The Liberty Flames moved to 2-0 on Saturday with a win over Troy, 21-13, on Saturday night. The Flames play host to Old Dominion this coming week with kickoff from Williams Stadium scheduled for 6 p.m. on ESPN3. 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.
“I thought, being a little short-handed as we were, in particular on the offensive line after Bounds couldn’t go and then (Buchanan) got hurt too, we had to have some resilience there,” he said. “I really think Troy has a solid defense after watching the tape I’m even more convinced of that. They are very athletic up front and pose some problems for you there.”
“The truth of the game is there are a lot of positives. I don’t know if I’ve ever coached a game, I don’t think I have, where our defense was only on the field 47 plays. I think that is remarkable. We held the ball about 30 minutes, which is good. We didn’t get the production that I felt like we should have offensively points wise, but we will start with special teams.”
“I think our punter and coverage units were incredible. I thought our kickoff team, I thought Alex was really good there. I thought he was aggressive at swinging at the extra points which is good. I thought our special teams played really solid, obviously except for our protection on field goals and PATs. We have to get that fixed. You got a chance, we’ve milked the clock to put the game away at 24-7 and come away giving them life because we did not protect. We had three people out of position, some new guys that hadn’t done it, because of our injury situation. That’s no excuse. We did not give great execution on that play and that is disappointing. That is a critical play in the game. Other than that, I thought our special teams were really good.”
“Defensively, 21 yards rushing, 4 of 8 possessions of three & out, got a turnover, I really think it was two, I think that was a fumble that we stripped on the pass. I thought our D-Line really played well. I thought Henry Chibueze had his best game since he’s been here. Really felt like our defense settled in after the first possession, played really solid. We were good on 3rd down. Obviously, if you are going over the whole truth, we’ve got a chance to put it away at 4th and 2 and we give up an explosive play, and then we’ve got a chance to put it away at 4th and 11. We were 0 for 2 on 4th down stops. We’ve got to improve that, but on the positives what a heck of effort they gave on the goal line stand there to make them use their last timeout and more clock before they eventually got it in. It would have been nice to end it right there with our defense getting the stop, but I thought they played really well.”
“Offensively, again I mentioned the time of possession, we outrushed them significantly, which teams that outrush the others your percentage of winning the game goes way up. Second straight game with no turnovers, that is the number one priority for us offensively. We didn’t have any drops. We were 2 for 2 on 4th down conversion. Those are pretty critical downs for us that we were efficient on. Outside of that, we’ve got to be better on 3rd down. We can’t give up 5 sacks, we just can’t do that. We’ve got to find some answers and some things to help us out in that regard. My understanding of what needs to happen on a given play, I’ve got to do a better job. I plan to this week.”
“Great thing is we are 2-0. Chase the lion week is over and we move on to dream chasers this week. We’ve got a team that I’m sure will be hungry to come into our place and take a shot at us. We are beat up, it’s next man up. We’ve got to get ready for a good Old Dominion team. Defensively they give you a lot to look at. It’s a lot of stuff. They are creating triangles a lot of different places and a lot of movement that we’ve got to prepare for. It’s going to be a challenge for us to do that with the young offensive linemen we’re going to have to be playing. 9, that defensive end, he’s special. He may be the best player we’ve played this year. He’s a heck of a player, so is 3, a linebacker. They do a good job with their scheme and have really solid players there. They got a transfer from Minnesota that is really good, too. They play really hard on defense, you can tell they are really well coached on effort and scheme on that side of the ball.”
“Offensively, their quarterback, he’s another dual-threat guy. They are a quarterback plus one run team. That is hard to prepare for. Plus, he’s got a solid arm also. OLine is enormous, very physical. Tight ends are solid players too. They are a good team.”
“Glad we are back at home. I wish it was an early kick with us having to play Syracuse next Friday night so that we could get a little more rest because that will be a tough turnaround, but we’re glad we’re at home. We need our crowd to show up, our students and our fans. It needs to be an advantage to play at home. Looking forward to it.”
HOW ARE SOME OF THOSE OFFENSIVE LINEMEN LOOKING HEALTH WISE?
(On Cooper, Bounds, Graham) – “All of that is up in the air right now. Kind of day to day. Just day to day. I don’t know. It’s a little early in the week to tell.”
YOU PREVIOUSLY MENTIONED BUILDING DEPTH ON THE OLINE IS CRUCIAL, ARE YOU HAPPY WITH THE DEPTH YOU HAVE BUILT THERE?
“We’re still developing that depth. We’ve got some people here, they just haven’t played a lot of snaps because the guys that have been here. Unfortunately, all the guys that may be out or were out are guys with great experience. You’re just playing young guys. The good thing is we will get to get them some more reps in practice this week. I know that some of these kids aren’t going to be prepared to practice. Not that they can’t play in the game, but we will get them more reps. Absolutely, we are glad we’ve got some younger guys that have some potential to be solid players.”
HOW HAS CHIBUEZE MADE SUCH A STRONG TURNAROUND?
“I don’t mean this in any way but just what it was. To say he was a little overweight, it was a lot. I was walking with him at the hotel the other day and I actually asked him, ‘Man, tell me what has changed since we all got here and started this journey.’ He said, ‘My whole lifestyle has changed, from nutrition, to the way I see things, to the way I work.’ That’s rewarding to hear those things and then it’s doubly rewarding to hear him say those things but then to also have the type of game that he had and I think he will continue to have. It started with him buying into, ‘I want to make a change and I’m going to trust someone to help me do that.’ You’ve got to give a lot of credit to Danielle and to Dom and their staff and Josh for bringing him along to this point.”
MALIK GAVE HIMSELF A C AFTER THE GAME, WHAT WOULD YOU SAY?
“Number one, Malik was the best player on the field, and that is largely one of the reasons we won the game. Two, I would agree that it was a C, after watching the film. He missed some opportunities. I’m not talking about when he was under distress, we’ve got to protect him better, that’s number one for our OLine, we’ve got to protect our quarterback. I think had we protected him, he makes some more plays. There was some in our RPO game that we are running run plays into some bad looks that should have not been run. His drops got a little sloppy a time or two that maybe caused some pressure quicker than it should have happened. That’s probably being hard on him, but he was the best player on the field. He made plays when we needed him to, and he made some heck of throws too now. But he’s pretty hard on himself and he is too. We want him to grade out 90% or better in his decision making, and it was down in the low 80s. Just a few plays in a game like that, when you are really trying to control the clock and the tempo, just a few plays make huge difference.”
“I give myself a C too. I made three calls in the game that I just typically see and don’t make. One of them I saw and I was so mad at myself at halftime. I saw it. I let us run it and it’s unacceptable. I can’t do that again. We could have gone up 21 there at the half. We were having a pretty good drive going and the play was a -6 yards. It’s not just Malik that needs to improve.”
YOU MENTIONED SOME OF THE INJURIES, WHAT ABOUT DURRELL, ZACHARY, HASKINS, LOFTON?
“It’s the same on all of those. I couldn’t get any clarity from our training staff. They feel better about some than they do others, but they’re still not telling you that you are going to have them on Saturday. You can add Will Buchanan to the offensive line also, something is going with him too. It will be day to day. You would hope out of those, I guess we’re up to 9 or 10 right now, you would hope you get a few of those back for Saturday. I really don’t know the answer to that today.”
THIS WAS YOUR FIRST ROAD GAME WITH NO LIMITS, HOW DO YOU THINK YOUR GUYS HANDLED THAT?
“I love playing at home. I hope it’s difficult and loud and distracting for the opponent. I think our kids handled it well. We had their student section right on top of us. That sideline was really tight. They had some quite choice words for me. They were not always kind, but I’ve heard it before. I thought our kids and staff handled it fine. I don’t think that was an issue for us at all. There is something that is rewarding about winning in those environments that can unite you. I told our team, ‘We have to defend our home. It has to be something special about that, but there’s also when you do go into places and win at places like Virginia Tech last year or Syracuse, or Troy so far this year. I think there’s a special uniting feeling. It was good to do that. I’m glad to see college football back to somewhat normalcy.”
BRYCE MATHEWS GOT A LOT OF PLAYING TIME, HOW DO YOU THINK HE FARED?
“We’re down Cooper then down Jon and Bryce is not 100%. The thing he brings is toughness and experience. He was not at full speed and he really gutted it out for us. Will was the next guy, and he’s got something going on with his lower back. Really happy, Bryce he’s a tough, tough kid.”
HOW DO YOU PLAN ON WORKING THE OLINE THIS WEEK?
“We just finished up with practice and film this morning. Offense will get together after lunch and we will start trying to piece the puzzles together. Might move Henry back over there, just playing.”
FIRST TIME YOU’RE PLAYING ODU, HOW MUCH CAN THIS GAME MEAN IN RECRUITING?
“I don’t know. I think every win helps you in recruiting. You want to be able to beat them on an in-state kid. So, yes. It means maybe more to that Virginia kid, I don’t know, I haven’t had enough experience with that yet. I think winning and winning at home, it’s all going to beat you in recruiting whether it’s Old Dominion or whether it’s Troy you’re playing at home. I would think probably, some of the Virginia kids’ eyes, maybe if it came head to head with us and them for a kid that it could help lean it our way.”
THE RUNNING GAME HAS BEEN PRODUCTIVE FOR ODU, WHAT CONCERNS YOU THERE?
“It starts with their offensive line. It is physical and they cover you up. Then, they run all the power, counter reads, quarterback plus one runs, things that are creating extra gaps. They have a really, really good scheme for run game.”