The Liberty Flames moved to 3-0 on Saturday with a win over Old Dominion, 45-17, on Saturday night. The Flames play Syracuse this week with kickoff from the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, New York scheduled for 8 p.m. on ACCN. Liberty head coach Hugh Freeze met with the media for his weekly press conference on Monday and here is everything he had to say beginning with his opening statement.
“We are excited to be 3-0, obviously,” he said. “Us defending our home games is important to us here. With an in-state school coming in, it was important for us to play well and to get that win. Loved the energy in the stadium, hopefully we can continue to build that, make it even more exciting for our home games. I thought we played really good on defense. Outside of one play, I thought we played really outstanding on defense. Offensively was solid, not our best, but solid. Special teams cost us 10 points. The game should have been more in hand at halftime had our special teams played a little better. That penalty and the fumble really hurt us. Third straight game that our offense hasn’t turned it over, which is important to us. Defense got a takeaway. Really thought the third quarter our defense was outstanding. We were able to stick in a couple to make us feel more comfortable about the game. Good night. Excited to be 3-0. Short week this week to get ready for a very, very difficult opponent in Syracuse.”
HOW IS AIDAN ALVES AFTER THE XRAY ON HIS CLAVICLE?
“I think he will play this week. He is sore, but it doesn’t appear to be anything significant so we are thankful for that.”
THERE’S A LOT OF HISTORY BETWEEN THESE TWO TEAMS, HOW IMPORTANT IS A WIN FOR YOU?
“Every game to me is important. I don’t consider this a huge rivalry game right now, but I will say it is a great opportunity. I’m sure they’re not happy that we were able to beat them at their place last year. So, I’m sure we will get their best attention. They are a heck of a football team. Their roster is probably better than ours. We’re going to put a good plan together and obviously hope to play well Friday night on TV up in Syracuse. Dino is a heck of a ball coach, heck of a guy too, really like him a lot and his wife. They are just good people. His kids are playing really hard for him, are really confident right now. It will be a great challenge, but we are certainly looking forward to those opportunities that we get.”
ANY UPDATE ON TE HUNTLEY?
“I think he will be fine.”
HOW MUCH OF AN IMPACT HAS TOM SARGEANT HAD ON THIS PROGRAM?
“Tom is really what is really, really good about college athletics. The kid had to earn everything that came to him. Now he’s a team captain and started (50) games in a row. You wouldn’t choose him out of a lineup to be your anchor in the middle, but that’s what’s great about the human spirit, and effort, and work, and development, and commitment, and discipline. Tom is a poster board for all of that. I’m real thrilled that he has experienced some success that came with all of his sacrifice and hard work.”
HOW DO YOU GET YOUR TEAM READY FOR THE ATMOSPHERE IN THE DOME?
“We don’t take anything for granted. We will prepare like we did for an away game at Troy with some crowd noise, but really that is all that should be different to us. It might be a little bit louder. We don’t expect to have people cheering for us, we get that, but that has nothing to do with our execution of our game plan or our effort. That is the only thing that I’m concerned about. We will prepare a little bit for some crowd noise, but it’s more about execution and the physical play.”
WHAT TYPE OF CHALLENGES DOES RB SEAN TUCKER PROVIDE?
“He put together one of the best rookie seasons in the history of Syracuse football. He had a great year last year too. We were impressed with him then and we’re even more impressed with him now. He’s a really good running back. They have two quarterbacks that they play some, so you have to kind of prepare a little differently for each. #3, Harris, he literally is one of the best receivers I have ever seen on tape. He’s that good. An experienced offensive line, obviously they are playing with a lot of confidence right now. It is a tall task for us stopping the run and the pass. Heck you turn your attention to their defense, they are ranked 4th in the nation right now in total defense. Giving up 60 yards rushing and only about 160 in passing. DLine is a problem. They are really, really active. Playing extremely hard. It’s by far the best unit we’ve faced this year.”
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT YOUR RB ROOM SO FAR THIS YEAR?
“We certainly could be better. I know we have the potential to be. There have been teams they’ve been really well. I’m not down at all on our running back room. I think that it’s a combination when you don’t run the ball as effectively as you would like, it’s not just the running backs, it’s a lot of people involved if that’s an issue. We’ve been able to average over 4 yards per run all season, which is our goal. I’m somewhat pleased to this point.”
HOW DID YOU FEEL ABOUT GETTING COOPER MCCAW SOME SNAPS AGAINST ODU?
“He did well. He practiced all morning, so he is ready to go. Hopefully we will get big Jon and Damian back also.”
WHAT IS DJ STUBBS’ STATUS THIS WEEK?
“I think he will play. The latest report was we expect him to start getting some reps towards like Wednesday, so we will see, but I think he’ll play.”
WHAT HAVE YOU NOTICED IS THE BIGGEST CHANGE SYRACUSE HAS MADE ON DEFENSE?
“It’s the same, same coordinator, same defense. They are just playing really well. I’m sure last year when we played them, they were hurt with the COVID world, all the things that came with that, but they are fast. They are playing at a very high level right now defensively, it’s going to be a great test for us.”
WHAT KIND OF A GUY AND COACH IS DINO BABERS?
“I think he’s a player’s coach that cares as much about how he treats and coaches his kids off the field and what is he is doing to develop them on the field. That’s the impression I get from the times that I have been around him. His personality, he is friendly and outgoing. I think he’s one of those guys that is in this profession that doesn’t have a huge ego and is approachable and easy to talk to. Really have enjoyed the time that we have spent around him and his wife.”
HAVE YOU SPENT TIME GOLFING WITH HIM?
“That’s where we spent time is out at Pebble Beach at the Coaches deal. He is always there. That is where I got to know him. I knew of him before that, just getting to see him interact with everybody there I really genuinely like him. He’s a genuine guy.”
HOW MUCH OF YOUR ABILITY TO COMBAT THEIR DLINE GOES ON MALIK?
“We’ve got to have the right plan to block those guys up front and obviously it takes great technique and effort from the offensive line. That will determine how quick Malik has to make reads and obviously when you are throwing the football you’ve got to have a little time to get the receivers in their routes. Hopefully we can find a way to protect him decently where he can progress through those routes. They certainly are very active, and then you throw in the athletic secondary they have, they have some really good young players back there. #20 really jumps off the tape at you. It’s a Power Five school that has Power Five players. This idea that because we beat them last year that we should go up there and that should be the expectation from everybody, that’s not the way it works when you are playing these teams that have good coaches and good players at their place on a short week. It’s a difficult task.”
YOU ARE FAVORED IN THIS GAME, WHAT’S YOUR MINDSET WITH THAT?
“That’s rat poison. I don’t know. I don’t have a comment on us being favored, I don’t feel like that. I just don’t see it that way.”
THEIR QB SITUATION IS UNDETERMINED, HOW DO YOU PREPARE FOR 2 GUYS?
“It is two different type quarterbacks, in our eyes. Yes, it is a little different for us. You may have to have a little different plan. I hope Dino heard all the good things I said about him earlier, by the way. It’s two different quarterbacks for sure.”
GUARDING AGAINST LAST YEAR, IS THAT SOMETHING YOU WILL ADDRESS WITH YOUR TEAM?
“I hope I don’t have to say that anymore. I’ve been pretty clear. If our team doesn’t get that now after being with me this long that every week you’ve got to prove yourself and you’ve got to prepare. There is nothing that is guaranteed, especially when you are playing a team who’s roster is better than yours top to bottom. That’s not a slight on our kids and that doesn’t mean we can’t win a football game, but if I have to worry about this week our kids thinking because we beat somebody last year that you’re going to automatically get some brownie points for doing that last year, then we are probably not going to win very many games.”
WHAT KIND OF ATMOSPHERE DO YOU EXPECT
“I love atmospheres. I love going on the road and being in those atmospheres. I hope it is crazy and good, but I really don’t know. I’ve never played in the dome with a crowd. It was an eerie feeling last year, I felt like everybody could hear everything I was saying. It was eerie. I know it will be quite different. We’re prepared to handle crowd noise. We will work on that, but I enjoy coaching in those environments and in those arenas. I’m sure the Syracuse kids enjoy having fans in the stands like we do. That’s an added difficulty we have to prepare for, but it is something that I kind of embrace and I think our kids should also.”
WHAT ABOUT THE CHALLENGE OF THE SHORT WEEK?
“I love playing on Thursday or Friday nights, I really would like to have two or three of those a year. I enjoy those because you get a chance to be on TV. The only thing I don’t like is, I wish we would have played an early game this past Saturday. So that we would have had a little bit more recovery time before we had to practice this morning. Anytime you practice inside 36 hours after competing, not sure you get the best practices. I thought our kids were attentive and good, but they are still feeling a late Saturday game for sure. I enjoy having a couple of these a year, I hope we can maybe do more of these in the future.”
DO YOU HAVE A PREFERENCE WHICH QB YOU WANT TO FACE?
“Is there a third option? Maybe their third team guy, that’s the one I’d like to see. I’ll take option three. They both present a challenge to us. It’s not just them, it’s the players around them. #3 is best receiver I have seen in a long time. I think the running back is really, really solid. Those tight ends are big and talented. Whichever quarterback it is, I think they both have weapons around them that they can be successful.”
WHERE DO YOU THINK THEIR OL IS SEEING THE MOST IMPROVEMENT?
“What we’ve seen on tape is a really talented group that has done a really good job against the people they have played. All of us, it’s all relative somewhat to how good are the teams you have played. Nobody really knows that yet. It’s too early in the season to know just exactly who we are, but it has been obvious to us watching the film that they have performed at a very high level for Syracuse thus far. What we see says that they are very, very good.”