Liberty head football coach Hugh Freeze met with the media on Monday following his team’s win on Saturday at Syracuse for the program’s first ever win over an ACC program. The Flames are scheduled to host Southern Miss at Williams Stadium this Saturday at 1 p.m. in a game that will be televised on ESPN3.
Here’s everything Freeze had to say in this week’s press conference, beginning with his opening statement.
“I like doing things that are first. I like for our team to enjoy those moments and celebrate them. A win on the road against an ACC opponent for the first time in program history is big. It’s something they will have in their memory bank for a long, long time, will be able to tell future kids and their families about those moments. I love those locker rooms after wins like that, they’re a lot of fun. You get to celebrate with a group of people with all of our different background, all of our differences, failures, struggles, wins, victories, you get to celebrate on that day a victory together. That’s a good feeling. To look at those coaches, your staff, and those kids and know you got it done on a day that it meant a lot for our program.”
“There’s a lot of good truths about the game. Defensively, I thought we were excellent on 3rd down, got a takeaway. We were excellent after a sudden change that put their backs against the wall, so to speak. Probably the only negative defensively is gave up too many explosive plays, but that happens when you are playing teams that have excellent athletes like Syracuse has particularly at receiver.”
“Offensively, we controlled the clock and ran the football very, very well. We were efficient in the passing game 16 of 20. I didn’t feel like we had to throw it a lot, but we did it enough certainly and were efficient at it. There were some good things, 4th quarter controlling the clock with 12 minutes plus in time of possession to not give them a chance to come back.”
“Really, really proud of our kids, our staff, our school, but after this press conference it is officially all in the trash. This world is made of what have you done for me lately. Hopefully our kids understand that as they have a very difficult task with Southern Miss coming in here.”
HOW DO YOU BALANCE THE CONFIDENCE THAT COMES WITH A WIN LIKE THAT?
“I don’t know that there’s a such a thing as too much confidence as long as your preparation doesn’t change. I think confidence is good, and our kids should gain some confidence from that win. If it starts to change your preparation, then it’s gone beyond confidence to some false sense of something that will get your tail beat in a hurry. I’ve already shared that with them in our team meeting yesterday. I hope we are a confident football team, but the prep has to be the same regardless of if you are confident or not confident in next week’s challenge you better prepare the same.”
IS THERE A CAMARADERIE BENEFIT TO HAVING A WIN LIKE THAT ON THE ROAD?
“I love playing at home, always have, but when you are able to go on the road and get what is perceived as an upset win, those are very uniting moments. I think they are special moments. Think back through the years, I think back to some of those on the road wins, whether it was Austin, Texas or Tuscaloosa, Alabama or LSU, A&M, you think about some of those moments when you are on the road and kind of feel like it is us against a bunch of them, those are definitely I think some uniting moments that I think can draw us together.”
COACHING AGAINST YOUR ALMA MATER, WHAT TYPE OF FEELINGS DO YOU HAVE ESPECIALLY WITH THE JOB OPENING?
“I assure you I will have zero problems with my mindset. I want to beat Southern Miss. I have great respect for them, but I want our kids to finish this first season with another win and be 6-0 going into the offseason getting ready for season two. I know how difficult it will be. I can’t get out of my mind when Jeff Bower was there, that’s kind of the time frame when I was in school there, their motto was anyone, anytime, any place, and they meant it. It didn’t matter who it was. Brett Favre was there obviously, and that’s where I first met him and we’ve become friends. I’m sure he will send me a text this week, he likes to talk trash”….(Video feed freezes)
“He’s a good ol’ Mississippi boy like myself, but it’s all in fun. He’s a dear friend. He’s good at it, he’s one of the best trash talkers to ever be around.”
DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOUR LONGEST WINNING STREAK IS AS A HEAD COACH?
“I do not. I think in high school I probably had much more that were longer than (8), I don’t know about college.”
WHAT WAS YOUR POSTGAME CELEBRATORY MEAL SATURDAY?
“Somebody asked me if I was going to get Mexican when I got home. I need to be clear. I have the choice, I have the rotation of Mexican chicken fajitas or my wife’s vegetable soup and cornbread. As soon as the victory was over and I was able to get to my phone, I had that option there. I chose the vegetable soup and cornbread.”
WHERE HAVE YOU SEEN THE BIGGEST GROWTH WITH YOUR TEAM AFTER THIS 5-0 START?
“I would say probably the confidence of the defense. That can go like this when you are playing all these offenses of today because it’s very difficult to stop offenses today and everything they do. Southern Miss is going to be an incredible challenge for us, probably one of the bigger ones we’ve had all year because of the way they distribute the football and their tempo, RPO offense. Jack Abraham, who I know extremely well, worked him out many times at our camps. He is a very accurate passer and great competitor, great leader, and he’s got really good receivers to throw to. It’s going to, our confidence will be tested, but I think that would probably be the growth, just our defense getting more confident.”
SOUTHERN MISS HAS HAD SOME COVID ISSUES, WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT THEIR SITUATION?
“That would be Ian, that is in his wheelhouse, he stays in contact with them. He keeps me updated, but I think everything looked very favorable and positive this weekend for them as far as moving forward with the game is what I’ve been told. All of us, not just Southern Miss, it’s everywhere. All of us have the same concerns weekly. I will have them this week also. We took our test yesterday after getting back. We will get those results back today and we will keep our fingers crossed and prayerful that we continue to get good results as I’m sure Southern Miss is also.”
THE SOUTHERN MISS SECONDARY SEEMS TO BE PRETTY GOOD WHAT DO YOU SEE?
“I see a bunch of good athletes and that’s always unsettling to go into a game not knowing how you measure up with them athletically because films are hard to tell sometimes. We’ve been beat up at our receiver position, hopefully we can get healthy this week. It sure would be nice to play a game at full strength at that position. They are so athletic on defense and on offense. They are an athletic football team. It’s not surprising that they get some takeaways because they are so athletic.”
HOW ARE SOME OF THE GUYS LOOKING THAT HAVE MISSED TIME?
“It’s a little too early for me to tell because yesterday we had our Sunday, today’s our day off. Yesterday I think the doctors feel good about Josh Mack and figuring out where his sickness was coming from. He’s got a little infection that they’re treating now. I think he should be fine. Noah, if you ask Noah, he’s going to say he’s going to play this week. I haven’t seen him practice yet so I don’t know, but he says he’s ready to go. CJ Yarbrough, I think will be one more week will have a chance to play. Tim Kidd-Glass, don’t know, he did practice last Tuesday and Wednesday, but just wasn’t quite ready, I didn’t think, too go. We will see how he is this week. Jaivian (Lofton), probably doubtful would be my guess on that one. I think we might get Trevor Hobbs back which would be nice also. I think that’s everybody.”
THE OFFENSIVE LINE HAS DOMINATED, WHAT CAN YOU SAY ABOUT THEM?
“They did a nice job recruiting before I got here at that position. Offensive line is so much about chemistry and toughness. I think that group, whatever we may lack in athletic ability there they make up for it in toughness and their mindset of their role on this team. I think Coach Gregg does a really good job with reminding them of that and taking pride of we should be the strength of this team. It’s a mixture of all of that. Obviously, good recruiting from the staff prior to us and also I think Coach Gregg has done a nice job developing them, not only as players, but their mindset, their approach to their role on our team.”
IS IT CHALLENGING TO PREPARE THIS WEEK WITH THE UNCERTAINTY WITH SOUTHERN MISS’ COVID SITUATION?
“We focus on playing, period. We’ve got a game with Southern Miss on Saturday, we don’t even entertain the possibility that it could be canceled. Do we know that’s possible? Sure, but we don’t focus on that at all. We’re getting ready to play Southern Miss on Saturday.”
ALEX BARBIR HAS HAD 2 STRAIGHT GOOD PERFORMANCES, DO YOU THINK HE NEEDED TO GET THE COBWEBS OUT THE FIRST FEW WEEKS?
“I think so. He has been really outstanding in practice. I’m not sure why it didn’t translate into early games. It was almost like during those games when he would miss one, then he came back and was really free and was good. I think he’s just starting to free up and be confident and swing his leg because he’s got a good leg, he gets good height on the ball. I think he can be a solid kicker. He’s placing his kickoffs a lot better now, whether we want to go left, right, middle, he’s been really consistent with that. I might also say Aidan Alves did an incredible job of placing his punts the other day at Syracuse. That doesn’t go on the stat sheet anywhere, but that returner is extremely dangerous, #4. He pinned him to the sideline every single punt. I thought both of those kids had very good days.”
HOW WOULD YOU RATE ALEX’S TACKLING?
“He’s a little more aggressive in tackling than most kickers, I would say. I actually thought the penalty was a tough one. I see why they called it, but I’m not sure what I need to tell Alex to do at that moment. I mean the guy is running straight down the sideline and you’re not sure if he’s going to go out or not. That’s a tough one. He goes out a yard before Alex is getting ready to tackle him. I understand the call, but also not sure what to tell your kid there. He’s a pretty good tackler there.”
HOW MUCH DOES THIS 5-0 START HELP RECRUITING?
“I don’t know any other substitution for building a program faster than winning. If you win, people will come. I’ve seen that every stop I’ve been at. Every program I’ve taken over, for whatever reason, was either down a bit, haven’t won a lot of games the previous years, or in this case is making a step up. There’s no other ingredient that allows you to build a program faster than winning. Us winning last year and going to a bowl game helped us tremendously in the recruiting class last year. As I anticipate, if we can finish this season going to a bowl game winning some games, I think it expedites your expectations a lot faster when you’re winning.”
HOW ABOUT SHEDRO’S ABILITY TO ACCELERATE AT THE 2ND LEVEL?
“You can’t coach those. I’m so happy for him. I love that kid. He was one of my favorite kids to recruit when we got here in a short amount of time. Believe it or not, he struggles a little bit with confidence. I’ve seen him now, just recently, I think he’s a much more confident football player, hopefully that translates in his life also because he’s really a good kid. I love coaching him. I’d like to give Coach Johnson some credit for teaching Shedro some second level moves, but those aren’t really taught.”
ARE YOU SURPRISED WITH HOW CLOSE THIS TEAM HAS GOTTEN?
“I think that’s a credit to our approach. I really don’t know that we’ve been the most talented football team on the field several times this year, but I’ve often believed that if we can create a culture that has better chemistry than the opponent, then you have a legitimate chance to win games. I think it’s our approach, and it’s everybody, it’s not just me. I guess I set the tone, but the assistant coaches, I don’t hire them if they can’t be bought into building the chemistry type culture I want even if we all have differences which we do. It’s our coaches, our off field personnel, it’s everybody. We have the same message weekly. We put self aside and we look at what’s best for the team. I do think you have to have that echoed in the locker room, or it’s pretty much futile for me to just say it all the time. When you have a staff that has chemistry and the kids see that, and you have leaders in the locker room that echo it and will call others out on it, then I think you have the makings of a special unit.”