No. 23 Liberty Flames (9-1) will conclude the 2020 season on Saturday in the Cure Bowl against No. 12 Coastal Carolina (11-0) from Orlando, Florida’s Camping World Stadium. The game will be televised on ESPN with kickoff scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

This is a rematch of a game that was originally scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 5 in Conway, South Carolina. As we all know by now, that game was canceled due to rising COVID cases with the Liberty football team. The canceled game was expected to be rescheduled around the year 2030, but ESPN and 2020 had other ideas as the former Big South rivals will get reacquainted with one another with a national audience.

Liberty and Coastal will be meeting for the 15th time on the gridiron with the series knotted at 7 games a piece. The Flames and Chanticleers haven’t played one another since November 17, 2016 when Coastal bested Liberty, 42-7, in Conway. It was the final game before CCU would make the move to the FBS ranks. Of course, Liberty wasn’t far behind as the Flames made an announcement just a few months later that the program would also be making the move to the FBS.

This year has been the best in school history for both teams, with both receiving national recognition and ranked for the better part of the year in both major top 25 polls. The Flames did so with wins over Virginia Tech and Syracuse, the first in the school’s history over ACC opponents. Liberty is just a blocked field goal at NC State away from being undefeated and ranked firmly inside the top 20. Perhaps this bowl matchup would be played on a bigger stage than the Cure Bowl if Alex Barbir’s kick lifts through the uprights that Saturday evening in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Coastal Carolina began the season with a 38-23 win over the Kansas Jayhawks who would finish the season winless in the Big 12. The Chanticleers used that morale boost to run off 11 straight wins in the regular season to claim a share of the Sun Belt Conference Championship with Louisiana. Those two teams were scheduled to meet last week in the Sun Belt Championship Game before the game was canceled due to COVID issues with the Chanticleers. Coastal defeated the top 25 Ragin’ Cajuns in Louisiana on Oct. 14, 30-27, in the team’s regular season tilt. That was one of three wins over ESPN FPI top 40 teams for Coastal so far this season, as they also own wins over Appalachian State, 34-23, and BYU, 22-17.

“Anytime you run the table with whatever schedule you have in FBS you are a very good football team,” said Liberty head coach Hugh Freeze. “From watching them on tape, there is no question, they do an outstanding job. They are well coached. They play extremely hard. They’ve got a trigger man that is very very good. Defensively they are very stingy. They beat teams like BYU and Louisiana, that’s two really good football teams.”

Quarterback Grayson McCall leads a Chanticleer offense that is averaging 37.5 points per game and 446.8 yards of offense so far this season. McCall, who has played in and started 10 games, has completed 151 of 218 passes for 2,170 yards, 23 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions to go along with his 473 yards and 6 touchdowns on the ground.

McCall has six targets with double digit receptions led by 6’2″, 190 Jaivon Heiligh who has 52 receptions for 820 yards and 10 touchdowns. Running back CJ Marable is second on the team with 30 receptions and 7 touchdowns to go along with 220 receiving yards. He also leads the team with 844 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground. 6’4″, 245 tight end Isaiah Likely has 25 receptions for 517 yards and 4 touchdowns.

The Chanticleers don’t lack on defense, as they are holding opponents to 18.7 points and 340.7 yards per game this season. Coastal owns a shutout at Georgia State and held South Alabama to just 6 points while three other opponents failed to reach 20 points scored in the game.

Redshirt-senior defensive end Tarron Jackson leads the Coastal defense despite seeing double-teams on over 60% of the snaps he has played this year. He has 13.5 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks to go along with his 18 quarterback hurries this season, all of which lead the team.

Defensive end Jeffrey Gunter adds 50 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, and 12 quarterback hurries as he and Jackson lead a talented defensive line, anchored by those two ends. Defensive lineman CJ Brewer has joined Jackson and Guner for the on going party in the opponent’s backfield this season. He has 9 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks. Junior corner D’Jordan Strong anchors the secondary with 5 interceptions, tied for the most in the country this season.


  • Liberty is the third team ever to receive a bowl invitation during its first two full seasons at the FBS level. With a win Saturday, the Flames will join Appalachian State as the only teams to ever win its first two bowl games during its first two full seasons at the FBS level. In addition to Liberty and Appalachian State, Marshall also made a bowl game during its first two full seasons at the FBS level.
  • The Flames are looking to become the first two-time Cure Bowl champion.
  • Liberty is looking for its first ever victory over an FBS top 25 opponent.
  • With a win, Liberty will tie the Flames’ single season record of 10 wins, set in 2008.
  • Malik Willis is the only FBS player to rank among the nation’s top 20 for both passing TDs and rushing TDs. Willis leads FBS quarterbacks with a team high 807 rushing yards.
  • Liberty ranks No. 8 nationally with 252.1 rushing yards per game. The Flames are 13-0 under Hugh Freeze when outrushing their opponent, including 8-0 this season.
  • Liberty is 5-1 all-time against Sun Belt opponents.
  • Coastal Carolina currently has the longest overall winning streak among FBS teams at 12.
  • The Flames are 2-9 all-time when playing in Florida.
  • Liberty, Nevada (Famous Idaho Potato Bowl), and Texas (Alamo Bowl) are the only three FBS teams to play in the same bowl game from 2019 to 2020. Liberty and Texas are looking to become the first teams to win the same bowl in back to back years since Appalachian State in the 2018 & 2019 New Orleans Bowl.
  • The Flames are 1-6 all-time when playing at Camping World Stadium with all of those contests coming against UCF between 1987-2002.


Hugh Freeze – “We’ve beat some good football teams also and been right there in the one we lost and had a chance to win. I think it’s a great matchup. Certainly, we’ve had a lot of time off, that’s a concern, but they will have some time off too before that. We’ve got to get ready to go play and take care of the football and execute. I think it’s a great matchup. I think it’s one of the more intriguing matchups in the bowl season. I think it will be well received, and hopefully we will put a great product out there and represent Liberty.”

Hugh Freeze – “For us to get to represent Liberty on a national stage on ESPN on the 26th against the top 25 opponent, look where we are in our program in year two. That speaks to it and it speaks to recruits. That’s what we want to be about every single year, playing these type of games. We embrace it and we’re excited about it. I know a lot of people may not be real excited about going into a bowl game, but our staff and our kids are.”

Hugh Freeze – “You’re playing an undefeated team that’s ranked in the top in the nation. We’re thrilled to be ranked in the top 25, but it solidifies what has been the best year in Liberty football, solidifies our top 25 ranking, gives us a lot of momentum heading into 2021.”

Malik Willis on the matchup with Coastal after the first game got canceled – “God put us in this position. Nobody could have written this any better.”

CJ Yarbrough on playing the Chanticleers – “We’re getting another chance to play them, in the postseason. We’re going to take the opportunity and make the best of it, that’s the mindset in the locker room. Everyone is ready.”

Javon Scruggs on Saturday’s game – “I’m very excited. We can’t wait to go out there and get our little revenge tour, play them in Orlando in a bowl game. This is a wonderful opportunity that we have been handed.”


Liberty 31, Coastal Carolina 28

This will be the first time this season we have seen Liberty against a good Group of Five program. The Flames’ have played six games against G5 teams so far this year, but they have come against some of the worst in the country. Of course, Liberty has been tested with three Power Five games this year, so the Flames are battle tested. The biggest question is how good is Coastal compared to Virginia Tech and NC State? With Hugh Freeze and Malik Willis, give me Liberty.