The debate of whether to allow a team to score late in a close game potentially cost Liberty an otherwise sure win against Coastal Carolina in the Cure Bowl on Friday.
Liberty, tied 34-34 with Coastal Carolina (11-1), had the ball first-and-goal from the Chanticleers' 3-yard line with 1:20 remaining in the game and no timeouts remaining for the opposition. The Flames (10-1) needed only to take three knees and kick a last-second field goal to win the game.
On the first play of what should have been the game-ending sequence, running back Joshua Mack stayed upright in the backfield and waited for defenders to attack him for a 3-yard loss. (To Coastal Carolina's credit, they clearly were trying to give the Flames a touchdown so they would have time to tie the game).
On the second play, Mack — for some unfathomable reason — drifted toward the goal line, forcing him to pull up short of a touchdown. Before he could come to a full stop, however, Coastal Carolina forced a fumble and recovered, allowing them to run out the clock three plays later and send the game to overtime.
This was ruled a fumble while Liberty was in the red zone: pic.twitter.com/rXCVQmVJ2b— ESPN (@espn) December 27, 2020
That same scenario resulted in losses for a couple of other teams this year: The first was Penn State against Indiana on Oct. 24, followed by the Atlanta Falcons against the Detroit Lions that same weekend.
Luckily for the Flames, Coastal Carolina's game-tying overtime field goal was blocked, resulting in a 37-34 win for Hugh Freeze and Co.:
HE BLOCKED IT!— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) December 27, 2020
LIBERTY WINS 🔥 pic.twitter.com/laQNZiYJJa
An astounding win that was made more difficult than it should have been — pretty on brand for an equally wild 2020 college football season.