Liberty is back in action this Saturday to take on North Texas at 4 p.m. EST in a game carried on ESPN+. The Flames will be looking to become bowl eligible for a third straight season and get to 6-2 on the season and bounce back from a disappointing loss. 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.
LAST WEEK WAS NOT A TYPICAL WEEK
One of the things Coach Freeze mentioned during his press conference last Thursday, was he thought his team was a bit sluggish throughout the week. He thought it had something to do with the cycle of being a morning practice team and hitting a lull during the middle of the year. He went into a little bit further detail about what that was like last week, and he says he thinks the team is bouncing back from that lull.
“Last week the sleep tests that were done weren’t good, the hydration tests weren’t good,” he explained. “I don’t know, certainly that’s no excuse. Listen, Monroe out-played us, out-coached us, all of that, but we certainly were off some. Hopefully we are cycling out of that I hope.”
LEARN FROM ULM, BUT FLUSH IT
Coming off the humbling loss to Louisiana-Monroe last week, Coach Freeze wants his team to remember the loss and learn from it, but once that is done to flush it and move on.
“I think one of the biggest struggles in life today, for people in general not just a football player, is the ability to focus on the task at hand,” he said. “We are like information-overload in this world today. I really think it’s a difficult task to just lock in on the most important thing right now, and that is not remembering Monroe. It’s learning from it and preparing accordingly for the task at hand. I want them to forget it. I want them to learn from it, but forget it. It’s just like in life, you make a mistake in life you can’t live in that. I hope they are able to put that behind them after we’ve learned from it.”
SCRUGGS STEPPING UP AS LEADER
Liberty safety Javon Scruggs is one of the leaders of the defense and the team. He took personal accountability for the team and defense’s performance last Saturday against Monroe during his press conference this week, vowing that a let down like that wouldn’t happen again. Freeze explained that Scruggs came into his office to meet with him early this week, and they had a very good conversation.
“It was a great talk,” Freeze said. “I appreciate his leadership. I think he’s been very vocal this week. Our defense played pretty good that whole game other than that third quarter. It was just a bad, bad quarter. It was a combination of things. The last thing I’m doing in my mind is doubting how our defense has played. They have been pretty special all year.”
NORTH TEXAS IS BETTER THAN THEIR RECORD
The Mean Green are just 1-5 on the season and have lost five straight games, but Coach Freeze says this team is much better than their record indicates. He said that during his press conference on Monday and he repeated it again on Thursday.
“If you watched the cut-ups, you would swear you were watching a team that has won four or five games,” said Freeze. “Then, if you put on a game film and you start seeing the errors of turnovers or red zone not scoring, you kinda see why, but they are getting 100 plays a game in some games. Offensively, they are very tempo-oriented. We’ve been able to get our defense a pretty good look because it’s very similar to ours if we want it to be, but when you watch their cut-ups it’s hard for me to believe what the record actually says. I think you are playing a team that is much better than their record reflects. That’s the way we are hopefully approaching it both mentally and physically.”
TEMPO AND TEMPERATURE COULD PLAY A FACTOR
In addition to North Texas having a fast-paced offense, temperatures are also expected to be near 90 degrees on Saturday afternoon in Denton, Texas. That’s quite the contrast for the seasonable weather Lynchburg, Virginia has seen over the past couple of weeks. Freeze says that the defense must rotate bodies early and often to maintain their energy for the duration of the game.
“We could easily play upwards of 80, 90 snaps this week,” said Freeze. “You will need every-abled body for sure, and it’s going to be hot. It would be very difficult for (Aakil Washington) to play another 73 snap game back to back weeks. We’re going to have to depend on some of these others to play some snaps. We’ve told our coaches you’ve got to have a rotation early to try to keep us fresh for four quarters.”