Liberty hosts Robert Morris at 7pm as the Flames look to put a halt to their 2 game losing streak. Most of the time, this feature focuses on the opponent, but this week the focus is on the Flames. As a coach would say, “this week is about us.”
Talking about the quarterback change.
It has been the talk of the town for most of the season, and the discussion has intensified the past two weeks. The reigns of the offense have now been handed over to true freshman Buckshot Calvert who will be making his first career start against Robert Morris.
“Lack of production in our first 4 ball games, was probably the main situation there (and the main reason for making the change),” Gill said. “Stephon Masha had 4 opportunities, (I) just thought that we need to make a change to help us to be more productive on the offensive side of the ball. It’s about production,” Gill continued. “We’re in a production business, and based off what I have seen on the field, I think this is the right time to make a move.”
The timing comes at what could be considered perfect with the Flames playing a low FCS team in Robert Morris, then the bye week, before conference play gets started. “None of this was planned,” stated Gill. “It wasn’t designed that this was going to happen. You go game by game. You go 2 games, 3 games, and see where you’re at in every phase. Right now, I feel like this is the right time to do it based off the information and the production that I’ve seen so far. It just happens to be we’re going to have a bye week coming up here soon. Really, just trying to evaluate who is going to give us the best chance to win this week, that’s all. We’ll take next week how it goes, and go from there.”
Calvert got all the first team reps this week, he will get plenty of work in the game, then he has two full weeks of reps with the first team, including the bye week, before conference play begins.
Buckshot must learn to get rid of the ball at the right time.
Calvert was sacked 6 times last week, and he spoke after the game about needing to do a better job of finding his check down receivers. “(The sacks) were a self-inflected wound,” offensive coordinator Joe Dailey said. “All of those sacks weren’t due to the offensive line’s performance, it was due to him not getting rid of the football at the appropriate time at which he’s instructed to do. For the most part, all of those shots that he got, he could have gotten rid of the football, but he held on to it a tad bit long.”
That’s something that will come with time. The Flames won’t be going up against a defense the caliber of Jacksonville State every week. Give Buckshot a full week of reps with the first team, and also plenty of live action reps, and he will begin to develop a mental clock that lets him know when it’s time to get rid of the ball.
Did Masha lose the job because he was looking over his shoulder?
The coaching staff will never admit that Masha had a short leash, or that they were planning all along to turn to Buckshot midway through the season. Stephon was named the starter at the end of spring practice, before Buckshot ever arrived on campus. All training camp, Gill and Dailey reinforced that Masha was the guy and there was no quarterback controversy. That carried over into the season, and the coaches never admitted there was a quarterback competition until after the SMU game.
However, we were told this week by Joe Dailey that Masha and Calvert have been splitting reps with the first team since the season started. So, was Masha looking over his shoulder all season at this true freshman quarterback nipping at his heels? Perhaps, it led to him being more apprehensive on the field.
I asked wide receiver Dante Shells this week what Buckshot brought to the offense that had been missing the first 4 weeks. “His ability to just play out there and not really worry about making a mistake. The coaches aren’t too hard on him if he makes a mistake, he’s a young guy, he just got here. I feel like just him going out there and playing with a swag that if I make a mistake its fine, just move on and just keep going.”
We are who we thought we were.
Cue the Dennis Green rant.
Liberty is 1-3 after a difficult stretch of 4 games. It’s not surprising that the team is 1-3 as each game has been won by the favored team. Coach Gill was asked if his team was better than the 1-3 record indicated, and his response reminded me of the famous rant by Coach Dennis Green.
“I can’t sit here and try to make it less or more than it is,” Gill said. “Our record says what it is. We’re 1-3. I still believe we have a good football team. I told our team that, and I really believe we do have a good football team. We just haven’t made enough plays, probably more on the offensive side of the ball. There’s some things on defense, there’s some things on special teams. We’ve got a long season to go. One game is not going to define our team, it’s not going to define our season.”
The final score doesn’t matter as much as how well the team looks this week.
I won’t be paying too much attention to the final score this week. Does it really matter if it’s 50-0 or 45-14? All that matters this week is how the team looks in all phases of the game, but particularly on offense. The players have talked all season about how they are taking it 1 game at a time this season. The true test for that begins now.
“Every week is important,” Solomon McGinty said. “This week is important because it’s the only game for this week. You only got one game a Saturday. It’s all about being 1-0, focusing on your technique, get back to your basic stuff and just dominate. It’s all about coming day by day and focusing on your opponent. If they’re not good, like we found out about Jacksonville University later in the game, then so be it. But we just got to focus on our game, and just stay focused throughout the week because that’s all we’re guaranteed that Saturday.”
Robert Wimberly on the team’s mindset following consecutive losses – “We don’t have a lot of discord. Guys looking at each other, offense going against defense, defense going against offense, blaming special teams. That’s not going on. I’ve been a part of that, I’ve been around that, I know how that looks. That has not been the case because I think our young men know that we do have something special, but it is go time. It’s no more let’s see what happens, we have to respond.”
B.J. Farrow on new starting quarterback Calvert – “He can throw the ball any place you want. He can get it there. We just have to make plays and help him as a young guy.”
Dante Shells on the team’s disposition following the Jacksonville State game – “Coach Gill came in and said watch the tape, flush it and forget about it, kind of act like it never happened. The rest of our games, I feel like, are games that we can win. If we just come back strong and keep our confidence, we’ll be fine.”
Dante Shells on new starting quarterback Calvert – “You can kind of tell that he’s played a lot of football in his past. Not just school ball, but you can tell that he’s been doing a lot of 7 on 7. Just the way he, his reads and where he can go with the ball, it’s a little unexpected sometimes and that’s usually the open route. I know for me, like you said, I’ve been here for a while. I feel like I got a good feel of the offense and the defense as I’m playing. He (Calvert) makes good adjustments, as well, on the field. He came in as a freshman, but he plays a little more like he’s been here a little bit longer than he has. That’s what he brings, experience from his IQ level and field knowledge to the receiver room, that always helps us out.”
Liberty 44, Robert Morris 0