LIBERTY DOMINANT AGAINST G5 OPPONENTS
Since Hugh Freeze has taken over as head coach at Liberty, the Flames have been incredibly good against Group of Five opponents. With Liberty’s 36-12 win over UAB on Saturday night in Birmingham, the Flames improve to 11-1 under Freeze against G5 opponents, having won 11 straight. The only loss came in Freeze’s first game against a G5 opponent in his second game at Liberty when the Flames fell at Louisiana when he coached that game from a medical chair in the press box.
“There’s no question, when I get on my Zoom recruiting call Sunday night with all these kids and their parents, I might bring that up,” Freeze said of his success against G5 schools.
ENJOYING THE WIN
Every win is special, but some are much more enjoyable than others. Coming off a tough loss at Syracuse last week in a game the Flames feel they should have won and had several opportunities to win, the theme all week was to bounce back from the difficult loss. Liberty did just that in Birmingham.
“Here’s the bad thing about coaching and I’ve done it for like 20 years now, it seems like the wins you don’t get to enjoy them near as long as the losses hurt,” Freeze said. “It shouldn’t be that way, but definitely coming into this place, against a very, very good football team who has won Conference USA two out of the last three years, I think probably could have a chance to win it again this year, opening their new stadium, disappointed after last week. There was just a lot that we would tell about ourselves this week. I’m really happy with the result. This one certainly is easy to enjoy.”
DEFENSE IMPROVES IN 2ND HALF
All season, Liberty’s defense has found much more success in the second half than they have to begin the game. Entering Saturday night’s game against UAB, the Flames had allowed 45 points in the first half while surrendering just 16 points in the second half. The defense has been especially stingy in the third quarter, giving up their first third quarter points of the season last week at Syracuse when the Orange scored a touchdown on their first possession after the break.
It was a similar story against the Blazers. UAB had -1 yard of offense in the third quarter and was forced into a three and out on four consecutive drives coming out of the locker room. The Flames were able to put a strangle hold on the game in the 3rd quarter at Protective Stadium as the game went from being deadlocked at 3 at intermission to Liberty claiming a 24-3 lead entering the fourth quarter.
“What about the effort from our defense,” Freeze exclaimed. “That team there was really, really talented. We are short-handed, particularly on the DLine without Henry (Chibueze) and Khristian (Zachary) and Kendy Charles. We were really short-handed. Really proud of coaches over there. I thought (defensive coordinator) Scott (Symons) and his staff did a good job.”
OFFENSE EXPLODES IN 2ND HALF
Just like the defense, Liberty’s offense exploded in the second half to help the team jump out to a huge lead. The Flames had only four first half possessions having to punt twice and gaining first and goal inside the five yard line on the other two possessions. One of those ended in Brayden Beck’s first career field goal, while the other ended without any points when Joshua Mack was ruled to have fumbled the ball at the goal line.
Replay seemed to indicate that Mack had crossed the goal line with the ball still in his possession before it was jarred loose by the left leg of Liberty left guard Jacob Bodden. The Blazers recovered the fumble, and the officials determined that replay was inconclusive to overturn the fumble call made on the field.
“The first half we had very limited possessions and had chances to get points,” said Freeze. “I think we scored a touchdown on the replay I saw. Ultimately, they deemed it wasn’t, and penalties, I don’t know how many flags were thrown in the first half on explosive plays that we had but we had our share of them that put us behind the chains. First half, we did not get the points that I felt like we could have had.”
That certainly changed in the second half as the Flames scored touchdowns on five of its first six possessions after the break. Those scores allowed Liberty to claim a commanding 36-3 with 6:21 left in the game.