The Liberty Flames (6-2) return home this Saturday afternoon to take on the UMass Minutemen (1-6). Kickoff from Williams Stadium in Lynchburg, Virginia is scheduled for noon EST on ESPN3.

Liberty and UMass are meeting for the second straight season in Lynchburg and for the fourth year in a row overall. The Flames are 2-1 in the head-to-head series, winning the last two meetings by a combined score of 108-21. In last year’s game, Liberty recorded its first ever shutout of an FBS opponent during what turned out to be the Flames’ 2020 regular season finale, defeating the Minutemen, 45-0.

The Minutemen are in their third season under head coach Walt Bell, and they have had difficulty finding success. Bell and UMass are 2-21 over the past three seasons, winning just one game in 2019 and so far this season with an 0-4 2020 shortened campaign sandwiched in between.

The Minutemen picked up a win on Oct. 9 against UConn, 27-13, in their first win since the 2019 season. Since then, UMass lost at Florida State this past week, 59-3, following a bye week. In 4 of their 7 games this year, UMass has scored either 3 or 7 points. In consecutive games earlier this year in September, Walt Bell’s squad was able to score 28 points each against Boston College and Eastern Michigan. UMass also faced a familiar Liberty foe in Coastal Carolina, falling to the Chanticleers, 53-3, in Conway, South Carolina.

“I think they have good skill,” Liberty defensive coordinator Scott Symons said of the Minutemen offense. “I think they are deep at wide out. They have some length at wide out that poses some problems. Running back wise, the transfer from Rutgers is a solid running back and makes them dynamic. They play two different quarterbacks, so you’ve got to be able to plan, be able to adjust. The offense changes a little bit with the quarterbacks in the game. It’s not like wildcat, the guy can still throw the ball, but he’s in there more to run it.”

UMass is averaging 14.7 points per game with 285.4 yards of offense each time out. Quarterback Brady Olson has completed 81 of 161 passes for 958 yards, 6 touchdowns, and 6 interceptions. He is their more typical quarterback at 6’4″. Zamar Wise, a converted wide receiver, has played in five games and completed 6 of 9 passes for 22 yards, but he’s more of a factor in the run game. Wise has 126 rushing yards on his 28 carries and 1 touchdown. Both are expected to play Saturday at Liberty.

At running back, Ellis Merriweather leads the way with 385 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns. Rutgers transfer Kay’Ron Adams is also a weapon with 39 carries for 114 yards and a touchdown.

UMass has had 18 different players with at least one reception this season. Rico Arnold leads the way with 18 receptions for 255 yards and a touchdown. Ellis Merriweather and Tray Pettway are the only others with double digit receptions so far this season while Eric Collins and Melvin Hill join Merriweather and Arnold with over 100 receiving yards thus far.


  • Liberty has not lost a game by more than three points since Nov. 23, 2019 when the Flames fell to Virginia, 55-27.
  • Liberty is 3-0 at home this season and has won a program record 14 consecutive home games dating back to the 2019 season. This is the fourth longest active home winning streak in FBS football.
  • In his third season as Liberty’s head coach, Hugh Freeze has posted a 24-8 record including an 18-3 mark over the last 21 games. A win over UMass Saturday would make Freeze the fastest Liberty head coach ever to reach 25 victories.
  • Malik Willis leads FBS quarterbacks with 647 rushing yards and is the only player ranked among the nation’s top 20 for passing and rushing touchdowns.
  • UMass is the only opponent Liberty has faced during each of its first four FBS seasons. The Flames and Minutemen are also scheduled to square off each year through 2025.


Hugh Freeze on UMass – “They are the same offensively. Walt has done a great job offensively in his career. He knows what he’s doing on offense. It’s not any different. Defensively, it’s kinda hard to figure. It’s like they want to be three down but then you turn on the tape and there are some games where they are almost exclusively all four down. Not quite sure, that’s a little different than years past. They are very similar to what they’ve been in the past offensively, and then defensively they are a little different.”

DC Scott Symons on UMass – “I think they’ve improved their roster tremendously from when we played them our first year until now, on offense in particular. They’ve scored some points in some of these ball games. They are doing a really good job on offense. I do think they stress you in a lot of different ways more so than they have in the past. They scored 30 points against a P5 team. We know they can score 30 points against us and they are good enough to beat us.”

Aakil Washington on staying ready – “Coach Symons preaches the next man up mentality. I’ve been doing that and perfecting my craft when I’m not on the field. That’s been helping me a lot to come in and be ready.”

Malik Willis on his hometown Atlanta Braves – “I’m keeping track as much as I can as long as I’m not watching film or doing anything even though I check the updates. I’m proud of them boys.”

CJ Daniels on UMass – “On the outside, the corners are pretty good. We struggled last year getting off the line. We should have made plays that we didn’t last year because we got held up at the line.”

Kevin Shaa on UMass – “They are aggressive on the outside. Last year, they got after us. We expect them to have confidence this year and try to do the same. We expect them to come in with high intensity and try to avenge the losses.”

Rashaad Harding on if this is a trap game – “The main focus is always the game that is at stake. The week we are in right now that is the most important week. Whenever we see Ole Miss, that is when we will see them. We will worry about them then. As for now, we have to worry about UMass and beat these guys up.”


Liberty 42, UMass 10

The Flames will need to regain some confidence after the last two weeks of lackluster performances, especially as Liberty prepares for the stretch run against Ole Miss, Louisiana, and Army.