Liberty football’s bye week comes much later in the season this year than normal, as the Flames have already played 10 games before entering the open date this week. At 7-3, Liberty has achieved bowl eligibility for a third straight season, and are coming off a 27-14 loss at No. 15 Ole Miss.
“Watching the Ole Miss tape, we should have been in that game,” Liberty head coach Hugh Freeze said this week. “I don’t know if we would have won it, but we should have been right in it against a top 15 team.”
The Flames had multiple occasions in the second half against Ole Miss to make it a one score game and really put the pressure on the top 15 ranked SEC team. Liberty was unable to do so, as multiple mistakes in crucial moments were too much to overcome. Malik Willis was sacked nine times on the afternoon and threw three interceptions, and DJ Stubbs dropped what would have been a third down conversion on a slant that would have moved the Flames deep into Ole Miss territory.
After the bye, Liberty will face two of its best opponents on the schedule this season in Louisiana and Army. Those two are a combined 13-4 this year and Louisiana is currently ranked No. 24 in the Associated Press top 25 poll. The Ragin’ Cajuns and Black Knights are a combined 13-1 against Group of Five teams as three of their losses have come to the likes of Texas, Wisconsin, and Wake Forest.
“We’ve got to learn when you’re playing a superior team, the margin of error is so small, to be able to have a chance to win it we can’t make the mistakes that we’ve made in really the Syracuse and the Ole Miss game,” Freeze explained. “I think that’s going to be the same case against Lafayette and Army. When we have a chance to make a play or prevent an explosive play, we’ve got to get those done.”
Both games to close out the regular season will be played at Williams Stadium in Lynchburg, Virginia where the Flames own the fourth longest home win streak in the country. Liberty has won 15 straight dating back to early in the 2019 season. Under Coach Freeze, the Flames have also been nearly unbeatable against Group of Five teams, having won 18 of its last 19 games and 18-2 all-time under Freeze against G5 opponents.
Next week’s game against Louisiana will give Liberty a chance for some payback as the Ragin’ Cajuns defeated the Flames, 35-14, in Freeze’s first road game at Liberty. Quarterback Levi Lewis, who is still at Louisiana, had three total touchdowns in the game as the Ragin’ Cajuns scored 28 straight points to coast to the win in the first ever meeting between the two programs. ESPNU picked up the game between top 25 Louisiana and Liberty. The game will be on the linear network at 4 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 20.
“I love anytime we can get our program, particularly at home, on national TV,” said Freeze. “I think it helps expand our brand, and then you’re playing a top 25 team which is a really incredible team, great receivers, quarterback, OLine, running backs, defensive line. They are in Louisiana. There are players all over the place down there, and (Coach) Billy (Napier) knows really how to coach his kids. It’s going to be a really good challenge for us, but we’re bowl eligible and I think those are exciting for us as coaches and players to measure ourselves.”
Liberty has gotten back to the practice field this week and have already begun working on the preparation for the Louisiana game. Freeze has called for shortened practices to allow for extra rest as the team has just gotten done with a grueling 10-game stretch. Freeze, his staff, and the players will be able to watch the Ragin’ Cajuns take on Troy on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. on ESPN+. Liberty defeated the Troy Trojans on Sept. 11 in Troy, Alabama, 21-13.
“We’re excited about the last two games,” said Freeze. “That’s two great games to have here at Williams Stadium. I wish the students were going to be around. We’ve got to figure out a way to hold on to them to stay for this top 25 team coming to town. We could use them for sure in both, but I know we probably won’t keep them here for Thanksgiving week with them being out, but would love to have them here and stay for the Lafayette game, for sure.”
Classes are out for Liberty the entire week of Thanksgiving, so the student attendance is expected to be much lower than the Flames typically have for home football games. Louisiana and Army could be the best two opposing teams to ever play Liberty at Williams Stadium. It certainly will be the best two teams to come to Lynchburg to play Liberty in consecutive weeks.
“We’re excited about the last two games, hopefully our fans are,” Freeze stated. “We have a chance to finish the regular season on a high note and hopefully get us a good bowl game somewhere.”