The Liberty Flames hosted their season’s first home game against the University of Alabama-Birmingham Blazers, where they stamped a 21-14 victory on a rainy Saturday evening. The Flames proudly entered Williams Stadium last night with 18,892 fans watching from all over. Last year, the Flames dominated the Blazers 36-12 in Birmingham in their first-ever meeting between both teams. Last week, they played at Southern Mississippi and won 29-27 in a four-overtime thriller.
UAB won the coin toss to start the game. Redshirt Freshman, Kaidon Salter was able to start and showed a lot of speed and mobility (this guy can scramble!). He showed a lot of confidence on the field, especially in the post-game interview. UAB fumbled numerous times during the game which had the Flames’ defense and fans fired up.
The Flames recorded 188 rushing yards and 202 passing yards. Salter went 13 for 25 and no interceptions. UAB’s running back, Jermaine Brown Jr. was the first to score in the game with a 31-yard rushing touchdown. Liberty responded twice in two quarters with a five-yard rushing touchdown by Shedro Louis and Salter’s two-yard rushing touchdown. Liberty wide receiver, Demario Douglas (Salter’s “boy” and favorite target), caught a 39-yard pass giving the Flames the advantage and momentum of the game. On the other side, UAB completed a 56-yard pass, but it was not enough to “contain” the Flames.
Redshirt sophomore, Dae Dae Hunter chipped in with a one-yard rushing touchdown during the fourth quarter. UAB’s McBride managed to score a rushing touchdown in the fourth. The Blazers outrushed the Flames 241-188, but the Flames recorded more first downs. Liberty’s defense forced four turnovers and showed a lot of maturity. Last year, Liberty forced 11 turnovers for the entire season; as of Saturday night, they have now recorded nine turnovers in just two games. They attempted to take advantage of the turnovers and moved down the field but weren’t able to score again to finish the game.
After the game, I made my way to the post-game interview room. We were all patiently waiting for Coach Freeze to come in. He came in, tossed his jacket on the table, and was ready to give his insight on their home opening win. Freeze said he felt like he was in a 15-round fist fight, but proudly said, “they (Liberty) have a lot of grit and fight.” He mentioned that they did not convert a lot of third downs and needed to “clean up” the offense. “It (offensive strategies) comes with growing pains,” he said. The students and fans were absolutely amazing at the game. The support and passion could be felt within Williams Stadium. Coach Freeze credited them saying they were “the best fans of a school that he had ever been at.” “The students were incredible and phenomenal. I’m thankful that they showed up,” he added.
I thought it was very funny when Flames’ safety Javon Scruggs mentioned that Coach Freeze told them that “they couldn’t lose at the crib (their “house”). Quarterback Kaidon Salter was the last of the Flames to enter the post-game interview room, and he was still very poised and confident. He said he was thankful to have been the starter, and gave credit to God for bringing him this far. Salter mentioned that his family traveled 16 hours from home to watch him play, which he described as “amazing.” He is very young, but he is a very mature player. Salter added that he has learned a lot of lessons from everywhere and puts a huge emphasis on watching film with his coaches.
Six members were inducted into Liberty’s Hall of Fame this weekend, including former standout quarterback Glenn Inverso (1977-80).
It’s clear to see that Liberty’s fans are some of the best fans in the world. From the breathtaking scenery of the mountains beyond the stadium to the special lighting and music effects, this game was one “for the books.” The Flames will take on Wake Forest in Winston-Salem (ACC Network) next week at 5 p.m.
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