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Liberty football notebook: Megginson's interception serves as belated birthday present

Liberty football notebook: Megginson's interception serves as belated birthday present

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Liberty Syracuse Football

Liberty cornerback Chris Megginson (with ball in left hand) celebrates with his teammates after he secured an interception in the second half during a game against Syracuse during an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Oct 17, 2020, at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, N.Y. (Dennis Nett/The Post-Standard via AP)

Chris Megginson spent his 20th birthday Friday with his Liberty football teammates on a flight from Lynchburg to Syracuse, being sequestered in the team hotel and having to take his fourth test of the week for the coronavirus.

It’s safe to say the Heritage High School product had a proper celebration with his play Saturday against Syracuse at the Carrier Dome.

Megginson recorded his first career interception with a diving catch in the third quarter and helped slow down the Orange’s passing attack in the Flames’ 38-21 victory in Syracuse, New York.

“I was like, ‘Man, I’ve got to make a play, make a play today,’” Megginson said, adding he was anxious to be playing the day after his birthday. “It just happened. It was real special.”

Megginson’s pick was the first by a Liberty cornerback this season after the first four interceptions were recorded by linebacker Anthony Butler (two) and safeties Marcus Haskins and JaVon Scruggs (Appomattox).

The 6-foot Megginson was in a read play to his side on third down, and he saw Syracuse wide receiver Taj Harris sit down in his route outside of Megginson’s shoulder.

Megginson read Orange quarterback Rex Culpepper’s eyes and dove for the easy interception.

The Flames (5-0) scored on the subsequent drive to take a 35-14 lead.

“I kind of read it and went and made the play,” he said.

Megginson’s interception was his first since his final game wearing Heritage’s familiar orange and blue. The Lynchburg native’s interception with about 90 seconds remaining in the 2018 Class 3 state championship game secured the Pioneers’ triumph over Phoebus.

Willis shines without key wide receivers

Liberty quarterback Malik Willis completed 16 of 20 passes for 182 yards and one touchdown against the Orange. It was an efficient outing for the redshirt junior after he completed 38% of his passes the week before against Louisiana-Monroe.

Willis put up those gaudy numbers without three of his top receivers.

CJ Yarbrough, Noah Frith and Javian Lofton did not play against Syracuse. Flames coach Hugh Freeze revealed Yarbrough took a hit on one of his shoulders during practice and the injury “just kind of flared back up.”

Wills completed passes to seven different receivers.

“Everybody on this roster can roll and we have trust in them,” said Willis, who added 58 rushing yards and a 4-yard touchdown in the second quarter. “When the ball is in the air, we trust them to go get it.”

Willis’ favorite targets were slot receivers DJ Stubbs and DeMario Douglas. Both had four catches and combined for 91 receiving yards.

Stubbs hauled in a 36-yard touchdown pass to cap the Flames’ opening drive of the third quarter for a 28-14 lead.

“Really wasn’t sure if we could win a lot of one-on-one battles on the outside with their corners; I thought they were very talented there,” Freeze said. “I thought we could win some in the slot and we waited and calculated our shots there with those guys, and I thought we were dead-on with most of those.”

News and notes

Liberty won in New York for the first time in nine tries. … The Flames improved to 5-0 for the first time since the 2008 season. That was also the last campaign Liberty opened the season with wins in its first two road games. … Scruggs recorded a career- and game-high 12 tackles, including a tackle for a loss. It is his second game with double-digit tackles, with the other coming last season at Rutgers. … LU has played 30 games at the FBS level. It is 15-5 in their last 20 contests.

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