It’s finally football time and the Liberty Flames open the season this Saturday at Western Kentucky. Once the pregame hype and jitters calm down, it will be time to settle in and play a football game. And when the Flames do, they have a very big test facing them on the other side of the field.
The Hilltoppers opened the season this past Saturday at Louisville, falling 35-21, to the Cardinals. While WKU was unable to string together any sustainable drives against the ACC opponent, their scoring drives were a total of 1 yard, 4 yards, and 37 yards, the Hilltopper offense presents a unique challenge for the Liberty defense.
“I think it’s going to be a really big test for us,” Liberty defensive coordinator Scott Symons said. “This will be the most athletic quarterback we have seen since we have been here, as far as making guys miss in space and those sorts of things. Big time challenge, big time athlete, appears that he’s a tough competitor, as well.”
That quarterback Symons is talking about is Tyrrell Pigrome, a grad transfer from Maryland. Pigrome played in 40 games for the Terrapins, throwing for nearly 1,800 yards, 9 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions, while also running for over 600 yards and 8 touchdowns.
In the season opener at Louisville, Pigrome completed 10 or 23 passes for 129 yards and 1 touchdown. He also led the team with 17 carries for 68 rushing yards. The quarterback run game is a huge part of their offense, as all running backs combined for 17 carries, but they also have a very talented running back as well in Gaej Walker.
“It’s a two-headed monster in the backfield,” Symons said. “Walker is a really good running back. I would say he is one of the better Group of Five backs we have played since we’ve been here. He’s a really good player, so you’ve got two elite athletes in the backfield and that can pose some problems for defenses.”
Walker started all 13 games for the Hilltoppers at running back last season after moving from defensive back prior to the season. He finished second in Conference USA with 241 carries for 1,208 yards. He also caught 24 passes out of the backfield for 140 yards.
“He’s a really good back,” Symons continued. “He’s patient. He can make guys miss. Great running backs, you’ve got to be able to make one guy miss, he can make guys miss. He’s a patient runner. He can catch the ball out of the backfield. He’s solid in pass protection. He’s a really good player.”
Liberty returns just four starters on defense and has several new faces all across the defensive roster. Saturday will be a huge first test for this new look group. Symons hopes his group is up to the challenge.
“This will be the best backfield we have seen since we’ve been here, definitely at the Group of Five level.”