Lybrand directs winning drive in first start for Harding

Updated: October 7, 2003, 7:41 PM ET

LITTLE ROCK -- Adam Lybrand didn't start working with Harding's first team in practice until last Wednesday.

That's when Freddie Langston, the Bisons' career leader in just about every passing category went down with a twisted right knee.

Lybrand didn't know he would be called on to start on the road at West Alabama until the bus ride down.

"It goes through your head that you're not sure if you're ready," said Lybrand, who hadn't started a game since 2000 in high school at Midlothian, Texas.

But the sophomore transfer from Tarleton State led Harding on a perfect 2-minute drill for the Bisons' first Gulf South Conference win. Lybrand hit Reid Smith on a 32-yard touchdown pass with 43 seconds remaining to give Harding (2-2, 1-2 Gulf South) a 26-21 victory over West Alabama.

Lybrand completed five passes on the eight-play drive that started at the Harding 24 with 2:10 remaining. He finished the night 20-of-39 for 193 yards and a pair of interceptions.

"When you're on the field in that situation you don't have time to think about what can happen," Lybrand said. "You just go with the flow and at that point everything you learned in practice comes out. That's when you get to show what you can do."

Lybrand was probably the least likely quarterback in the stadium to lead such a comeback.

Langston owns school records for career completions (462), passing yards (5,693) and touchdowns (47) and with two more passes he'll have the most attempts. The three-year starter ranks second in completion percentage at 56.5.

On the other side of the field, West Alabama's Brett Gilliland became his school's career passing leader in the game when he completed 29 of 43 passes for 397 yards. He threw two fourth-quarter touchdowns to give West Alabama (2-3, 1-2) a 21-17 lead.

Gilliland's comeback was capped by a 58-yard pass to Will Harter, who caught 11 passes for 159 yards.

Lybrand hadn't done anything since throwing for 1,302 yards and 11 touchdowns his senior year at Midlothian. He redshirted one year at Tarleton State and didn't see much playing time in his future, so he came to Searcy, in part because he wanted to attend a Christian university.

He sat on the bench last year and learned the offense. Despite the inactivity, two interceptions didn't seem to hurt his confidence on Saturday.

"He did a good job of bouncing back from those," Harding coach Randy Tribble said. "It didn't wipe him out or anything. I thought he was the kind of kid that could bounce back and he did a real good job with those things."

Lybrand said even though Langston wasn't in uniform, the senior from Searcy played a big part in his success. Langston was on the sideline during the first half, helping Lybrand read the defense and in the second half he moved to the coaches' booth.

"He told me what coverages to look for and stuff that he was seeing out there," Lybrand said. "Before the game, he just told me he had confidence in me and that he knew I was ready to do it. That just helped to take the nerves away."

The nerves were long gone by the time Lybrand lined up 76 yards from the end zone. On a fourth-and-4, the coaches called a play where he had missed an open receiver on second down.

This time, he drilled Joe Price for a 6-yard gain and Price got out of bounds to stop the clock.

On the next play, he looked to Santiago Collins on an out route, but a safety closed in and left Smith streaking down a seam toward the end zone. Lybrand hit him in stride at the 5 and Smith carried a defender into the end zone.

"Then the celebration began," Tribble said. "We had been up by two touchdowns and the defense played great for three quarters. They scored twice and it ripped our guts out.

"The offense came back out there and bailed us out. That was awesome timing."

Lybrand said the timing of his first start wasn't ideal, because of Langston's injury. But he's ready to play again if the senior can't go.

"Freddie has been here for four years and earned his spot," Lybrand said. "He's the best quarterback we've got and if he's ready, he'll be back in there."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index