Liberty head football coach Hugh Freeze met with the media on Monday following his team’s win on Saturday against North Alabama to move to 3-0 on the 2020 season. The Flames are scheduled to host Louisiana-Monroe at Williams Stadium this Saturday at Noon in a game that will be televised on ESPNU.
Here’s everything Freeze had to say, beginning with his opening statement.
“Excited to be 3-0. I told our kids this morning, we had Sunday off because of the testing protocols we are under this week, so this morning was the first I had seen them. I told them the truths about the game. Defensively, we had 5 of 10 drives which were 3 & out which is really good. Held them to 2.2 yards rushing which is excellent, got 3 turnovers, which were big, but still gave up some explosive plays, had too many penalties. I thought they played solid.”
“Offensively, we had 6.5 yards a rush which is good. We’re very inconsistent. Bottom line I just don’t think we strained to win the game in the first half. The same blocking against the same front in the second half looked totally different. In my opinion, I told them I thought we did not pass the test of last Saturday. We got the win, which was good, but we didn’t pass the test. You don’t pass the test you have to retake it. We need to retake it this week and see improvement in the way we approach games.”
“We’ve got a difficult task coming with Monroe. They’re finding out who they are. They certainly had more issues than most, early in the season, with them trying to start the season early with hurricane issues, COVID issues. Now, they’re getting their team in stride and looked really impressive last week against Georgia Southern. We’ve got a tall task ahead of us, and it deserves our full attention. Hopefully I get that message across, that’s my job, I have to do that. I expect better attention to what we’re trying to get accomplished on getting better on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. You win games during the week, not just on Saturday. Hopefully our kids, I think they acknowledged the truths that I was speaking this morning and understood them. Hopefully we strain to win more this week.
IS IT EASIER TO TEACH KIDS WHEN YOU’RE 3-0 OR EASIER WHEN COMING OFF A LOSS?
“I don’t know which way is easier, but for me it’s always better to do it after winning. I think I can be harder on them, I think I can coach them harder and them receive it easier. As a coach, I’m always hesitant when you didn’t have success where is that line of being hard and not losing them to where they’re not confident. Ultimately, I hope our kids just start understanding that we have to win today. What does that look like? I, along with our coaching staff, have got to model what that looks like. Hopefully we continue to mature in that. Ultimately it is a little disappointing to me and I take it personally, it falls on me, that we have not improved a whole lot since game one thus far, in my opinion, on offense.”
“Defensively, I think we have. Obviously, Malik not being there maybe caused us some, I don’t know, we approached the game a little differently. I called it a little differently. Chris and JB both did some good things. They were inconsistent at times, but we’re going to need those guys. Malik, as much as he runs around, we’re one play from them being in the game.”
“To answer your question, I’ll take 3-0 and being hard on them and pointing out all the little flaws we have, the warts that we have, the deficiencies that we have, as opposed to being 0-3 and me having to worry about losing the kids if I coach them hard.”
IS THE PLAN TO PLAY MALIK THIS WEEK AND HOW DID HE LOOK THIS MORNING?
“Yeah, he’s ready to go. He could have played Saturday, it’s just a fact of if you have two weeks without him getting hit on it the swelling has more time to go down and it’s not near as sore. I don’t think, according to the doctors, that he’s in danger of structurally anything happening with that brace he has on it. So, it’s just a matter of us getting it to where it’s not as sore as it could be, and we thought the best way was to make sure he didn’t get hit on it for two straight weeks.”
WILL HE PLAY IN THE BRACE?
IN THE OPENER YOU STARTED REALLY FAST, HOW CRUCIAL IS IT TO GET BACK TO THOSE FAST STARTS?
“Fast starts are always good. I think we had one against FIU, too. We took the ball right back after they had the kickoff and scored points on the first few possessions. I think we were efficient there, too, early on. Saturday we certainly were not. We didn’t have the same sense of urgency. I’ve got to make sure I get that message across to our kids, that that’s the way we like to start games. I think we’ve, in my tenure here, done really well on opening drives, and we take a lot of pride in that. But Saturday was certainly not the case.”
WHAT HAVE YOU SEEN DIFFERENT IN MACK’S GAME SINCE LAST YEAR?
“I think his game is still very similar to last year. I think his maturity level, his approach to practice, has definitely changed. He and I, we have a good relationship, we speak pretty candidly to each other. I thought his body language last year stunk. I’m just really proud of how he’s approaching the practices. The only thing now that he’s struggling with is Monday mornings. He’s a Sunday afternoon practice guy, a Monday morning off guy. He doesn’t like the schedule, so I have to get on him every Monday morning thus far. I’m really proud of him. He’s had three straight 100 yard games. Obviously, it’s not just him, it’s our tight ends and our o-line, that are creating a lot of running lanes for him, but he’s somebody that we think’s going to be consistently getting those type games because of his talent. I’m proud of his approach. I think we’re 6th or something, top 10, in the nation in rushing offense, and he’s a big part of that.”
WHAT DOES GETTING VOTES IN THE TOP 25 DO FOR YOUR PROGRAM?
“Certainly, we love the fact that we’re going to be on national TV again this Saturday. I think those are great opportunities, and all that does is give you exposure. Now, you need to play well when you get those opportunities. Hopefully we will. I don’t know that last year that if ESPN had a slot opening that we would have been chosen for that slot. I think we’re taking strides in the right direction. As far as the top 25, that’s certainly something that people will look at and give you some recognition. It can be short lived, I know that, so I think of it as fake news kinda right now or rat poison, that’s what I told our kids this morning, if it’s not handled the right way. There’s no doubt that’s a positive. I love doing things that you’re first at, if that truly is the first that we’ve gotten votes for Top 25, that’s an accomplishment. One that hopefully we can capitalize on and make us hungry to stay in those discussions. Our schedule is getting ready to get very difficult. Not that it hasn’t been difficult. I work for a great administration but I tell them all the time their scheduling, if coach’s scheduled we would do things differently a little bit. Our schedule’s getting ready to get very difficult. We will find out if we deserve to be in those discussions for real.”
ULM PRESENTS A POTENT PASSING ATTACK, DOES THAT CONCERN YOU?
“It concerns me very, very much. This is our first real test of our secondary, I think. This guy is top 5 in the nation, right now, in passing yards. Their receivers are as good as any we’ve faced. The tight end is the best we’ve faced, that kid is the real deal both blocking and receiving, Peterson is his name. The quarterback, he distributed the ball all over the field last week. It will be a great challenge for our secondary which we have been shorthanded there a little bit. Hopefully we will get, there’s talk we may get Tim Kidd-Glass back this week, that will help, for sure.”
THEIR RUSH D ISN’T THEIR STRONG SUIT, WOULD YOU LIKE TO CONTROL THE BALL?
“I think for our team that’s advantageous. Going up as an OC and early years of head coaching, I wanted to go fast and get our 85 (plays) and our 600 yards of offense a game. The more I’ve gotten older and I hope a bit wiser and learn from where I didn’t get it right, I think you have to look at your team as a whole. We certainly are better defensively when we have to play 60 plays a game, I think, than if we have to play 80. That will always be on my mind with this current team we have.”
HOW ARE THE INJURIES WITH HUNTLEY, STONE, FRITH?
“Noah is probably another week away, two weeks away, I would think. Johnny I expect to play. He was moving around pretty good this morning. Ced is in concussion protocol, so that will be a day to day deal.”
ELIJAH JAMES, AAKIL WASHINGTON, RASHAD WHITEHEAD WERE OUT LAST WEEK, WILL THEY BE AVAILABLE?
“We lost TreShaun early in the game too, so (the DL depth) was a little test. We threw Stephen Sings out there and he didn’t always know where to line up but man he played hard. He’s going to be a great player for us, had a heck of a game. Jayod had to play a lot more snaps than what’s normal because of that.”
“We expect Aakil to return to us tomorrow for practice and Rashad, and obviously TreShaun has served his penalty from the 2nd half of last week. Elijah should be ready, he could have played last week too, we just chose not to play him.”
HOW DID YOU COME TO KNOW ERIC CHURCH?
“I’ve always loved his music but he was a GameDay picker the 2nd year we beat Alabama. He came in the locker room after it was over and we just hit it off, had been close ever since. Got to vacation with he and Katherine and our families a couple times. He’s my kind of guy and he sings Talladega which was a great race yesterday if ya’ll didn’t catch it.”
DID HE PICK YOU TO WIN THAT GAME?
“He did not, but he did come in and sing with us in the locker room after it was over. I don’t blame him. I’m good with not being picked in games like that.”
YOU MENTION THE SCHEDULE GETTING DIFFICULT, HOW FOCUSED DO YOU WANT TO GET THESE GUYS TO MAKE SURE THEY UNDERSTAND THE UPCOMING CHALLENGE?
“Going to do our best. I only look at ULM. I do, if you go in our team room, I do divide our season, ya’ll know this from last year, into different seasons. This is season one, for us. This is a 6 game season. We’ve got 3 games left in it. My goal is to focus solely on this one and hopefully they follow suit to give our best effort on Saturday and see where we are after Saturday. We do segment it into 6 games for season one.”
HOW’S BENJAMIN ALEXANDER?
“I think he will be fine. He’s just got an ankle. He practice this morning, was a little gimpy, but I think he will be fine.”
“I know this is Hall of Fame weekend for Liberty. Congratulations to those inductees that are going to be recognized at Saturday’s game it’s a great accomplishment.”