Liberty football coach Rich Muraco added California powerhouse St. John Bosco to the schedule hoping his players would learn a few lessons about playing at an elite level.
Indeed, the Braves took the Patriots to school Friday night.
Senior DJ Uiagalelei, the nation’s top-ranked quarterback, wasted no time in asserting his dominance, tossing an 80-yard touchdown pass on the game’s first play and leading USA Today’s third-ranked team to a 49-7 victory in the first game of the Polynesian Football Classic at Bishop Gorman.
It got worse from there for the Patriots, who fell to 0-3.
“This is the first game where we’ve gotten outplayed right from the get-go,” Muraco said. “We might have won the first two games with a couple of breaks, but we were not in this game at all.”
Uiagalelei connected with Beaux Collins 16 seconds into the game and again with Jode McDuffie five minutes later to give the Braves a 14-0 lead.
The Patriots were no match for Uiagalelei, a Clemson commit who scored on a 1-yard keeper late in the quarter to give St. John Bosco a 21-0 lead.
“This team is right up there with the best teams we’ve ever seen,” Muraco said. “That quarterback is the real deal, and we’ve seen some really good quarterbacks over the years.”
Liberty finally scored early in the second quarter, capping an eight-play, 80-yard drive with a 15-yard TD run by Daniel Britt to make it 21-7. An ensuing onside kickoff recovery gave the Patriots momentary hope, but it slowly fizzled because of mistakes and blown opportunities.
Rayshon Luke had a 65-yard scoring run and Collins added a 26-yard TD reception from Uiagalelei in the next five minutes, and St. John Bosco (3-0) took a 35-7 halftime lead.
“When you’re playing an elite team like that, you can’t have miscommunication in your secondary,” said Muraco, whose defense allowed receivers to get open all night. “They’ll expose you and make you look bad. Our pass defense was just not up to snuff.”
That trend continued in the second half, as Uiagalelei connected with Collins for 34- and 38-yard TD passes to extend the lead.
Uiagalelei finished with 290 yards and four TDs passing while completing six of nine attempts, and Collins had 178 yards and four TDs on four receptions.
Muraco took one positive out of the game.
“I’m proud that our kids didn’t quit,” he said. “I’m happy about that part, but our defense is definitely not where it needs to be.”
Liberty quarterback Kanyon Stoneking completed 8 of 13 passes for 92 yards, all in the first half.