Richmond Times-Dispatch

Liberty to welcome winless UMass

Flames will shoot for bounce-back win against weak team

- MASSACHUSE­TTS AT LIBERTY Friday: Noon Online: BY JOHN O’CONNOR joconnor@timesdispa­ (804) 649-6233 @ RTDjohnoco­nnor

Liberty looks to bounce back from its first loss of the season and would appear to be welcoming the appropriat­e guest Friday at noon. Massachuse­tts (0-3) has been outscored 116-12.

The national ranking of the Flames (8-1) is no more following a 15-14 loss at N.C. State last Saturday night. The Wolfpack blocked a 39-yard field goal attempt with 1:18 remaining, and LU’s Malik Willis threw three intercepti­ons after throwing one in his first seven games (missed one game because of injury).

“I’ve just got to take care of the ball. That’s what it comes down to,” said Willis, a junior transfer from Auburn. “Turnovers lose games and we lost

[to N.C. State] because of turnovers. They were turnovers from myself. There were no fumbles. There were no other things like that. I just turned the ball over, intercepti­ons.”

The Flames previously beat ACC members Syracuse and Virginia Tech. Liberty had won 10 consecutiv­e games dating to last season.

“I’ve got to be sure I handle it right, and our coaches have got to be sure they handle it right, and certainly our players have got to handle it properly,” second-year coach Hugh Freeze said.

He added that Sunday he dealt with a “sick feeling in the pit of my stomach” because he didn’t believe he did enough to help the Flames at N.C. State.

“I take great pride, and our staff does, in, even when you’re maybe not matched up roster man-for-man, getting games in the fourth quarter and give us a chance to win,” Freeze said.

“I just feel like I didn’t quite get it done for our kids. So it’s a sick feeling.”

The Minutemen fell 41-0 to Georgia Southern, 51-10 to Marshall, and 24-2 to Florida Atlantic.

This will be Liberty’s final home game. The Flames close their regular season at No. 16 Coastal Carolina on Dec. 5.

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