Quinton Cooley ran for three touchdowns as No. 25 Liberty completed an undefeated regular season by defeating UTEP 42-28 in El Paso, Texas.
The Flames (12-0, 8-0 Conference USA) will try to stay in line for the Group of 5 spot in the College Football Playoff’s upper tier when it hosts New Mexico State in Friday night’s conference championship game.
Cooley had 14 attempts for 65 yards, so he made good use of his scoring chances.
Quarterback Kaidon Salter gained 94 rushing yards on 12 carries. Running backs Aaron Bedgood (82 yards) and Billy Lucas (69 yards, TD) were also key contributors to the Flames’ 441 rushing yards. James Jointer Jr. added a TD run.
Salter was just 4-for-11 passing for 22 yards with a touchdown.
UTEP (3-9, 2-6) lost its third game in a row, managing just 50 yards on the ground.
Miners quarterback Cade McConnell was 12-for-25 for 164 yards and an interception. Backup Kevin Hurley ran and threw for touchdowns in the last 3:32.
The Flames scored on their first possession when Salter threw 6 yards to CJ Daniels for the game’s first points. Eighty seconds later, UTEP pulled even when Deion Hankins ran for an 8-yard touchdown.
It was 21-7 by the end of the first quarter with Lucas going in from 5 yards out and Cooley running 42 yards for a touchdown.
Cooley’s 1-yard run with 5:51 left in the first half extended the lead. The Flames scored touchdowns on four of their first five possessions, losing the ball on a fumble on the other.
Liberty had 287 rushing yards in the first half. Cooley ran in from 3 yards out for the only third-quarter touchdown.
Through three quarters, the Flames had touchdown scoring drives of 75, 75, 65, 82 and 55 yards. By then, UTEP had punted four times and thrown an interception.
UTEP closed within 35-14 with Mike Franklin running 2 yards to the end zone early in the fourth quarter.
–Field Level Media