Talking about the win streak
Liberty brings a seven-game winning streak into its game against Southern Miss, having won the final two games of the 2019 season and starting the 2020 campaign 5-0. This is the program’s longest win streak since a program-record 11-game win streak from Oct. 20, 2007 through Oct. 11, 2008.
The Flames have the fourth-longest active winning streak among FBS teams. Notre Dame leads with a 10-game winning streak, followed by Air Force (9), and Florida Atlantic (8).
The only times Liberty has trailed during the streak have been against Florida International and Syracuse.
The Flames also have an eight-game win streak at home, the team’s longest home winning streak since winning 10 in a row from Oct. 3, 2009 through Sept. 10, 2011.
The current seven-game winning streak slightly trails Hugh Freeze’s longest win streak at the FBS level as he won nine straight at Arkansas State. Freeze also guided Lambuth to a 12 game win streak in 2009.
Defense has shown most improvement
Liberty’s defense continues to show tremendous improvement under second year defensive coordinator Scott Symons. After finishing the FCS era and beginning the FBS era statistically as one of the worst defenses in the country, the Flames have established themselves through the first half of the 2020 season as one of the top defenses in the country.
Freeze says the confidence of the defense is the biggest improvement he has seen in the team early in the season.
“It’s very difficult to stop offenses today,” Freeze said. “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.”
The Flames are currently ranked in the top 10 of all major defensive statistical categories. Liberty is 4th in total defense, 8th in passing defense, 10th in scoring defense, 7th in 3rd down defense, and 7th in red zone defense.
DC Scott Symons says he’s not surprised with the quick turnaround but instead he and his staff expected it.
“It starts with recruiting up front, that’s where everything starts,” Symons said. “I think Coach Aldridge has done a great job in the short time we’ve been here in changing the dynamic of that room and developing guys like Ralf (Rusins) and Tre (Clark), guys that were here from the previous staff into those roles.”
Barbir & Alves growing into strengths
Liberty kicker Alex Barbir has put together back to back very solid outings. He started a little slow, not surprising after having not kicked in a game since high school. Barbir missed one field goal in each of Liberty’s first three game, also missing an extra point in the opener at Western Kentucky.
Over the past two games, Barbir has made all three of his field goals, including season long distances of 30 and 42 yards.
“He has been really outstanding in practice,” Freeze said of Barbir. “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.”
After struggling in 2018 in his first year at punter, Aidan Alves has settled into a very reliable punter for the Flames. He’s averaging 42.3 yards per punt so far this season.
“Aidan Alves did an incredible job of placing his punts the other day at Syracuse,” Freeze said. “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.”
WR Jaivian Lofton is out this week after missing last week’s game at Syracuse as well. He has a partial tear with his PCL. Freeze is hopeful he will back to action following the team’s bye week.
WRs Noah Frith and CJ Yarbrough will be game time decision after both have practiced in limited roles this week. Frith is fighting back from a hamstring injury suffered late in the game against FIU while Yarbrough has been hampered by several injuries dating back to this summer.
“We’ve been beat up at our receiver position, hopefully we can get healthy this week,” Freeze said this week. “It sure would be nice to play a game at full strength at that position.”
RB Joshua Mack is expected to play after missing last week’s game at Syracuse with an illness.
“He had an infection in his elbow that kind of made him sick the day before we left,” Freeze said of Mack. “He had a good practice (Thursday). As long as he can hold on to the football, he will play. He’s feeling much better. That elbow’s still got some swelling in it, but as long as he can hold onto it he will play.”
TE Trevor Hobbs is expected to make his Liberty debut this weekend against Southern Miss after tearing his PCL in training camp.
The Flames are also hopeful to get safety Tim Kidd-Glass on the field to make his debut, as well.
“Tim Kidd-Glass had an OK week,” said Freeze. “He says he’s going to try to go. We’ll see how that goes. He did practice every day this week.”