Although Liberty has some obvious shortcomings, the team is above .500 on the year and will present a significant challenge for the Minutemen. First off, Liberty is ninth in the nation in passing yards per game, and quarterback Steven Calvert has 16 touchdowns on the season. However, Calvert doesn’t pass very efficiently, as he’s only completed 57% of his passes. The Minutemen do have to make sure to keep their eyes on receiver Antonio Gandy-Golden, though, as he leads the Flames in both receiving yards (639) and touchdowns (7).
Their rushing attack is fairly average, but is pretty evenly divided between three backs. Their top two rushers, Frankie Hickson and Peytton Pickett, have combined for 14 rushing touchdowns on the season, so UMass will have to watch out for these two near the goal line.
As for Liberty’s defense, they certainly don’t hold the same merit as their offense, especially on the ground. The team has let up almost 35 points per game and are 103rd in Division I in rushing yards against. Marquis Young should certainly be able to exploit this putrid rush defense.
Another worry for Liberty could be a healthy-enough Andrew Ford playing snaps for the Minutemen. Although Ford was out last week with a leg injury, there’s a chance he gets to play a significant portion of the game. It’s no guarantee Ford plays in this one, but if he does, look for some strikes through the air from him.
Game prediction: 28 UMass, 24 Liberty
As stated earlier, UMass’ rushing attack should carry the way in this one, considering the success they had on the ground last week. Further, UMass’s horrendous ground defense shouldn’t be exposed by Liberty’s mediocre attack on that end. The biggest concern for the Minutemen defense, however, will be Calvert’s ability to spread the ball, but UMass should carry their momentum from a dominant performance last week when they only let up 15 passing yards.
Although the Flames have a skilled offense, the UMass defense should be able to hold its own and possibly force some turnovers in the process. Comis (and possibly Ford) throwing to Isabella, among others, with Young in the backfield, should create a two-dimensional attack for the Minutemen that will be a task for the Flames to defend. With a balanced attack and a defense that should hold its own, look for the Minutemen to end up on top in a close matchup. Go UMass!