In just its second year as a member of the FBS, Liberty has already notched its first bowl win after taking down Georgia Southern 23-16 in the Cure Bowl. The win moves head coach Hugh Freeze to 4-1 in bowl games, capping an eight-win campaign for his first season as the Flames' coach.
The season started with Freeze leading the team from a hospital bed in the coaches' box because of complications from a herniated disc in his back, but it ended with the former Ole Miss coach celebrating a breakthrough season for the program that brought him back to the sidelines.
Liberty quarterback Buckshot Calvert totaled 270 yards on 16-of-35 passing for two touchdowns, the first breaking the game open in the first quarter on this toss to a wide open Johnny Huntley for a long catch-and-wrong score.
The Flames are fast. @LibertyFootball strikes first in the @CureBowl! pic.twitter.com/GRTxS1Xumy— CBS Sports Network (@CBSSportsNet) December 21, 2019
As the weather began to have somewhat of an impact -- and would continue to throughout the game -- Georgia Southern was able to keep pace early with it's reliable option attack ground game.
When one option is to score a touchdown, you take it. @GSAthletics_FB ties it up at the @CureBowl. pic.twitter.com/TE23vmpevT— CBS Sports Network (@CBSSportsNet) December 21, 2019
A key moment came from Calvert early in the third quarter as the game was still very much in doubt at 16-7. Liberty got the ball to start the second half and drove right down the field, 75 yards in six plays, with Calvert's touchdown toss to Antonio Gandy-Golden ending the scoring drive.
Calvert for Gandy-Golden...TOUCHDOWN @LibertyFootball! pic.twitter.com/5CEv1J5UoB— CBS Sports Network (@CBSSportsNet) December 21, 2019
The one downside to Calvert's game was the two interceptions that helped keep the Eagles close, but it was otherwise a productive and successful day for the Flames offense. Georgia Southern racked up 194 rushing yards but failed frequently to win on third down and in other scoring opportunities.
Liberty capitalizing on this bowl appearance with a win was key for its future scheduling opportunities. The Flames entered the game as underdogs -- albeit by less than a touchdown with a closing line around five points -- but competed as favorites, scoring first and never trailing in the win.
That kind of performance is evidence of Liberty's strength after a season where it went 1-3 against bowl teams, defeating Buffalo at home on Sept. 14. Freeze fielded a competitive squad this season, and it's one that can bring excitement to a nonconference game for Power Five schools. Life as an FBS Independent does include a bit of marketing to help the scheduling efforts, and pulling out this win boosts the perception of what you're getting when you schedule Liberty.