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Liberty cracks AP Top 25 poll for first time
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Liberty cracks AP Top 25 poll for first time

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Liberty vs. Southern Mississippi Football

Liberty right guard Brendan Schlittler celebrates with wide receiver Kevin Shaa after Shaa scored a touchdown during a game against Southern Mississippi at Williams Stadium in Lynchburg on Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020.

Hugh Freeze has repeatedly said throughout his tenure as the Liberty football coach that he likes doing things that are firsts. The Flames accepted an invitation to a bowl game for the first time in 2019, and Freeze led them to a Cure Bowl title to cap his first season at the helm.

The highlight through the first six games of the 2020 season came a couple of weekends ago when Liberty easily defeated Syracuse in the Carrier Dome for the Flames’ first triumph over an Atlantic Coast Conference program.

Liberty, to cap its bye week, added another first under Freeze’s leadership: Ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 poll.

The Flames came in 25th with 118 points in Sunday’s AP poll. It is the first time they are ranked in any FBS Top 25 poll. Liberty remains among those receiving votes in the coaches poll.

“I’ve said ever since I was hired here that I like doing things that are firsts,” Freeze said after the victory over Syracuse. “I like it for our program, for our kids, our administration, our fans.”

Liberty, in its third season as an FBS program, sports a 6-0 record when it plays its second ACC program this season this upcoming weekend.

The Flames visit Virginia Tech (4-2, 4-2 ACC) at noon Saturday.

The Hokies received 11 points in this week’s poll and are in the others receiving points category. They were ranked No. 19 before an Oct. 24 loss to Wake Forest bumped them from the Top 25.

“I think we’ve advanced the program from our players and administration and staff, everyone that pours into it. For us to be in those discussions certainly means you’re heading in the right direction,” Freeze said. “Exactly where we are on that road map is a wide spectrum. Who really knows? The end of the season will tell. We’re getting ready to go into a very difficult stretch of games” remaining, with road matchups at Virginia Tech, N.C. State and No. 15 Coastal Carolina and home games against Western Carolina and UMass.

“That’s a tough stretch of games for us, and hopefully we can stay healthy and hopefully we can pass the COVID test and be at full strength and kind of have a good finish to our season. There’s no question for us in Year 2 to be in those discussions means we’ve done some good things that have got us headed in the right trajectory.”

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