No. 23 Liberty outlasts No. 9 Coastal Carolina in Cure Bowl

Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

ORLANDO, Fla. — Liberty ended Coastal Carolina’s perfect season with a blocked kick in overtime.

Elijah James blocked Massimo Biscardi’s 42-yard field goal attempt to give No. 23 Liberty a 37-34 victory over No. 9 Coastal Carolina in a wild finish Saturday night in the FBC Mortgage Cure Bowl.

Liberty (10-1) took the lead on Alex Barbir‘s 44-yard field goal on the first extra possession.

Coastal Carolina (11-1) got a huge break in regulation when Liberty’s Joshua Mack fumbled inside the 1 with 41 seconds left in the fourth quarter. Safety Alex Spillum recovered the fumble to end the long drive.

“I thought it was a touchdown but they called it a fumble,” said Liberty quarterback Malik Lewis, who set several records in the game. “But the next opportunity we got, we took advantage of it.”

Willis ran for 137 yards and four touchdowns and completed 19 of 29 passes for 220 yards with two interceptions.

The Flames’ only loss came to North Carolina State on a blocked field goal.

“No question this is the best season Liberty University has ever had,” safety Javon Scruggs said.

Coastal Carolina overcame an early 14-0 deficit, and drove 72 yards to tie it in the fourth quarter. Grayson McCall ran in a 2-point conversion to make it 34-34 after throwing a 5-yard touchdown pass to Greg Latushko with 3:01 remaining

Coastal Carolina had won 12 straight.

“We couldn’t do anything with their quarterback,” Coastal Carolina coach Jamey Chadwell said. “You see why he was a five-star player.”

McCall had a big game for Coastal Carolina, completing 21 of 32 passes for 318 yards and three touchdowns with one interception. The red-shirt freshman also ran for 96 yards

It was the first time any ranked team had played in the six-year-old bowl, which was moved to prime time after being scheduled in the early afternoon. The teams were scheduled to meet Dec. 5, but that game was canceled because of COVID-19.

Willis led touchdown drives of 64 and 66 yards on the Flames’ first two possessions, running 7 yards for the first touchdown and 6 yards to make it 14-0 late in the first quarter.

Braden Matts’ interception turned the game in Coastal Carolina’s direction early in the second quarter. Biscardi’s 21-yard field goal got the Chanticleers on the board, and McCall connected with tight end Isaiah Likely on a 25-yard touchdown pass to make it 14-10 with 2:02 left in the half.

Biscardi added a 33-yard field goal on the final play of the half after Barbir kicked a 37-yarder for Liberty.

Scruggs’ 59-yard interception return set up the Flames at the Costal Carolina 10 early in the second half, and Willis’ third TD run made it 24-13. Coastal Carolina answered quickly on McCall’s 43-yard scoring pass to Latushko.

Javon Heiligh caught 16 passes for 168 yards for the Chanticleers, who never led in the game.


Coastal Carolina: Missed a chance for a perfect season.

Liberty: Willis set school records for total touchdowns (passing and rushing) with 34, and for rushing yardage by a quarterback (944).

Former Navy coach Niumatalolo joins UCLA staff

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LOS ANGELES – Former Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo is joining UCLA’s coaching staff as director of leadership.

The school said in an announcement Friday that Niumatalolo will serve as an advisor to the Bruins’ football staff and players.

Niumatalolo led Navy for 15 years and was the winningest coach in school history at 109-83. The Midshipmen, however, finished with losing records the past three seasons, including 4-8 the past two.

Navy played in 10 bowl games under Niumatalolo. He also was the only coach to win his first eight games in the storied Army-Navy rivalry.

Troy, Jon Sumrall agree to new 4-year contract through 2026

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Reinhold Matay/USA TODAY Sports

TROY, Ala. ⁠— Jon Sumrall agreed to a new four-year contract as Troy’s coach after leading the Trojans to a Sun Belt Conference championship and national ranking in his debut season.

The school announced the deal, which runs through 2026, but didn’t release details.

The Trojans went 12-2 and won their final 11 games, second only to national champion Georgia, including the league championship game and the Cure Bowl against UTSA. For the first time, they finished a season ranked, ending up 19th in The Associated Press Top 25.

“When we appointed Coach Sumrall in December 2021, we challenged him to return Troy football to the top of the Sun Belt Conference,” Chancellor Jack Hawkins Jr. said. “It didn’t take long, as the 2022 season was the best in our FBS history.”

Troy held all 14 of its opponents to under their season average in scoring, beating UTSA 18-12. The Trojans beat Coastal Carolina 45-26 in the Sun Belt title game.

“Last year was an amazing accomplishment for everyone associated with Troy football and was the product of relentless effort from our players and staff, athletic administration and university leaders,” Sumrall said.