Liberty (5-0) ran all over the Syracuse Orange on their way to the program’s first ever win over an ACC opponent, defeating Syracuse, 38-21.
“I’ve said it since I was hired here, I like doing things that are first,” said Hugh Freeze. “I like it for our program, for our kids, our administration and our fans. I’m really proud of our team. It expedites our expectations and where we are. Obviously, you’ve got to do it every week, but we sure are pleased with today’s effort and result.”
The Flames entered the game ranked No. 7 in the nation in rushing, as LU was averaging 237.5 yards on the ground. Of course, the critics would say that’s because of the competition. Behind Shedro Louis and Peytton Pickett, Liberty ran for 338 yards on the day.
In last year’s season opening loss to the Orange, the Flames rushed for -4 yards. Quite the turnaround for Liberty in year two under Hugh Freeze.
Starting running back Joshua Mack, a New York-native, did not play against the Orange as he was dealing with an illness. It didn’t matter as the offensive line paved the way for Louis and Pickett to career days.
“It became pretty evident that we were going to be without Noah (Frith), CJ Yarbrough, and Joshua Mack,” said Freeze. “I wasn’t sure if we could win a lot of one-on-one battles on the outside with their corners. We just challenged that O-Line and those two backs,and boy did they answer in a big way.”
Louis rushed for 170 yards on just 10 carries, including two touchdown runs. Pickett finished with 115 rushing yards, marking the 2nd game this season where Liberty has had two players rush for 100 yards in the same game. Mack and Malik Willis each surpassed the century mark in the season opening win over Western Kentucky.
After the Orange took the early lead 7-0, the Flames quickly responded thanks to a 75-yard touchdown run by Louis, the longest of his young career. Arguably the fastest player on the team, Louis broke through the line and raced to the end zone untouched.
The Flames would go up 14-7 after an 11 play, 88 yard drive that was ended on a Malik Willis 4 yard touchdown run. The Orange would tie the game at 14 in the 2nd quarter, but from there Liberty would control the game, pushing their lead to 35-14 in the 4th quarter.
Syracuse had some early success on offense, but the Liberty defense was able to make some adjustments to help the offense seize control of the game.
Javon Scruggs led the defense with a career-high 12 tackles, including a tackle for loss. This is his second double-digit tackle game of his career, as he also reached double figures in tackles against Rutgers last season.
Louis’ second touchdown run came from 52 yards out as he becomes the first Liberty player to score two rushing touchdowns of more than 50 yards in the same game since Stacy Nobles did so Oct. 24, 1988 against Buffalo.
This is Pickett’s second career 100-yard rushing game as a Flame, with both coming against ACC opponents. He rushed for 117 yards at Virginia on Nov. 11, 2018.
DJ Stubbs led Liberty with 58 receiving yards and a touchdown on 4 catches. He leads the team with 3 touchdown receptions this season.
“I love these kids,” Freeze said. “I think they’re a good group of kids.It’s fun to see them compete and win on the road in a game like this. I was pretty confident. I told my wife this morning I felt really good about what was going to take place today.”
*photo courtesy Liberty Athletics