Liberty head football coach Hugh Freeze met with the media on Monday following his team’s win over Western Carolina on Saturday. The Flames are now No. 21 in the AP Top 25 poll and remained at No. 22 in the Coaches Poll on the heels of the program’s first ever 8-0 start to a season. This Saturday, the Flames travel to Raleigh, North Carolina to face teh NC State Wolfpack with kickoff scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on ACC Regional Networks. Here’s everything Freeze had to say in this week’s press conference, beginning with his opening statement.
“It’s great to be 8-0. I thought our kids prepared well. It’s not the easiest week to prepare for coming off an extremely emotional win at Virginia Tech and playing a school in Western Carolina that had not played a game. That’s different for the kids when you can’t put on the film or show them something. It’s just a very different week of preparation, but I thought our kids did well in preparing and obviously executing well enough on Saturday to get the win. As many criticisms as I will have about the game itself in meetings with players or with coaches, we never cease to celebrate victories. They are hard to come by in the college football game.”
“We are very grateful and thankful to be another week in the top 25. I showed them the picture again this morning they had to look up one spot on the picture. I told them they should delete the other two and replace it with this one and save it for their future, put it on a wall somewhere. That’s real this week and in order for it to stay real we certainly have to find a way to compete Saturday night with our toughest opponent year to date.”
“I don’t know if COVID affected NC State early or not, but it’s hard for me to see how they’ve lost three games when I put their tape on. They are extremely talented and deep. Their linebackers and D-Line are extremely talented. Offensively, they know exactly what they’re doing. Dave is a great coach, we’ve known each other for a lot of years. We’ve played a lot of golf together and he’s very good. We have competed against each other in the Chick-Fil-A in the final group I think three straight times. We’ve known each other for a while and I have great respect for what he does with his coaches. Their roster is stacked with 3 and 4 star kids. We’ve got our hands full with this one for sure.”
YOU’VE BEEN RANKED 3 STRAIGHT WEEKS, CAN THAT CONTINUE AND HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO YOUR PROGRAM?
“As young as we are, to be in that heady stuff, in order to remain there in people’s minds there’s only one option and that’s to win. Can you do that every single time in this game with the schedule we face and where we are right now? It’s hard and probably not, but who knows when that will end because we certainly are confident and we certainly believe that we’ve found a way to be perfect, 8-0, thus far together even with all of our imperfections. Can we do that again Saturday night? I don’t know. We’re going to enjoy the reality that we are in that heady stuff right now, but we also understand that stuff like that can come and go pretty quickly in this college football game, if you’re not one of the blue bloods. If you’re one of the blue bloods you get to lose one or two and hang in there.”
ANOTHER WEEK AND YOUR NAME IS STILL GETTING BROUGHT UP FOR A COACHING REPLACEMENT ALONGSIDE JAMEY CHADWELL AND BILLY NAPIER. IS THIS GOING TO BE COMMON?
“If you keep asking the question it is, I don’t know. Jamey and Billy are great coaches, they deserve all the stuff they get. Look, ya’ll can ask, I don’t know if it will keep coming up. It’s a compliment to our kids and our administration and our program. You can keep asking, but my total focus is on our kids and Liberty University and building this program. That’s the answer you’re going to get if you ask this week, next week, or the following week. I don’t know how else I can address it. I’ve addressed it ten times and said that it would take something very, very special for me to even consider it and I don’t know that even that would do it, me considering it. My focus is here. I’m at peace and love what we’re doing. You will probably have to deal with those rumors, I guess, as long as we’re winning. If we lose one or two, everybody will probably quit talking about it.”
WHAT PLEASED YOU THE MOST ABOUT SATURDAY’S WIN?
“Probably the one thing that pleased me the most is getting every single kid that we had dressed out in the game, believe it or not. That means something to those parents, those kids. They work so hard. Many of them are walk-ons, they are on scout team all the time, and very seldom get to see themselves on the game field. Obviously love those moments and being on the headsets and saying who hadn’t been in, let’s get them in. I like that feeling. I was really pleased with that.”
“There were some good individual efforts. I thought our young D-Line played better than our first D-Line in the last of the fourth quarter when we put in (Karsen) Perkins, Kendy (Charles), (Rashad) Whitehead, I thought they played really, really well, which excites me for the future, also. Kevin Shaa had maybe his best game, made some phenomenal catches. There was some good things.”
“I told our kids this morning, we’re in the stretch run now. I’ve coached 28 years or so now, and I’ve seen teams in the stretch run go a lot of different directions. It’s the time where your mind is your enemy at times, you’re tired, the same routine gets old, the teams that fare well in the stretch run typically are the teams that remain obedient to the process and that means the little things. I spent a lot of time this morning going through what that looks like with what our theme is this week and what does us remaining obedient with mental toughness really look like in this stretch run. I think we need to improve, we got a little sloppy offensively. In our run game, we didn’t strain very hard to win blocks, we didn’t strain very hard to get the extra yard, I didn’t think. I thought our receivers played well, except for the holding penalties, they were frustrating. We definitely have to get back to making sure we are doing the little things right, straining.”
WHAT’S YOUR INITIAL IMPRESSIONS OF NC STATE?
“Like I said earlier, I think this is our toughest challenge thus far to date. Their defensive front is bigger, faster, stronger than we’ve faced this year. They are very well coached and just difficult to block. Their nose guard is the best player we’ve faced this year, defensively. They pose a problem. Offensively, I think Hockman is executing for them in their RPO stuff, they’ve got really good receivers, that 86 is a different animal now, he’s built different as is 6 and 88. Those offensive tackles are really talented also. It is an ACC opponent that is full of 3 and 4 star players. It shows when they put the uniform on, that’s what they’re supposed to look like. It’s a great, great challenge of us just matching their physicality and their size and speed for a 60 minute game is going to be a challenge.”
HOW ARE THINGS ON THE INJURY FRONT?
“(Anthony Butler) was hobbling because he got hurt in a celebration. It wasn’t because of football, he was celebrating after we..but he will be fine. He went through everything this morning and did fine. Lofton’s got a chance to be ready, we will know more tomorrow. He looked good this morning running around, we will test him some in practice tomorrow. He’s got a chance to go. Bollinger and Monday are back, Mason is doubtful.”
YOU’VE PLAYED 2 ACC TEAMS, HOW MUCH CONFIDENCE IS YOUR TEAM FROM BEING 2-0 AGAINST ACC THIS YEAR?
“Experience is a great teacher. From that, you’re either going to gain wisdom to do something different or confidence to do what you did again. The one thing I do not concern myself with or really worry will be our confidence going into Saturday. I think we breed confidence into our players. I think their experiences that they’ve had with us thus far give them reason to believe that we will go in and compete. I worry about that nose guard and I worry about that RPO and I worry about all that, but I don’t really worry about our confidence because of obviously the experiences we’ve shared together thus far.”
HOW IMPORTANT IS IT FOR YOU TO HAVE CONFIDENCE IN ALEX BARBIR?
“Huge. I think him coming into having more confidence that we believe in him to make critical field goals will pay dividends for him because points are going to be critical to get them in this game. We have to take them and he plays a huge role in that. Really nice to see him start having some confidence.”
COULD YOU TALK ABOUT CARL POOLE’S JOURNEY?
“You have great joy to see, number one he’s a great kid and has a great family. The sacrifice they made to send their kids to Liberty because they believe in our vision and mission was huge in the sacrifice from them. He earned the scholarship. He’s our backup mike linebacker now and arguably played the best game of anyone on defense with the two turnovers and I think six tackles. It’s been really, really fun to watch not only his development but us being able to reward not only him but his family because of what he’s put into it. It’s good to see him start having some success. We will have more confidence to put him in now also after seeing the way he performed Saturday.”
HOW DIFFERENT WILL IT BE THIS WEEK PLAYING AT NIGHT?
“I have no idea if they are pumped or not. Everybody who knows me knows I like early kicks, but I’ve had a lot of night kicks too. I have no idea if it will phase us differently, but we won’t give it any power this week, I assure you. It’s another game, it’s a different kick time, that’s another opportunity. It’s about our process, it’s about our preparation and how we go about the hotel, how we go about meals, how we go about everything, it’s the same. The only thing that is different is the kick and it’s under the lights. Will that affect us? I sure hope not. We won’t talk about it as if it will, it shouldn’t. But it is different, as a coach, we should have a few of those experiences. We practiced at night a few times but it was back in August, now we’re in November. We’re not the first team to have to change game times. Let’s go kick it off whenever they tell us. It’s close to my bed time though. I’ve got to figure that one out. I like to go to bed at 8 or 8:30.”
ARE YOU THE TYPE OF PERSON THAT WOULD LIKE HAVING A STATUE BUILT OF YOU OUTSIDE OF WILLIAMS STADIUM IN 25 YEARS OR DO YOU ENVISION YOURSELF TRYING TO PURSUE THE HIGHEST LEVEL AGAIN?
“The last thing I want is a statue. I’m not deserving of anything remotely close to that. I want to do the best job I can where my feet are planted that is loving and building this place that I’m at right now. I’m very blessed to be here. I wake up in the morning and one of the things I say is God, what do you have for me today? How do I be faithful and obedient to that? All that I have peace about right now is sitting right in front of me here on this mountain. I’m thankful for it. They are more than gracious to me and my family. That goes a long way with me.”
DOES LIBERTY FIT YOUR MINDSET, YOUR LIFESTYLE, SO MUCH SO THAT ALL THOSE PEOPLE WILL NOT BE HEARD?
TIM KIDD-GLASS IS PREPARING TO FACE HIS FORMER TEAM, HAVE YOU HAD ANY CONVERSATIONS WITH HIM ABOUT THAT?
“We haven’t discussed that yet. I will probably make my rounds at practice tomorrow. That will probably be something I talk to him about just to make sure his mindset is right and it’s all about us and not where you used to play, or who you know or who you don’t know or whatever could go on in that situation. That really has nothing to do with the outcome of this game. He’s getting better. He’s still rusty, still doesn’t move quite as well as he probably can, but it’s good to have him. He’s added additional depth there and we certainly need him.”
WHERE DO YOU SEE THE OPPORTUNITIES TO ATTACK NC STATE?
“I don’t know, the 33 points (they allow per game) is shocking to me when you turn the tape on. I don’t know if they have COVID earlier and didn’t have all their guys. I can’t keep up with who has COVID and who doesn’t, what’s contract tracing, I can’t keep up with all that, I leave that up to our administration and I’m certain each school does what they do. I don’t know how they’re giving that up. I know against Florida State they didn’t give up that. They look at pretty full strength. I would say our plan of attack is if they would let us have 15 guys on the field on offense, I could probably come up with something that we might could take advantage of them with. Other than that, I’ve got nothing. I don’t know. It will be hard.”
I’M SURE YOU’VE HEARD JERRY SR’S VISION FOR ATHLETICS, HE SPOKE ABOUT BEING ON THE FIELD WITH NOTRE DAME. IS THERE ANY PART OF YOU THAT CONSIDERS THAT IN WHAT YOU’VE DONE AND ARE YOU COGNIZANT THAT HAS BEEN THE GOAL?
“Yeah. I love walking in this vision that he cast in 1971. You just feel kind of very blessed and favored. My daughter takes care of keeping me updated on the social media world. She uses my account sometimes to keep up with things when I don’t really feel like I need to get on it. She showed me something, I guess it was Saturday, where it had a picture of three 8-0 teams and it was BYU, Notre Dame, and Liberty. Man, I just thought to myself, boy, I bet Jerry Sr is smiling. Obviously, there are many people that have followed in his steps that has joined. You know really, it’s funny that we’re talking about this week the obedience of Noah for 43,800 days for a vision that he believed would come true when many, many others, I thought, while he was building a boat in a desert, they probably thought come on man. As my players said this morning, they said, he would say, he’s trippin’. There’s probably been many people that probably felt the same way about Jerry Sr’s vision. Thankfully there have been some people, Jerry Jr and many others, that believed in it, and the administration here. Are we ready to line up and beat Notre Dame? Probably not, but I’d like to try. Maybe we can play them in a bowl game or something, that would be awesome. It’s pretty neat for sure, to get this program closer to what Jerry Sr.’s original vision was.”