When Hugh Freeze was hired as Liberty’s head football coach in December 2018, he immediately set the first bar for his program to hurdle – reaching a bowl game.
In his first season, Liberty’s first as a full FBS member, the Flames did just that by becoming bowl eligible with a season ending win over New Mexico State and accepting an invitation to the Cure Bowl shortly thereafter. Not only did the Flames get to the program’s first ever bowl, but they won it, defeating Georgia Southern, 23-16.
“That’s a great memory, for me, “Freeze stated on Friday when asked about the momentum gained from winning the Cure Bowl. “One of my favorite pictures is me and my wife and three daughters after that game on the field, just the joy, it was kind of a redeeming moment for me and my wife and kids. So, that was really special for me.”
Achieving that milestone was another huge one for the Liberty football program as it continues its ascent towards the type of program founder Dr. Jerry Falwell, Sr. aspired the program to look like. Where one day Liberty would compete against the best college football programs in the country.
“Whether this is right, wrong, or indifferent, in my mind, it was kind of part of a fulfillment of a vision cast many years ago by Dr. Falwell,” Freeze said of Liberty’s Cure Bowl win. “To be able to celebrate an FBS bowl victory, I think would have made him extremely proud and happy.”
With that goal behind them and the bar raised even higher, Freeze and his Liberty football team moves forward into a 2020 season full of question marks, but the Flames still have their eyes on a familiar prize.
“I love the fact that they say, ‘I want another,'” Freeze said of his team wanting to get back to a second straight bowl game. “That right now is kind of the measuring stick of our season, really. Our goal is to get to a bowl game and to be competitive in the games we play in on the schedule.”
While teams and conferences are still weighing the impact COVID-19 will have on the 2020 football season, the bowl season may look much different in 2020, but right now that’s Liberty’s motivation as it is on their mind during the first day of training camp on Friday.
Liberty’s season was originally scheduled to begin on Saturday, Sept. 5 against Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, but that game has now been moved to Nov. 7. The Flames’ home opener is also in jeopardy. Originally scheduled to play in Week 2 on Sept. 12 against North Carolina A&T, the Flames may switch to a different FCS team to open the season. It’s caused the coaching staff to make adjustments to the training camp schedule.
“We’re not having a typical fall camp because we anticipate our season starting September 12th,” said Freeze. “So, we’re kinda spacing out everything.”
Following Friday morning’s practice, Liberty has scheduled days off for Saturday and Sunday before hitting the practice field again on Monday. Tuesday and Thursday are scheduled walk-through practices while Wednesday and Friday the team is expected to practice again before putting full pads on Saturday, Aug. 15.
*photo courtesy Liberty Athletics