While looking around for some sources on Liberty I came across “A Sea Of Red”. It’s both a pretty active Liberty message board and a fan driven blog managed by Mr Jon Mason.
I asked Jon if he was interested in a Blog Swap this week and he was kind enough to oblige.
So here were my questions and his answers, keep an eye out on A Sea of Red for the other half of the swap.
BR - So when this game first got scheduled the first thing most Buffalo fans zeroed in on was playing against Turner Gill, a man we all love and consider the coach who turned the program from “eternal basement of the MAC” to “Occasional title contender”. But Gill left, Kansas did not work out, and he landed at liberty where he was doing a decent job until he had to step away.
You have Hugh Freeze now, a man with a decent resume in his own right. Has the transition caused any obvious schematic or personnel problems?
ASOR: We were really looking forward to this game with Coach Gill as the coach. Of course, then we had the unexpected news of him retiring immediately following the 2018 season. It’s interesting to hear your take on Gill though. Most around the Liberty program aren’t very high on him as a head football coach. We all have great respect for him as a person, but many feel like his teams underachieved on several occasions. He always had the ability to get a big win though when he needed it the most – Baylor, Old Dominion, Troy, etc.
We’re still trying to figure out if this is causing any schematic problems. Our offense has been really explosive the past few years under now senior quarterback Buckshot Calvert. These first two games have been underwhelming though, and that is very surprising with Freeze’s resume as an offensive genius. Calvert seems to have struggled the most in learning the new offense, and with Auburn transfer Malik Willis sitting out this year, there’s really no experience behind him. Our backup is a true freshman that has only gotten snaps in mop-up duty the first two games.
BR - The first thing which jumps off the paper at me is the huge number of rushing yards you gave up to ULM. Having not watched the game I’m wondering if you could fill us in. Was this an aberration or is your run defense “soft”. I’m asking because while our Quarterback is impressing for a freshman, we are a team that really needs the run game to be clicking.
ASOR: Our defense was awful in 2018, even giving up 777 yards to UMass in a triple overtime game. With new defensive coordinator Scott Symons and an influx of JUCO transfers, we’ve been hopeful that the defense would show significant improvement this season. In the opener against Syracuse, we were all pleasantly surprised, holding the Orange to 24 points and keeping their offense in check most of the game. Against Louisiana it was a different story. We didn’t really stop them all night, they only stopped themselves – had 3 missed field goals and 2 turnovers. Our top two leading tacklers from the Syracuse game combined for 0 tackles this past Saturday. Safety Elijah Benton missed the game as he was recovering from a concussion and DT Ralfs Rusins had limited reps as it appears he may have suffered an injury during the game. We have very little to no depth, so any time we have injuries, it makes a huge impact. Hopefully those guys will both be back this week and the defense will be more like week 1 than week 2.
BR - The other thing we noticed was how the Syracuse camped out in your backfield, again, was this an aberration because you seemed to hold up better against ULM.
ASOR: It’s no secret our offensive line had problems against the Orange, giving up 7 sacks and Calvert running for his life numerous times. Syracuse has a very good defensive line with two defensive ends that had 10 sacks a piece in 2018. That definitely had something to do with it, but our offensive line wasn’t great against Louisiana despite only allowing 3 sacks. Calvert was hurried many times. It’s a definite issue, probably the biggest for the offense through the first two weeks.
BR - Ok with the “why and how are you struggling” out of the way, tell me who we should be worried about? What is the spark that Liberty hopes to ignite on the offensive side of the ball to down Buffalo this weekend?
ASOR: Our biggest weapons are WR Antonio Gandy-Golden and RB Frankie Hickson. They each had 1,000 yards receiving and rushing, respectively, last year. They should make an impact, the problem has been that we haven’t had anybody else really step up to take the pressure off those two, particularly AGG. He’s an NFL talent, and defenses have done a really good job the first two weeks of taking him away as the game goes on by sending double and triple coverages his way. I’m sure that will start to happen from the get go moving forward rather than waiting a couple possessions to make adjustments.
BR - Same question but with defense. What star to adjustments do you think are key for Liberty to stop the Buffalo running attack?
ASOR: We really need to be healthy to be successful on defense. As mentioned, Benton and Rusins are needed back in the lineup. LB Solomon Ajayi (Jay Ajayi’s younger brother) also suffered a stinger Saturday against Louisiana. He’s another of our top defensive players. DE Jesse Lemonier can cause problems in the opponent’s backfield, as well.
BR - Predictions?
ASOR : Before the season I had this pegged as a Liberty win. After the first two weeks and seeing how Buffalo looked against Penn State, I think I’m leaning towards a UB win. Hopefully it will be a tightly contested game into the 4th quarter, which I expect. I’ll say Buffalo 27-17.