There is still value in bowl games after all. It might not be much, but ask Hugh Freeze how important Liberty’s 37-34 upset over No. 12 Coastal Carolina in the Cure Bowl was for his coaching career.
Granted, it almost didn’t work out that way. We were incredibly close to seeing the Freeze-Flames relationship become a long-term marriage. Why? Because Freeze and company almost blew it.
After establishing an early 14-0, Liberty allowed the Chanticleers to fight and claw their way back into the game. The Flames would start to pull away, then Coastal Carolina would answer and keep it within striking distance.
Then, Coastal quarterback Grayson McCall had a five-yard touchdown pass to tie the game at 34-34 with just over three minutes left. That’s plenty of time for this high-powered Liberty offense to drive down the field for a game-winning score, right? Right.
The Flames went on an eight-play, 74-yard drive. At one point in that drive, they were on the three-yard line going in. Then Freeze went rogue. He had his running back take an intentional loss to waste more time before trying to punch it in.
The problem? Running back Joshua Mack fumbled the football going into the end zone on a bizarre play. Honestly, it looked like Coastal Carolina was trying to drag him in for the score — to secure enough time for a response — but it’s hard to say definitively.
Check it out for yourself.
This was ruled a fumble while Liberty was in the red zone: pic.twitter.com/rXCVQmVJ2b
— ESPN (@espn) December 27, 2020
Brutal. At this moment, there were very few people who truly felt Liberty was going to pull of the upset as a seven-point dog. It just felt like one of those “it wasn’t meant to be” moments, and the game went into overtime.
Oh, and people on social media weren’t happy about it. Take Rece Davis, for example.
Score when you can. Stop all of these silly attempts to drain clock. How about this? How about score, then tackle the other team the next possession.
— Rece Davis (@ReceDavis) December 27, 2020
At that point, the offenses were non-existent. The Flames started with a three-play, negative one-yard drive that resulted in a fourth-down field goal. The Chanticleers then went nowhere, but missed on the game-tying field goal, giving Liberty the win.
The victory got Liberty to 10 wins on the season, but it also might have secured Freeze a chance at a major coaching job in the near future. There’s at least one fan base who is still pining for the former Ole Miss head coach.
— Cole 🤙 (@volfan106) December 27, 2020
You can’t watch Hugh Freeze hug his family on the field after a bowl win in OT over a ranked team and not want him as your coach #HughToTheHull
— Smokey Vol (@theSmokeyVol) December 27, 2020
— DRFreeze (@DRVawl) December 27, 2020
We all know where ole Hugh Freeze is headed!
— Michael Luker (@lukermichael02) December 27, 2020
And to think, a rough ending in regulation almost ended any chance of Freeze being a hot-coaching candidate.
On the other hand, the Chanticleers dropped their first game of the season. Still at 11-1, this team accomplished a lot under Jamey Chadwell. I wouldn’t expect either of these coaching to be with their current programs much longer.
Follow Clint Lamb on Twitter @ClintRLamb.