With trips to #23 Virginia and SEC powerhouse Auburn quickly approaching, Liberty’s football team is facing a must-win situation this Saturday, Nov. 3 against UMass.

UMass, another FBS Independent, is coming off a win over 1-6 UConn. The 3-6 Minutemen also have victories over Duquesne and Charlotte. A win at UMass may be crucial for the Flames, but according to head coach Turner Gill, escaping Amherst with a victory will not be easy.

“UMass is a very, very good offensive football team,” Gill said in a noon press conference Oct. 30. “They’re averaging 30-plus points a game. They do a lot of multiple things . . . and it’s been very, very successful.”

The Minutemen are led by receiver Andy Isabella., who leads the nation with 1,091 receiving yards. His 68 catches and 9 touchdowns are also among the best in college football.

“We gotta do a great job of moving him around, trying to find the best matchup . . . we spoke to our young men on Sunday; you’re gonna have to play your best game on Saturday to be able to maintain and contain a very good receiver,” defensive coordinator Robert Wimberly said of Isabella.

If LU’s defense, which is ranked low nationally, cannot contain Isabella and the Minutemen offense; the Flames will again rely on their ability to produce points. Kentory Matthews returns to the lineup against UMass, as does receiver J.T. Wood. Tight ends Jerome Jackson and Fidel Ogbeifun will also be available.

Looking ahead in the schedule, it’s pretty obvious why the Flames need a win this Saturday to qualify for a bowl game. #23 Virginia, who is ranked for the first time in years, will welcome the Flames to Scott Stadium next weekend. Following the short trip up 29 to Charlottesville, the Flames will travel to Auburn, Alabama to take on one of the SEC’s most prestigious programs.

The Auburn and Virginia games are not guaranteed losses, but will likely prove to be challenging battles. If the Flames hope to win six games and clinch a spot in a bowl game, the Flames will have to avoid bad losses. That starts this weekend at Massachusetts.