HOME WIN STREAK SNAPPED
Liberty saw its program-record home winning streak of 15 games come to an end Saturday evening at Williams Stadium as the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns blasted the Flames, 42-14. It was Liberty’s first loss at home since August 31, 2019 when Liberty lost to Syracuse, 24-0, in Hugh Freeze’s coaching debut with the Flames.
Entering Saturday’s game, Liberty owned the fourth longest active home winning streak among FBS programs. Each of Liberty’s last two home losses have come against nationally ranked opponents. The Flames fall to 20-3 at home as an FBS program and 15-2 at home under Coach Freeze.
The 28 point loss was the worst in the Hugh Freeze era and the worst since a 47-7 blowout loss to North Texas on Sept. 22, 2018, the first season the Flames faced a full FBS schedule as the team began its transition to the FBS ranks.
FLAMES DID NOT COMPETE
One of the goals Coach Freeze has set for the Flames since becoming the team’s head coach prior to the 2019 season, is to compete for bowl eligibility each and every season and be competitive in every game. That wasn’t the case on Saturday at home against the No. 21 Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns.
Louisiana led 21-0 before the Flames fought back to make it 21-14, but from that point on the game was out of hand. The Cajuns controlled the ball, the momentum, and the scoreboard as they reeled off 21 straight points to win 42-14.
“We did not play well tonight,” Liberty head coach Hugh Freeze said following the game. “We didn’t coach well. This is the first game since I’ve been here that I felt like we did not compete. That’s very disappointing. I shared that with our team. It’s just a very disappointing night. I hate it for our fans, I hate it for our administration, I hate it for our school. We take pride in competing for sixty minutes, something was off tonight. Ultimately that is my responsibility.”
Freeze, who was visibly upset during his post game press conference, said there were a couple of players who were “a little complacent” during practice in the week leading up to the game, but it wasn’t anything that he thought would lead to the team playing so poorly on the field.
“I told them in there, it’s almost like, ‘Man, we’re Independent, we’re bowl eligible, and we don’t have to work hard or something,'” said Freeze. “I don’t know. It was something off tonight I felt like, for sure.”
TURNOVERS, PENALTIES, SACKS, SPECIAL TEAMS
Turnovers, inopportune penalties, sacks, and poor special teams play all led to the Liberty loss on Saturday to the Cajuns. The Flames committed six turnovers, the most it has committed as a team in the FBS era. Louisiana recorded seven sacks, Liberty had multiple miscues on special teams, and the Flames had 7 penalties including two in successive plays on a critical drive late in the first half that took points off the board.
Six turnovers against a top 25 team sounds like it would be too much to overcome, but the Ragin’ Cajuns only scored 14 points off those turnovers. Liberty’s defense stood strong and kept Louisiana at bay especially in those quick change situations.
The first turnover came on the opening drive of the game for the Flames, when Shedro Louis and the ball was recovered in Louisiana territory at the 29 yard line. It took away a scoring opportunity for Liberty and quelled the early game momentum for the home team.
The defense would answer and force a three and out for Louisiana who had to punt. Demario Douglas muffed the punt and it was recovered by the Ragin’ Cajuns at the Liberty 14-yard line. Again the Flames’ defense kept the miscue from hurting the team. Another three and out led to a 29 yard field goal attempt for Louisiana which is no good, wide right.
On Liberty’s next drive, Malik Willis connected with Demario Douglas for 20 yards to convert a 3rd and 11 and to move the Flames into Louisiana territory for a second straight possession to open the game. A personal foul penalty on Tristan Schultz would wipe that play off the books and force a Liberty punt.
Liberty punter Aidan Alves would get off a 28 yard punt which went out of bounds at the Liberty 41 yard line setting the Cajuns up with a short field where they were able to convert two 4th downs over 10 plays to get into the end zone and end the scoreless tie.
That series of events set the tone for the game. Six turnovers, seven sacks, and seven penalties all added up to too much for the Flames to overcome against a very good Louisiana team who has now won 10 games on the season. The seven sacks marks the fifth time this season that Liberty has allowed five sacks or more in a game including a season-high nine sacks in the previous game two weeks ago against Ole Miss
SAFETY JAVON SCRUGGS INJURED
Liberty safety Javon Scruggs must have been injured at some point during the game as he didn’t play in the second half. Coach Freeze was asked if Scruggs was ok following the game, and he simply responded, “We don’t know yet.” Scruggs finished the game with just one tackle and one pass breakup.