Liberty destined to meet No. 8 Oregon in Vrbo Fiesta Bowl
Dec. 3 was a day long anticipated by the Liberty University football program. After achieving a remarkable 13-0 mark on the 2023 season, including a Conference USA title, only one question remained: Was Liberty’s campaign enough to earn the honor of a New Year’s Six Bowl game?
The Flames football team gathered Sunday afternoon in Williams Stadium to find out. Despite the inevitable nervous emotions and doubt regarding whether his team would get the national recognition he had long been waiting for, Liberty Head Coach Jamey Chadwell and his team erupted when their name flashed on the screen of ESPN’s broadcast.
It was official — No. 23 Liberty would take on the No. 8 Oregon Ducks in the Vrbo Fiesta Bowl on New Year’s Day in Glendale, Arizona.
“Today was surreal for our program, for our players. To see our name, our logo up there in the Fiesta Bowl was something that really was beyond our dreams,” Chadwell said. “On top of that, to play one of the premier college football programs in the country with Oregon is something that doesn’t typically happen to programs like us. If I could put in words just the emotion that our players felt to see that today, the excitement, the joy, the tears; it was a special, special moment.”
Not only were the Flames presented with their first New Year’s Six game in program history, but with the opportunity to play the 11-2, nationally revered Oregon Ducks. The Ducks fell by a mere three points to the Washington Huskies in the Pac-12 Championship Game, and the Huskies are one of four teams vying for a National Championship in this year’s College Football Playoff.
“When it was on the screen, it was just low-key a blur after that point. Everyone’s jumping around, a bunch of excitement,” senior wide receiver Noah Frith said. “We’re just ready to go play and show everyone who Liberty is.”
While the task couldn’t be much taller than facing the Ducks, the moment and memory of earning a New Year’s Six bid couldn’t have been sweeter for the Flames, especially for the program’s veterans who have been around to see astounding change in Liberty football.
“I don’t know how to put that into words other than just God’s grace and just trusting in him. That’s all you can do,” senior linebacker Tyren Dupree said. “I’ve had a new position coach every year. Just learning to trust in God and just know that there is a plan for all the madness is truly a testimony to it right here.”
Liberty will meet Oregon in State Farm Stadium on New Year’s Day, with kickoff slated for 1 p.m. EST. The bowl game appearance will be the Flames’ fifth straight, with their record being 3-1 in their previous four bowl games.
Cory is the sports editor for the Liberty Champion. Follow her on X