Liberty’s offense took just 79 seconds get on the scoreboard, setting the tone for the evening as the Flames would score in bunches on their way to a 59-44 win over the Maine Black Bears.
“Tonight I thought we were pretty efficient offensively in the first half and in the second half for the first drive when we had our ones in,” Liberty head coach Hugh Freeze said. “Then, we tried to play some other kids and kind of got in a rut and put some guys back out there.”
The Flames would continue to pile on the points as all seven first half drives ended in points – six touchdowns and one field goal – as Liberty scored 45 points and had 329 yards in the first half alone. The Flames would score on its first eight drives of the game.
Hugh Freeze coached teams have been known for their fast paced offenses, but we haven’t seen much of that during the first six games of the season as Liberty went to more complimentary football. Freeze has said this was due to wanting to manage the games with the Flames not having a full compliment of players on defense. Coming off the bye week with the defense at full speed, his warp speed was back on display.
“We went our warp speed stuff for a good bit of the first half,” Freeze explained. “It was pretty effective. I thought our tempo was good. That was really the first time this year (we went tempo), and I thought it was really good and good for us.”
Liberty led by as much as a score of 52-17 midway through the 3rd quarter. Maine would score 20 straight points in a span of 2 minutes and 15 seconds at the end of the 3rd quarter and into the 4th to make the final 15 minutes interesting.
The defense looked like the 2018 version as the Flames gave up 572 yards of offense and allowed true freshman quarterback Joe Fagnano, who was making his first career start in place of Chris Ferguson, to throw for 445 yards and 5 touchdowns.
“I’ve got a lot of mixed emotions about tonight’s game,” said Freeze. “Really for most of the year I think our defense has played with great passion and carried this football team. Defensively it was our worst effort of the year. It’s good to be able to still celebrate a win when that happens, but it certainly was not the level that our defense has been playing for the first part of the season. We certainly are going to have to play a lot better as we hit the road for the next three games.”
Maine had 251 yards in the 4th quarter alone, besting its output in the first half when the Black Bears had 219 yards. The Flames had inserted its 2nd and 3rd strings on both sides of the ball before Maine began to make a comeback.
“We lost so many 1-on-1 matchups and tackled poorly, had penalties,” said Freeze. “I knew we were flat in the locker room before the game, that doesn’t always surprise me. I think it’s impossible for college kids to always be at their peak emotionally for a 12 game season, but you still have to have the mentality to execute and we didn’t. We were missing a little passion it seemed to me.”
Antonio Gandy-Golden broke the Liberty school record for receiving yards on the second play from scrimmage. He moved passed Darrin Peterson who held the record with 3,170 during his career.
The other end of the AGG-Buckshot Calvert dynamic passing tandem also further cemented his name in the Liberty record book. Buckshot surpassed 10,000 career passing yards on the opening drive, joining Josh Woodrum (whose career spanned the same time as Peterson) as the only two Liberty quarterbacks to throw for over 10,000 yards. Calvert went on to break Woodrum’s record of 10,266 career passing yards in the 4th quarter.
Liberty entered the game last in the FBS in red zone offense. It’s safe to say the Flames will improve that ranking this week as the team finished the game 8-for-9 inside Maine’s 20 yard line. The only time Liberty didn’t score in the red zone was on the final possession of the game when the Flames took a knee.
With the win, the Flames move to 5-2 on the season and will hit the road for the next four games beginning this coming Saturday at Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights are 1-6 on the season following their 42-7 loss to #20 Minnesota.
“To get our 5th win is rewarding, but certainly there are things we’ve got to look to get better at,” Freeze said. “I’ve got to think about complimentary football moving forward as we seek to play a difficult stretch of games.”