Liberty is back in action this Saturday night against UAB from Protective Stadium in Birmingham, Alabama with a 7 p.m. kickoff on CBS Sports Network. The Flames will be looking to bounce back from the team’s first loss of the season after last week’s 24-21 loss at Syracuse. 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.
Freeze announced that the Flames will turn to true freshman kicker Brayden Beck on Saturday against UAB after returning starting kicker Alex Barbir has struggled to make just one of four field goals this season and he’s also missed one extra point.
“Brayden Beck is going to get the shot this week, unless it’s really long then we will stick with Alex,” Freeze said. “We’re going to give him the shot. He had a really good week of practice.”
Barbir will still handle kickoffs, and Freeze said the actual distance on how long of a field goal attempt Beck would try will not be determined until just prior to the start of the game after they have had time to see the conditions and how Beck is kicking in warmups.
PLEASED WITH THE PREPARATION
Liberty will be looking to bounce back from a tough loss last Friday night at Syracuse, and Freeze says it is difficult to do so but the UAB team provides a stiff challenge.
“Nobody likes the way last week ended,” he said. “You’re going to lose games at times, but it’s really hard to take when you lose a game that you feel like you easily could have won had you coached better or made a better play. Those are difficult things to rebound from, but it doesn’t take long when you put UAB on film. You know they are opening their Protective Stadium. I think they are a top 25 team. No one has run the ball on them, even Georgia. Georgia hit big play after big play. It doesn’t take long, and I think it grabbed all of our attention. I’m pleased with the preparation. It’s a great test and that’s what you want in this game. It will test ourselves, for sure. We won’t be the fan favorite there. We will probably be outnumbered considerably, and I understand that. We’ve got to embrace that.”
The story has been told several times about how the UAB football program was shut down following the conclusion of the 2014 football season. Of course, it was then brought back less than a year later. Under head coach Bill Clark, the Blazers have had a remarkable resurgence since the restart of their program as they are now one of the top Group of Five teams in the country. They get to take another step forward Saturday night with the opening of their brand new $200 million Protective Stadium.
“I remember texting Coach Clark during that time and saying, ‘I can’t imagine what you’re trying to battle and go through,'” said Freeze on Thursday. “To see the resilience he and his staff and his players had to hang in there and believe in a dream that it could be, is certainly admirable.”
Similarly, Liberty has made tremendous strides in its football program in recent years. Growing for an FCS team that struggled to make the playoffs to winning 10 games and finishing ranked No. 17 in the final Associated Press Top 25 poll last season.
“We obviously have the same goals to be one of the top Group of Five programs in the country,” continued Freeze. “While the journeys may be a bit different, I think there are some similarities, for sure.”
GOALS ARE STILL IN FRONT OF LIBERTY
Despite the loss last week, the first of the season, Freeze says the team still has everything to play for.
“It’s a long season,” he stated. “The resilience to bounce back after difficult losses is a task that great teams and good teams can manage to do and good coaches. It is a measurement. It is not an all in all. This idea that one game makes or breaks a season people might have a mentality of, it’s not one you can take as a coach or a player. Our job and our goal is to be competitive every Saturday we step on the field and hopefully put ourselves in a position to represent our school in bowl games.”
PRAISED BY SABAN
On Thursday morning, Freeze retweeted a tweet and a story that cited where Alabama head coach Nick Saban said Freeze is one of the catalysts that helped modernize Alabama’s offense. Freeze was asked about what that meant to him.
“The twitter world is something,” he said. “I can be stupid on it then it praises you and criticizes you. I honestly didn’t read too much until last night, probably won’t read much anymore. Look, Nick, he has been really kind to me. I do think we brought a new brand of football to the SEC. Not that we created it or anything. I do think it gave them problems, that’s what he’s basically saying. Obviously, there are a lot of players and coaches that helped me get to the point where he would say something like that. That is good praise but it should be shared by many.”