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THE COLUMN: Virginia vs. Liberty Complete Preview

Give me Liberty or give me death?

TIME: 12:00 PM (EST)

DATE: November 23rd, 2019

LOCATION: Scott Stadium | Charlottesville, VA


The Lowdown

After taking care of Georgia Tech two weeks ago, the Hoos remain in the driver’s seat for the ACC Coastal Division crown. Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech are also jockeying for the crown, but it is the Cavaliers who will secure it if they win their last two games. Obviously, it’s easy to look ahead to next week’s game but the Hoos must take care of business this weekend first.

Visiting Charlottesville is the Liberty Flames, the Hoos’ neighbors from Lynchburg. The Flames made the transition to FBS football last year as independents and are now playing in their first full-fledged season. At 6-4, Liberty is also bowl-eligible under Head Coach Hugh Freeze’s first year. While a newbie onto the scene, the Flames have carried over their successes as an FCS program. Veteran players such as quarterback Stephen Calvert and wide-receiver Antonio Gandy-Golden have been stellar and form an offense that is not to be overlooked. Against an injured Virginia secondary, Liberty’s aerial offense could be a pose an issue for the Hoos. Regardless, the Cavaliers are big favorites to win the game and should be able to take care of business. However, if two weeks ago was any indication of how this week may go - we may be in for more of battle than we thought.

The Statistics

from Danny Neckel

A worthy passing matchup

Category UVA Category LIBERTY
Category UVA Category LIBERTY
Yards Defense 18th (316.3) Yards Offense 38th (443.2)
Passing Defense 23rd (193.5) Passing Offense 16th (300.4)
Passing Offense 44th (255.9) Passing Defense 69th (231.3)
Rushing Defense 27th (122.8) Rushing Offense 91st (142.8)
Turnover Margin 104th (-0.5) Turnover Margin 41th (0.3)

Hoo’s Hoo?

Virginia Cavaliers

Tanner Cowley, TE

Tight-ends haven’t been too much of a focal point under Offensive Coordinator Robert Anae. Fourth-year Tanner Cowley has had a quiet season but does provide the occasional big reception for the Hoos. Three week ago against North Carolina, Cowley scored his first touchdown as a Cavalier. Against Georgia Tech, the fourth-year had two catches for 23 yards and he may find success against a weak Liberty defense.

Virginia Cavaliers

Eli Hanback, DT

Fourth-year Eli Hanback has quietly strung together a solid season. Virginia has been dominant in the sack category all year long and Hanback himself has four sacks. The Cavaliers are currently tied for eight in the country in team sacks, with 34. Hanback also has 24 total tackles on the season. Look for the Cavaliers to bring pressure all day long against Stephen Calvert and the Flames.

Virginia Cavaliers

Joey Blount, S

Virginia’s secondary, while one the deepest areas for Virginia, has also been ravaged by injuries. Blount has stepped up big time in the absence of some of his teammates. He has contributed 78 total tackles (and leads the team with 38 solo tackles), 3.5 sacks, three interceptions, and one fumble recovery. Not too shabby. Blount will continue to be one of the most important players for this year and hopefully the next as well.

Liberty Flames

Stephen Calvert, QB

Senior quarterback Stephen Calvert has been the leader for the Flames through the team’s FBS transition. He has made a big leap from last year in efficiency and consistency too. Last season, the quarterback threw for 3,068 yards and 21 touchdowns but also had 18 interceptions and a 54.7% completion percentage. This season, Calvert has thrown for 2,941 yards and 23 touchdowns with only three picks and a 61.5% completion percentage.

Liberty Flames

Antonio Gandy-Golden, WR

Gandy-Golden, now a Senior, has been a beast for Liberty through the years. He has real NFL upside and is second in the country in receiving yards this season with 1,244. Gandy-Golden is the indisputable No. 1 wide receiver on the team, with the next best being DJ Stubbs who only has 361 receiving yards on the year. Calvert and Gandy-Golden are a real deal duo and will be the main two to watch on Saturday.

Liberty Flames

Jessie Lemonier, DL

The Flames’ most impressive defensive player is probably Jessie Lemonier. He has been a consistent source of sacks: last year he had ten sacks and currently has 8.5 this year. Those 8.5 sacks are good for 13th in the country. He also is second on the team in total tackles with 65. Look for Lemonier to be a name often heard on Saturday as he tries to disrupt Virginia’s offensive plan.


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