Liberty is back in action this Saturday for the first afternoon game of the year as the Flames will kickoff against MTSU at 3:30 p.m. in a game carried on ESPN3. Liberty will be looking to move to 5-1 following last week’s win at UAB. On Thursday, Liberty head coach Hugh Freeze met with the media to give his final update prior to kickoff. Here are the main takeaways from his media session.

Despite their 2-3 overall record through the early part of the season, Middle Tennessee seems to be finding their groove. With new quarterback Chase Cunningham who has started the past two games, their offense has gotten into much more of a rhythm the past two weeks.

“I think they are playing their best football right now,” Freeze said. “Offensively, they are so many different things. Defensively, it’s going to be an adjustment game that you’ve got to figure out what their flavor is, what their mode of attack is on us for this given week.”

The Blue Raiders picked up a big win last week against Marshall, 34-28, and narrowly were able to knock off Charlotte on the road the previous week. MTSU also hung in the game for most of the first half and into the third quarter against Virginia Tech before that game slipped away.

“They were in every game that they played and certainly had a chance to win all of them,” Freeze continued on Middle Tennessee. “I think last week was a big win. Their defense is running to the ball. They are physical. They are getting takeaways. Their offense has become really multiple with the quarterback plus one runs. Their big running backs, they’re physical and strong. Their OLine is really physical. Their receivers are really fast, probably the fastest group of receivers we have played as a whole, and you have to defend their RPOs also. I think they are starting to find their niche. It’s going to be a great test for us.”

October is National Depression and Mental Health Screening Month, and the Liberty football team has partnered with Hilinski’s Hope to bring awareness to mental health issues. In January 2018, Tyler Hilinski, a football player at Washington State, died by suicide. Liberty safety Skyler Thomas was a teammate of Hilinski’s at WSU.

“Mental health is something that is one of the reasons why we take the time to teach a class each week because we try hard to create dialogue and communication with all of our players and coaches and people that are in our building because it’s something that is real,” Freeze said. “In this life, the worst thing for young men or young women is to be battling something like that and to feel like you are all alone and have no one to talk to. We try to bring awareness to it often.”

“Obviously, having Skyler here who was a teammate with (Hilinski), it made a lot of sense for us to do that,” Freeze said of partnering with Hilinski’s Hope. “We’ve had some good communication this week. Hopefully our kids, if they ever get to a point where they feel that they are struggling mentally, that they would feel the freedom to reach out and talk to someone here on staff.”

Liberty’s band, the Spirit of the Mountain, stopped by the Liberty Football Center on Thursday morning and crashed Liberty’s football team meeting.

“When we are playing home games, (RB Coach) Bruce Johnson is in charge of the energy of the day getting started correctly,” said Freeze of Thursdays during game week. “We usually play some songs that are all about home and our house. We just thought it would be a good change up to let the band play the fight song. Our kids were incredible. As they are ending it, we were all ‘Go LU!’ I really appreciate them being willing. It was really Bruce’s idea. We had done it before at previous schools. It was a good change up for us. I think our kids really enjoyed it. We are appreciative of the band, for sure.”

Freeze and some of the Liberty football players are fighting through sinuses this week as the weather begins to change for the fall. Freeze says he is on the mend, but he is not back to 100%. He also mentions that a few of the players are also fighting through it, as well.

“I have a battle with sinuses about twice a year usually,” said Freeze. “I’m going through that this week. It was rough earlier this week, I’m getting a littler better, I believe.”

Freeze said he doesn’t think it affected practice this week and every one was able to fight through it.

“I think everybody was like me,” he said. “We just pushed through it. You might not have felt great, but I felt like we got a good week in this week. I know there were several that did not feel their best, but I think they gave us good work while they were there.”

Freeze is hopeful that is team is able to have the same focus they did last week despite the fact that his team was a road underdog at UAB a week ago and the Flames are favored by nearly three touchdowns at home this week against Middle Tennessee.

“To us, it’s the next one on the schedule, and we have to prep the same way we did last week and approach it with the same focus and same desire,” he said. “I try to approach every week the same. The practices aren’t changed up. We still have to approach them the same way and have the same mental focus and toughness. Every game counts the same. Every one of these teams on our schedule can beat us. They all have good enough players to beat us if we’re not on top of our stuff. They may beat us even if we are, who knows, but that’s what makes college football so great.”