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Liberty takes care of Eastern Michigan, 56-20, in LendingTree Bowl

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

Willis, touted as one of the top QBs in the 2022 NFL Draft class,  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.


augusta free press
augusta free press