Liberty's first season under Jamey Chadwell couldn’t have gone better.
The No. 25 Flames (10-0) have already secured a berth in the Conference USA championship game, and will play it on their home field against New Mexico State, a team they beat 33-17 in September.
A 12-0 regular season would sure look nice.
Standing in the way this weekend is a UMass team that has won just three games, but is coming off a bye week after winning two straight. It's the first back-to-back wins for the Minutemen since the 2018 season.
The Flames may still have a chip on their shoulder. They remained at No. 25 in the AP Top 25 for the second week in a row, even after rolling over Old Dominion 38-10.
“We handled who was in front of us, who everybody says came from this great conference and all these different things," Chadwell said of the Monarchs from the Sun Belt Conference. "And we beat them worse than anybody had all year.”
The Minutemen, in their second season under coach Don Brown, have lost four straight against the Flames and are eager to take another crack at them.
"Obviously they’ve gotten off to a good start, and they’ve just kind of kept going,” Brown said. “We’re excited about the challenge, that’s for sure."
Flames QB Kaidon Salter has thrown for 26 TDs this season and rushed for nine more. He needs four passing TDs to break the Liberty single-season record of 29, set by Stephen Calvert in 2017, and six total TDs to set a program single-season record. Malik Willis had 40 in 2021.
RECORD BREAKER 2?
Salter's success could also put WR CJ Daniels into the Flames' record book. He's caught a touchdown pass in four straight games. No Liberty player has caught a TD pass in five games in a row since the program moved to Division I.
The Minutemen have two weapons at running back. Kay'Ron Lynch-Adams ranks 14th in the FBS with 1,014 rushing yards, and versatile Greg Desrosiers Jr. is coming off a huge game. He ran for 162 yards and three TDs against Merrimack and is among the national leaders in kickoff return yardage.
The Flames have already achieved several goals and will honor seniors before the game, their last one at home. The Flames have been installed as nearly 30-point favorites, but if their focus is elsewhere, the Minutemen have weapons too.
TOUGH PLACE TO PLAY
Liberty is 30-6 at home since moving to the FBS in 2018, and this year has been outscoring opponents by an average of 37-22 at Williams Stadium. In their last two home games, against Louisiana Tech and Old Dominion, the average score was 47-20.
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AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/college-football