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OPINION | WALLY HALL: Freeze’s career resurrected with Flames

by Wally Hall | November 3, 2022 at 2:32 a.m.

Hugh Freeze has pulled off one of the greatest feats in modern day college football.

When he left Ole Miss under a cloud, it was thought he was finished as a college football coach, and for two seasons Freeze's name was seldom heard. When it was, it usually was not heard in a good way.

Then came the announcement that he was taking over the reins of Liberty University which had zero national football recognition. As it turned out, it was the best place for a coach to get away from his past mistakes.

Liberty is an evangelical Christian school founded by Jerry Falwell in 1971.

Christianity is all about forgiveness and second chances.

Falwell knew football attracts students, and he started a football program two years later. The Flames were a NAIA independent, playing anyone who would put them on the schedule.

In 1988, they moved up to FCS, which was known as I-AA at the time, and joined the Big South Conference in 2002 where they held their own and won or shared a few conference titles.

Liberty has grown from a small student body in Lynchburg, Va., with 154 students to 130,000, including online students for college and its K-12 program.

In 2018, Liberty moved up to FBS and went back to being an Independent. That season they were coached by Turner Gill who would resign and later spend time at Arkansas as an administrator.

Days after Gill's resignation it was announced Freeze would take over the Flames program.

The national media didn't seem to notice. By then, Freeze had made several appearances, including the Little Rock Touchdown Club where he said he deeply regretted the hurt he caused his wife and three daughters.

In his first season, the Flames went 8-5 including a win in the Cure Bowl, the program's first bowl appearance in history.

Still no one was paying much attention, but they were about to.

In his second season, the Flames reeled off eight straight wins to open the season, including a 38-35 road victory over Virginia Tech.

For the ninth game, they rolled into Raleigh, N.C., to face North Carolina State and lost 15-14 when they had a field goal blocked late in the fourth quarter.

They finished out the season with two more wins, including a 37-34 overtime win against Coastal Carolina in the Cure Bowl and were ranked No. 17 in The Associated Press poll with a 10-1 record but were ignored by the College Football Playoff committee.

Last season, Freeze led Liberty to an 8-5 record, including a 56-20 win in the Lending Tree Bowl.

Today, the Flames are 7-1 with the only loss coming at the hands of No. 21 Wake Forest 37-36. The Flames had driven 70 in eight plays to pull within one with 1:11 and Freeze went for two -- of course he did -- and came up short.

They bounced out of that game with five consecutive wins, including a 41-14 victory over Brigham Young.

The game with Arkansas couldn't have come at a better time for Freeze.

His is one of the most mentioned names for the Auburn job, and while he refuses to comment during the season, a win over the Razorbacks, who just beat the Tigers 41-27 in a game that wasn't as close as the score, would look good on his resume.

The Flames have never beaten a SEC team, but they had never been to a bowl game before Freeze arrived either.

Liberty was off last weekend, so the Flames have had extra time to prepare for this game. On Monday, Freeze said he taught his players about the Arkansas atmosphere and the Hog call.

Anyone who thinks that's all he worked on hasn't been paying attention. Hugh Freeze, like Bobby Petrino, has a great unconservative offensive mind, and they have made the most of another chance.

Print Headline: Freeze’s career resurrected with Flames


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