51-yard FG gives Liberty win over Virginia Tech

Alex Barbir hit a career-long 51-yard field goal with 1 second remaining to lift No. 25 Liberty to a 38-35 victory over Virginia Tech on Saturday.

Barbir’s kick punctuated a wild ending for the Flames, who rallied from a 20-14 halftime deficit and moved to 7-0 for the first time in program history.

Barbir had a 59-yard attempt blocked with 8 seconds left, and Virginia Tech’s Jermaine Waller returned it to the end zone for what appeared to be the game-winning score for the Hokies (4-3). But officials ruled that Virginia Tech had called a timeout before the attempt.

“I don’t believe in waiting until the last second to call timeout in those situations because I don’t ever like letting the kicker get a free swing at it,” Hokies coach Justin Fuente said. “I hollered ‘timeout,’ I guess I waited too long, so I told the team it’s on me.

“I called timeout, we blocked the field goal and ran it back for a touchdown. So we went from elation to not knowing if we were defending another field goal kick.”

Liberty then elected to go for it on fourth-and-6 from the Virginia Tech 41. Malik Willis found CJ Yarbrough for an 8-yard gain at the Virginia Tech 33 with 5 seconds left, allowing Barbir to come out for a shorter 51-yard attempt, which he drilled.

“I never wait that long, I never have. If we’re going to take a timeout, I take it early so they don’t get the chance to snap it,” Fuente said. “I said ‘timeout,’ and they didn’t hear me. I screamed ‘timeout,’ and the ref blew the whistle.”

Willis led the Flames, who knocked off their second ACC opponent this season and won their eighth straight game going back to last season. He threw for 217 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 108 yards and a score.

Hendon Hooker paced Virginia Tech, throwing for 217 yards and three touchdowns and rushing for 156 yards and a touchdown.

The Flames masterfully controlled the clock, holding the ball for more than 37 minutes, keeping their defense off the field and winning time of possession for the sixth time in seven games. Their ability to control the clock helped their defense against a Virginia Tech offense that came into the game averaging 472.8 yards and 37.7 points per game.

“I told our football team I was really proud of the way they played situational football there at the end,” Fuente said. “I told them I may never get over it. I really wish I hadn’t called timeout.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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