The Liberty Flames (3-1) head back to the state of Alabama for the second time within the team’s first five games of the 2021 season. The Flames will take on the UAB Blazers (3-1) in the first game to ever be played at the brand new Protective Stadium in Birmingham, Alabama. Kickoff in the first ever meeting between the two programs is scheduled for 7 p.m. EST on CBS Sports Network.

Alabama-Birmingham has won two straight games, both on the road, against North Texas (40-6) and Tulane (28-21) to improve their record to 3-1. The Blazers opened the season on Wednesday, September 1 with a shutout victory over FCS in-state opponent Jacksonville State, 31-0 before falling to No. 2 Georgia, 56-7.

Under head coach Bill Clark, UAB has become one of the top Group of Five programs in the country. Defending Conference USA champs, UAB is looking to win the third conference championship in four seasons this year. Clark’s teams are always known for their defense. The Blazers have ranked in the top 10 in total defense in each of the past two seasons. This year, with the exception of Georgia, UAB has allowed an average of only 9 points per game.

“Bill is a heck of a ball coach,” said Liberty head coach Hugh Freeze. “Those defensive teams he has with their coordinator Coach Reeves is there. They don’t get out of position and they make tackles.”

On offense, the Blazers have played two quarterbacks so far this season, though it looks like Dylan Hopkins has seized control of the unit. Tyler Johnston III started the first three games of the season, before Hopkins started and played the entire game last week at Tulane. He completed 19 of his 27 pass attempts last week for 240 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 1 interception.

Hopkins has played in all four games so far this season, and he has completed 29 of 39 passes for 501 yards, 7 touchdowns, and 1 interception. Johnston has completed 24 of 41 passes for 390 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions. Neither one are much of a threat running the ball, as they have a combined 11 rushing yards on 30 carries.

“Whether it’s (Hopkins or Johnston) at quarterback, their system is what they do,” said Freeze. “They believe in it. Their kids believe in it. They execute at a very high level and keep you really guessing and off-balance with different motions, personnel groupings. Same stuff, just looks different for the most part. Running backs are extremely talented. They are physical and solid. Tight ends are fast, big play threats. Wide receivers are the same. OLine’s the biggest and best we’ve seen.”

UAB features two primary running backs in DeWayne McBride and Jermaine Brown, Jr. McBride is averaging 5.4 yards per carry and 70.5 yards rushing with one touchdown through the first four games of the season. Brown is averaging 4.4 yards per carry and 55.3 yards per game with two rushing touchdowns.

Super senior tight end Gerrit Prince has become the team’s top target in the receiving game. He leads the team with 13 receptions, the only player with double digit catches, and 269 yards to go along with 5 touchdowns. Trea Shropshire is also a big threat in the passing game, as he has 230 receptions and 3 touchdowns.

“I don’t know any other way to color it,” Freeze said. “It’s not the team I would choose to play after a difficult loss, but it’s what we have. It’s the next one on our schedule and what an opportunity for our kids. They are a really good football team, but so are we. We are a pretty good team too. Hopefully we will go and play like it.”


  • UAB is the 2nd of 3 first time opponents on Liberty’s 2021 schedule joining Campbell and Ole Miss. Liberty has won five consecutive games against first time opponents.
  • Liberty is facing its 2nd of four Conference USA opponents this season. The Flames have won four straight games against CUSA teams, including earlier this season against Old Dominion. Liberty is 5-1 all-time against CUSA opponents.
  • Entering the game at Troy a few weeks ago, the Flames had never won a game in the state of Alabama. Liberty is now looking to win a game in Alabama for the second time in four weeks following the team’s 21-13 win at Troy on Sept. 11.
  • Liberty’s defense ranks No. 8 nationally in total defense, allowing 251.8 yards per game. The Flames are currently No. 15 in the country in scoring defense, giving up 15.2 points per game.
  • Kendy Charles ranks 12th nationally with 4.5 sacks on the season.


Hugh Freeze on UAB – “I think they are the best team we have played. I do. That’s no offense to anyone else. I think they are the most complete team that we have played offensively, defensively, special teams. I think they are the best we have seen…They will be up for it and certainly I think they are the best team we have seen thus far, complete team.”

DC Scott Symons on UAB – “This is, by far, the best offense we have played to date. They are great at running the football. They’ve got two different quarterbacks they play that manage the game well and can do a lot of things. Their OLine is really strong, really big.”

Safeties coach Jack Curtis on UAB – “This is a team that really runs the ball well. We’re going to have to tackle. They are a physical football team. I believe the Tulane team last week, they played them well, but they had 23-25 missed tackles. It’s hard to win a game with that many missed tackles. Give credit to UAB for running hard and breaking tackles. If we’re going to win the game, we need to be in single digit missed tackles at the end of the game just to have a chance.”

Malik Willis on UAB – “They look good on film. Every game is a challenge regardless of who we are playing, whether it’s my high school team or an NFL team, it’s going to be a challenge. Everybody is going out there and playing to the best of their ability and trying to come home with a win. I’m looking forward to it. Those guys are good this year.”

Demario Douglas on UAB – “That defense is good all around. We’ve got to focus on us going out there. Best defense, but I feel like Coach Freeze and our offensive staff got the right game plan. We just got to come out there and execute and we will come out with the win.”

Storey Jackson on UAB – “They do a lot of the same run plays as Syracuse. That’s good, we already had a week of practice on that. The pass plays, they’ve got an explosive player at the tight end. He’s not really a tight end. He can run routes. He’s very explosive. We’ve got to be sound with the run gaps and fit it up.”

Kendy Charles on UAB – “They have a good offense. They have great players. We’re just focusing on working on ourselves, getting better at what we do. We’re not really worried about the things they do.”


Liberty 27, UAB 23

For a second straight week, the Flames are likely to play in a game that is decided late in the 4th quarter. Liberty came up on the short end last week at Syracuse, but toss up games tend to even themselves out by the end of the year. Look for the Flames to use last week’s loss for a little bit extra motivation this week and use that to help propel the team to a victory.