LYNCHBURG, Va. (WFXR) — There will be a number of “firsts” for Liberty football when the Flames take the field on Saturday in their season opener.
Its opponent, No. 22 Syracuse, will be the first Power Five school and the first ranked program ever to visit Williams Stadium, which is expected to fill every one of of its 25,000 seats Saturday night.
The game will also mark the debut of head coach Hugh Freeze, who is still unsure whether or not he’ll be on the sidelines for the opener.
”It certainly will be different if I can’t see them eye-to-eye, particularly when adversity comes and I want to have a word with them about it and talk to them about not blinking and playing the next play,” Freeze said Monday, speaking from a wheelchair at his first weekly news conference.
Freeze is recovering from back surgery after experiencing back spasms in practice during fall camp. Doctors later discovered that Freeze had a life-threatening staph infection. Since leaving the hospital, Freeze has been coaching from his room at a nearby hotel, monitoring live camera feeds of practice.
A win over the Orange will be a tall order for the Flames, who are about to begin their first year as a full member of the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS).
“They’re very tenacious. They’re D-Line, they’re going to come at you,” senior running back Frankie Hickson said. “They’re going to come at you hard and fast. They’re going to bring speed to the game and they’ll bring physicality to the game. But again, it’s nothing that we haven’t seen before. It’s nothing that we can’t handle.”
The players are excited about the opportunity to play an ACC opponent at home to start the season.
“This is what we live for, no matter what the team is, how big they are. D1, D1-AA, we still got to approach it with the same mindset,” senior quarterback Stephen “Buckshot” Calvert said. “We just got to come out, execute, focus on what we could do and not what they plan on doing. Just in house stuff that we can look at to help the team get better and grow.”
Freeze just wants his players to play 60 minutes of “passionate, fundamental” football.
“I just think our kids are going to compete like crazy. I don’t get caught up if it’s win, loss come Saturday night, I just refuse to go there. It’s really to me about how our kids compete.”
Kickoff for Saturday’s game is set for 6 p.m.