LYNCHBURG, Va. (AP) — Kaidon Salter threw three touchdown passes and ran for two more, all in the first half, as No. 25 Liberty kept its perfect record intact with a 38-10 victory over Old Dominion on Saturday.
The Flames, already the regular season champions in Conference USA, improved to 10-0 (7-0). It marks their second double-digit win season since transitioning to FBS competition in 2018 and third overall.
Salter, the three-time CUSA Offensive Player of the Week, completed 13 of 22 passes for 225 yards, and he also rushed 11 times for 41 yards in a little over three quarters.
“Obviously a huge win,” Liberty coach Jamey Chadwell said. “I thought the first half was about as good as we could play. Defense was outstanding for four quarters.”
Chadwell now hopes the Flames, back in the AP Top 25 for the first time since last November, will start receiving more respect. His players echoed that sentiment.
“(Old Dominion) played six games in the Sun Belt, three up and three down, and every game was within a touchdown,” Chadwell noted. “I don’t want to hear that ‘Oh, you don’t play nobody.’ Our guys prepared for this game, and you saw what happened.
“We’ll take on anybody anywhere, and I believe in our team and our conference.”
Liberty got on the scoreboard quickly. It opened the game with an eight-play, 75-yard drive that was capped by CJ Daniels’ 43-yard touchdown grab. On the next possession, which began near midfield following a shanked punt, Salter took matters into his own hands and scampered for a 2-yard run to make it 14-0.
Altogether, the Flames, the nation’s 12th ranked scoring offense, hit pay dirt on five of their first six drives to build a commanding 35-3 halftime lead.
Old Dominion (4-6, 3-3 Sun Belt) was largely ineffective on offense, managing just a field goal by Ethan Sanchez through the first 58-plus minutes. Javon Harvey’s 5-yard touchdown catch was nothing more than window-dressing on a tough day.
Grant Wilson was knocked down a handful of times and pressured throughout the game as the Monarchs’ offensive line proved no match. Liberty finished with five sacks and 11 tackles for loss.
“Obviously, we’re not happy,” Old Dominion coach Ricky Rahne said. “I need to go back and watch the tape. I thought there were some times where we were playing to not make a mistake. I take personal responsibility for that.”
Liberty did much of its damage on the ground, rushing for 149 yards in the first half and 230 overall. Quinton Cooley led the Flames with 85 yards on 19 carries. In the process, the Flames broke their single-season rushing record set in 2003.
Daniels was Salter's favorite target. He hauled in seven passes for 137 yards and two scores, taking advantage of what Salter felt was soft coverage.
“It was very unexpected to leave CJ one-on-one on an island,” Salter said. “I guess they trusted their DBs to try to do that. … You can’t try to just bracket one receiver in our receiving room.”
Liberty improved to 4-1 all-time in the series.
Liberty kept alive its bid for an undefeated season. The Flames established their offense early and put the game away with five first-half touchdowns. Old Dominion, which had played an FBS-leading eight one-score games, suffered its most lopsided loss of the season. The Monarchs need to win their final two games to become bowl eligible.
Still lacking a signature win, Liberty had more to lose than gain after cracking the Top 25. But it certainly didn’t hurt its stock with the lopsided victory.
Liberty: Hosts UMass on Saturday.
Old Dominion: Visits Georgia Southern on Saturday.
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AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/college-football