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    December 18, 2021 Mobile, Ala. RSS | | Box Score Box Score | Box Score Box Score

    Postgame Notes

    Postgame Quotes

    Top Plays: Eastern Michigan

    Postgame Press Conference: Head Coach Hugh Freeze

    Postgame Press Conference: Malik Willis (Overall MVP)

    Postgame Press Conference: T.J. Green (Offensive MVP)

    Postgame Press Conference: Skyler Thomas (Defensive MVP)

    Postgame Press Conference: Aidan Alves (Special Teams MVP)

    Liberty’s Malik Willis accounted for five of the Flames’ seven touchdowns on the day, leading Liberty to a convincing 56-20 win over Eastern Michigan in the 2021 LendingTree Bowl at Hancock Whitney Stadium.

    Willis was named the LendingTree Bowl MVP after finishing the game with 289 total offensive yards (58 rushing, 231 passing).

    Running back T.J. Green, who rushed for 88 yards and a touchdown, was named the LendingTree Bowl Offensive MVP.

    Safety Skyler Thomas, a grad transfer playing in his only season for the Flames in 2021, was named the LendingTree Bowl Defensive MVP after returning an interception 27 yards for a touchdown. He also had three assisted tackles, helping him finish the year with 55 tackles (27 solo, 28 assisted).

    Punter Aidan Alves was named the LendingTree Bowl Special Teams MVP after averaging 48.7 yards per punt, including his second 60-plus yard punt of the season (63 yards).

    Liberty, in its third year of full FBS eligibility, earned its third straight bowl victory. The Flames, who also won the FBC Mortgage Cure Bowl in 2019 and 2020, join Appalachian State (2015-20) as the only teams to win bowl games in each of their first three years after transitioning to FBS from FCS.

    With the victory over Eastern Michigan today, the Flames have won three games inside the state of Alabama this season, also winning at Troy (Sept. 11) and UAB (Oct. 2). Prior to this season, Liberty was 0-6 in Alabama. Liberty is the first FBS team this season to win three games in the same state outside of its home state.

    The victory also pushes Liberty’s record to 8-5 on the season. Liberty has now won eight or more games for the 13th season in program history Liberty, including all three seasons under head coach Hugh Freeze.

    Willis finished the game completing 13-of-24 passing attempts for 231 yards and three passing touchdowns. With his trio of passing touchdowns today, Willis becomes the second player in program history with 25 or more passing touchdowns in a season (27).

    Liberty’s Stephen Calvert recorded a program record 29 passing touchdowns in 2017 and finished the 2017 season with 28.

    With his 289 total offensive yards against the Eagles, Willis finishes the season with 3,735 yards of total offense. The redshirt junior finishes the year ranked second in school history with 3,735 total offensive yards (878 rushing, 2,857 yards passing). Former Flames All-America quarterback Mike Brown finished the 2010 season with a program record 3,810 total offensive yards.

    With his nine tackles today against the Eagles, linebacker Storey Jackson becomes the first player since 2014 to finish a season with 100 or more tackles (Jacob Hagen had 108 stops in 2014). Jackson, another grad transfer, finishes his lone year at Liberty with 102 stops.

    Liberty’s leading receiver in the game was Kevin Shaa, who had three receptions for 94 yards and a touchdown. The senior finishes his 39-game career with the Flames with 82 receptions for 1,364 yards and 12 touchdowns.

    Box Score Highlights:
    Final Score: 56-20
    Liberty (8-5)
    Eastern Michigan (7-6, 4-4 MAC)
    Location: Hancock Whitney Stadium (Mobile, Ala.)
    Attendance: 15,186

    Turning Point:

    After the Flames scored a pair of touchdowns in less than a minute to take a 13-3 lead late in the first quarter, Eastern Michigan settled down and pulled to within three points on a two-yard rushing touchdown at the 13:01 mark of the second quarter.

    However, Liberty controlled the rest of the half, scoring on its next three drives to seize command of the game. The Flames scored on five-straight drives and took a 33-10 lead into the break at halftime. In total, Liberty scored 43-unanswered points and was up 56-10 before the Eagles scored twice late in the fourth quarter.

    Play-By-Play Breakdown:

    First Quarter

    • The Eagles methodically marched down the field on the game’s opening drive, but their 14-play effort stalled at the three-yard line on a fourth-down play. A false start penalty forced Eastern Michigan to settle for a 27-yard field goal at 7:48 on a 66-yard drive that took 7:12 off the game clock.
    • The Flames gained their first lead of the game later in the quarter on Willis’ 25th touchdown pass of 2021. The quarterback capped off a five-play, 85-yard effort at 3:08 when he connected on a 54-yard touchdown pass to DJ Stubbs, giving Liberty a 7-3 edge.
    • Liberty pushed its lead to 13-3 just 41 seconds later on the Flame’s first interception return for a touchdown since 2019. Safety Skyler Thomas quickly got behind the line of scrimmage, tipped a pass attempt from the Eagles’ quarterback Ben Bryant and returned it for 27 yards for a score at 2:27.

    Second Quarter

    • The Eagles pulled to with in three, 13-10, at the 13:01 mark of the quarter. Eastern Michigan finished off a 10-play, 75-yard drive with a two-yard rushing touchdown by running back Samson Evans.
    • Following back-to-back pass interference calls on the Eagles, Liberty’s Green burst through a hole on the right side of the line. The junior transfer running back scored from 34 yards out, his fourth rushing touchdown of the season, to give Liberty a 19-10 lead at 12:07.
    • The Flames pushed their lead to 26-10 with 6:22 left before the intermission. Tight end Johnny Huntley finished off Liberty’s longest drive of the game (12 plays; 88 yards) with a 20-yard touchdown pass from Willis.
    • Following a defensive stop on fourth down, Liberty’s offense used most of the rest of the clock before taking a 33-10 lead with 16 ticks left before halftime. Willis capped a six-play, 63-yard drive, with a 42-yard pass play to tight end Trevor Hobbs, with a two-yard touchdown run by Willis.

    Third Quarter

    • The Flames pushed their lead to 39-10 nearly four minutes into the third quarter (11:02). On a broken pass play, Willis found open space and scored on a 35-yard touchdown run, his 13th rushing touchdown of the season.
    • Liberty scored twice more during the quarter to take a 49-10 lead with 15 minutes left to play. Brayden Beck knocked down a 43-yard field goal with 7:08 left in the quarter, while Demario Douglas caught a three-yard touchdown pass from Willis at 2:44.

    Fourth Quarter

    • Liberty ended its run of 43-straight points when back-up quarterback Johnathan Bennett hit Shaa in stride for a 64-yard scoring play with 10:58 left to play in the game, giving Liberty a 56-10 lad lead.
    • Eastern Michigan was able to score twice during the final 15 minutes of play to double their point total in the game.
    • The Eagles got a 43-yard field goal from Chad Ryland at the 5:26 mark, while Jeff Hubbard returned an interception 34 yards at 4:29 to account for the game’s final score.