RALEIGH, N.C. — Liberty quarterback Malik Willis has been turning heads in a sizzling start to the season, his first as the Flames’ starting signal caller.
This week, he was added to another watch list that honors the nation’s top college football player.
Willis was added to the Maxwell Award watch list to go with his inclusion on the watch lists for the Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award and the College Football Performance Awards (CFPA) National Performer of the Year.
The Maxwell Award is presented annually to the nation’s top player. It is voted on by a panel of sportscasters, sportswriters, head coaches and the membership of the Maxwell Football Club.
The semifinalists for the Maxwell and Bednarik Awards will be announced Nov. 30, and the three finalists for each award will be announced Dec. 8.
Willis, who garnered recognition for his running at the beginning of the season, has transformed into a true dual-threat quarterback as the season has progressed.
He threw his 13th touchdown pass in the past four games — and 16th of the season — with 19 seconds remaining in the first half of Saturday night’s primetime matchup with N.C. State to tie the game at 7.
Willis, who completed 4 of 13 passes for 38 yards in the opening 30 minutes, completed two passes on the scoring drive that culminated in Noah Frith’s 12-yard reception in the end zone.
It was Frith’s second touchdown of the season. He caught a 24-yard TD pass to cap the Flames’ opening drive against FIU on Sept. 26.
Willis also rushed for 33 yards on the drive after being held to minus-9 rushing yards on his first five carries.
Willis threw his second interception of the season in the first half. He overthrew DJ Stubbs and the ball was easily picked off by N.C. State’s Jakeen Harris. The Wolfpack lost safety Tanner Ingle for the rest of the game on the play when he was called for targeting on a vicious hit to Stubbs after Harris secured the interception.
Willis’ first interception came on Oct. 10 against Louisiana-Monroe.
Williams Stadium will have no fans next week
Liberty has been capped to 1,000 fans for its five home games so far this season. That includes the marching band and a smattering of students in the east grandstands, and donors and players’ families in the west grandstands.
There will not be any fans in attendance when the Flames close the home portion of their schedule next weekend against UMass.
Gov. Ralph Northam’s latest executive order capped gatherings at 250 people as COVID-19 cases spiked in the state. Liberty is limiting the people on the field and in the grandstands to 250, which includes players, coaches, support staff and essential personnel when the Flames and Minutemen meet at noon on Black Friday.
Poole makes first career start
Redshirt freshman linebacker Carl Poole made his first career start against N.C. State.
Poole, a Danville native, started next to Anthony Butler with Aaron Pierre sitting out the first half.
Poole had four tackles in the first half against the Wolfpack.
He recorded his first career interception and fumble recovery last weekend against Western Carolina.
Terrell misses State game
Redshirt senior linebacker Matt Terrell was the only player ruled out for the Flames against the Wolfpack on Saturday night.
Terrell, a Lynchburg native and graduate of Liberty Christian Academy, had played in the first eight games on special teams. The 6-foot-4, 240-pounder had two solo tackles.
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