October 4th everything was looking up. The Flames had completed their non-conference slate with a very good 3-2 record, featuring wins over Montana and FBS Georgia State. Liberty was facing a month of relatively easy games against the little brothers of the Big South before the two games that really mattered.
Then October 10 happened. There’s no need to dive deep into what happened against Gardner-Webb. They were an awful team, and a Senior laden Liberty team absolutely forgot to show up. It was the worst loss for the Flames in almost a decade, and we all knew it would be costly. LU had cost itself a shot at a national seed in the FCS playoffs. Then October 17 came. Another road game against an inferior opponent, another loss. At this point the team had flushed a season of promise down the toilet.
The 2015 Liberty Flames achieved three of the biggest wins in school history, and two of the worst losses. That’s how this team will be remembered. They were a team capable of so much. Standing on the sidelines of the Montana game was a special experience. That team believed in itself. That team KNEW it belonged in the national conversation. By the time November rolled around, that swagger was gone.
There were certainly flaws to be found. The mismatched offensive line rarely protected Josh Woodrum well, and created holes for their running backs even more rarely. The special teams were a consistent liability, and the young secondary was prone to give up the big play. Still, there was enough good for this team to have made a repeat run to the FCS playoffs, and beyond.
In that sense, the Coastal win to finish the season was both intoxicating and infuriating. That game should have been for so much more than pride and another winning record. Sure, it was an outstanding performance that leaves a good taste in everyone’s mouths. The performance allowed fans to remember how good Seniors like Josh Woodrum and Darrin Peterson really were. For all of the contentiousness that became of Josh’s season, he played a heck of a game on Thursday night. (Don’t be shocked if he is in an NFL uniform come August) It allowed an accomplished Senior class to send a bitter rival out of the Big South with a loss. It’s just so difficult to think of what could have been. 7-4 probably would have bought the Flames a ticket to the playoffs. 8-3 definitely would have.
Liberty fans will have to accept the final result though. They will have to watch the FCS playoffs knowing there are many teams still playing that Liberty could beat, including two they already had. The 2016 edition of the Flames will be inexperienced at some positions, but as talented as any that has called Williams Stadium home. Disappointment will give way to hope soon, and Flames Nation has much to look forward to.