totals in catches (nine) and receiving yards (96) while joining Anthony Queeley and tight end Aaron Hackett with a touchdown reception. Syracuse, which was playing its lone nonconference game of the season, has dropped two in a row heading into next Saturday’s encounter against No. 1 Clemson.

Louis, who only had 10 carries, squeezed the Orange with a long runs on a pair of inside handoffs. The first resulted in Louis’ 75-yard scamper to tie the game at 7 with 8:14 remaining in the first quarter before he ventured 52 yards on another to stake Liberty to a 21-14 lead with 7:49 left in the second.

The Flames seized control in the third quarter, with Willis lofting a 36-yard touchdown pass to DJ Stubbs and Pickett rushing in from 16 yards out to push the advantage to 35-14.

Culpepper attempted to crawl back into the game with a 21-yard scoring strike to Queeley with 8:45 left in the fourth quarter. Liberty, however, answered with Alex Barbir’s 20-yard field goal to make it a three-possession game.