Liberty (8-2) returns to Williams Stadium on Saturday to take on the Virginia Tech Hokies (2-8). The game is scheduled for a noon kick off and will be televised on ESPN+.
Liberty owns a 4-0 home record this season and is 19-3 at Williams Stadium under Hugh Freeze. The
Flames have never defeated a Power 5 conference opponent in Lynchburg.
Things haven’t gone as planned for Virginia Tech under first year head coach Brent Pry. The Hokies started the season with a 2-1 record following wins over Boston College and Wofford. Since then, Tech has lost seven straight games and have fallen to 1-6 in conference play.
Pry and the Hokies have lost four games by 6 points or fewer. This included three straight losses to Miami, #24 NC State, and Georgia Tech, prior to losing at Duke, 24-7, last week.
“Obviously, their record, people look at that and say what they want, but I know that we’ve got our hands full. I think our team will respond after the disappointing loss,” said Liberty head coach Hugh Freeze. “We better because you’re playing a Power Five team that has a Power Five roster. Their games have been very close for the most part, it could have gone either way on these one or two possessions.”
The strength of the team under former Penn State defensive coordinator Brent Pry has been on the defensive side. The Hokies are holding opponents to 25 points per game and 375 yards of total offense each outing. Five opponents have been held to 21 points or fewer so far this season.
“I know (they) will be hungry to come in and defend being a Power Five team in the state,” Freeze said. “I think they are playing at a real high level. I know what their record is, but I think they are playing at a real high level on defense, only giving up 350 yards a game. Lot of multiple looks, lot of multiple pressures. They have two defensive ends that really get after the passer. Their secondary is really good. I think it’s one of the better defenses we’ve faced. Between Coach Pry and Coach Marve, they are doing a really nice job on that side.”
Things haven’t gone as well as the offensive side of the ball. Virginia Tech is only scoring 18.9 points per game, failing to score more than 17 points in five of nine games this year. The Hokies are averaging just 104.3 yards on the ground each game while throwing for just over 200 yards each contest.
Quarterback Grant Wells has completed 58.33% of his 312 passes this season for 2,023 yards, 9 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. He has also rushed 95 times for 208 yards and six touchdowns.
His top target has been #80 Kaleb Smith who leads the team with 36 receptions for 669 yards and 3 touchdowns. Da’Wain Lofton has 21 receptions for 250 yards and 2 touchdowns while Nick Gallo has 28 receptions for 211 yards.
Keshawn King leads the team with 3365 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns while Jalen Holston has rushed for 222 yards and 2 scores.
“Offensively, they have struggled some even though I am impressed with their quarterback,” said Freeze. “They have a lot of plus one runs that you’ve got to get prepared for. They run counter every type of way you can imagine. Tight ends are a threat. They break the formation in 12, make you have to defend the 10 pictures, then have some bigger guys to really go 12 personnel runs. Offensive line is really big, well coached. #80 is a really, really talented receiver. Running backs are good. To be 180 pound guy, #23 runs bigger than that. Kind of reminds me of Dae Dae some.”
Saturday’s game will be a chance for Liberty to put the bad taste out of their mouth from their disappointing loss at UConn last week. A 10+ win season is still in play, and knocking off a team like Virginia Tech will always be a feather in the camp for the Flames for in-state bragging rights.
“For a Group of Five to play a Power Five, it’s not easy,” Freeze stated. “We’re not as healthy as I’d like us to be. I think they are playing really good defense. Hopefully we can stop them and we can get back to playing the defense we have played all year where we feel like we have to score every possession. I don’t think we are that type of team this year that needs to have that type of pressure put on every single possession. Hopefully we will play solid defense and stop them some. Defensively though, only giving up 350 yards against all those schedules, so that’s a pretty good defense.”
Liberty 28, Virginia Tech 20
Line: Liberty -9.5
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