Liberty improved to 11-0 on the season with a 49-25 win over UMass on Saturday afternoon at Williams Stadium in Lynchburg, Virginia. With the win, the Flames set a program record with 11 wins in a single season, surpassing the mark of 10 wins set in 2008 and 2020.
“Did a lot of things well,” said Liberty head coach Jamey Chadwell. “We are thankful to be 1-0 this week and 11-0. The question every week is about schedule this and schedule that but we just keep showing up and playing hard and playing for each other. Another big win for us as we continue to move forward.”
Liberty is now 5-1 all-time against UMass, having defeated the Minutemen in each of the last five seasons. UMass is the first FBS opponent that Liberty has defeated five times, and the only team the Flames have faced in all six seasons as an FBS program.
The Flames took the opening drive and marched down the field 75 yards on 10 plays, capped by a Kaidon Salter one yard touchdown run on the quarterback keeper, to take the 7-0 lead. Liberty has now scored on its opening possession in eight of 11 games in 2023.
The Liberty defense would force a fumble and two punts on UMass’ first three drives of the game. This allowed the Flames to build a commanding lead and virtually putting the game out of reach for the Minutemen.
Liberty scored touchdowns on each of its first five offensive possessions as the lead grew to 35-7 midway through the second quarter. It was 28-0 earlier in the second period after Liberty had touchdowns scored by Austin Henderson on a 13-yard touchdown pass from Salter, Quinton Cooley’s 60 yard touchdown run, and a four-yard Billy Lucas touchdown run. This marks the second week in a row that Liberty got out to a 28-0 lead.
Out of halftime, the Liberty defense picked off two passes in the first six minutes of the second half, the second one being a 62-yard pick-six by Preston Hodge to make the score 42-10.
Liberty finished the game with 549 yards of offense, with 324 coming on the ground.
Salter would finish the game completing 11 of 16 passes for 225 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 1 interception that came just before halftime as the Flames attempted to drive and score points with less than a minute in the half. The Liberty quarterback would also rush 13 times for 118 yards and 2 additional scores.
Cooley surpassed 100 yards rushing once again, finishing the game with 102 yards on the ground on 8 carries and 1 touchdown.
Cooley and Salter have each reached the 10 rushing touchdown mark this season. They become the first Liberty duo with 10+ rushing touchdowns in the same season since 2007 when Rashad Jennings (15) and Zach Terrell (11) accomplished the feat.
Henderson led the team in receiving with 3 catches for 25 yards and 2 touchdowns. Aaron Bedgood also had 3 catches, finishing the afternoon with 20 yards. 5 different receivers had one catch, led by Kylen Austin’s 46 yards and Noah Frith’s 42 yards.
Tyren Dupree led the team with 14 tackles and 1 tackle for loss.
“We talk a lot about you can’t base how you play, how you perform based off circumstances,” said Chadwell. “It’s got to be about who we are. What’s our standard. No matter if you are playing in front of 25,000 or maybe like we have sometimes 8, you show up and you compete because that’s what your job is and you do it for the guy beside you. Not for the outward things. Our guys handled that. We prepared well this week. We had good practices and great mindset, and it showed up.
The Flames will look to conclude the regular season unbeaten at 12-0 next week when Liberty travels to El Paso, Texas to take on the UTEP Miners in a Conference USA clash. UTEP is currently 3-8 on the season and 2-5 in CUSA play following their 34-30 loss to Middle Tennessee on Saturday. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. and will be televised on CBS Sports Network.