Flames Hope to Burn Brightly with Freeze
(This is the second in a series previewing the 2019 opponents of the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns. Today: Liberty. The Flames visit Cajun Field for the Annual Herbert Heymann Classic on September 7th).
Liberty finished 6-6 a year ago in their first year as a full-fledged FBS member. Those six wins included victories against Old Dominion, Troy and New Mexico. The Flames had success with a high powered offense. And, after the retirement of Turner Gill as head coach, Liberty turned to a guy who knows a thing or two about offense.
Enter Hugh Freeze.
The former Arkansas State and Ole Miss head coach is getting another chance and the offensive guru has plenty of returning firepower, with eight starters returning on the offensive side of the ball.
Steven Calvert returns at quarterback after throwing for 3,068 yards and 21 touchdowns a year ago. Calvert needs to cut down on his interceptions, however, as he was picked 18 times a season ago. Liberty also returns a 1,000 yard rusher in Frankie Hickson, who had eleven rushing touchdowns. Hickson missed the spring after having knee surgery in the offseason. Joshua Mack, who sat out last year after being named an FCS All-American at Maine, is ready to go. Antonio Gandy-Golden, who has great size at 6-4, has had back to back 1,000 yard receiving seasons. Liberty is going to score points this year.
The Flames had issues on the defensive side of the football, allowing nearly 37 points and 485 yards per game a season ago. They return seven starters from that unit and hope to be improved. The Flames had 22 quarterback sacks last year and hope for even more this season, as Freeze brought in six defensive linemen.
SCHEDULE: Liberty gets four of their first six games at home, hosting Syracuse, Buffalo and New Mexico. But the schedule gets tougher after that with road trips to Rutgers, Virginia and BYU. Liberty will need seven wins to get bowl eligible, as they play a pair of FCS opponents in Hampton and Maine.
OUTLOOK: The Flames scored 40 or more points six times a year ago and 50 or more on four occasions. But they gave up 40 or more seven times, and there's the rub. Freeze is a very good offensive mind and will find a way to get Calvert to cut down on his turnovers. It's an offense that can be scary at times and this game at Cajun Field could be an absolute shootout. The Cajuns will be favored...but they better play well.
(Phil Steele's College Football Preview contributed to this story)