UMass faces a big test at No. 25 Liberty

Liberty is one of three FBS programs from the Group of Five that has found it way onto the AP Top 25 rankings.

Liberty (10-0) is the class of Conference USA and checked in at No. 25 after knocking off Old Dominion 38-10 last Saturday. The other Group of Five members in the Top 25 are No. 17 Tulane (9-1) of the AAC and No. 18 James Madison (10-0) from the Sun Belt Conference.

The UMass Minutemen (3-7) captured their second straight win with a victory over Merrimack at home on Nov. 4. The Minutemen are coming of their second bye week of the season and will engage the Liberty Flames on Saturday (1 p.m.) at Williams Stadium in Lynchburg, Va.

Liberty and UMass have played each other over the last five seasons with the Flames going 4-1 in the series. Liberty scored a 42-24 win over UMass last season at McGuirk Stadium.

“They are 10-0 so obviously they have gotten off to a good start and just kept going,” said UMass second-year heard coach Don Brown. “We are excited about the challenge that’s for sure and obviously excited about having two weeks to prepare.

“We had a really good bye week in terms of our preparation. Now we have to got to turn it into a really good practice week going into the game.”

Hugh Freeze turned Liberty’s program into a national power in four seasons and parlayed that success into a job offer from Auburn of the SEC after last season. Freeze was replaced by Jamey Chadwell, a reputed team builder at Coastal Carolina. Chadwell had the good sense not to make over the team he inherited while still placing his imprint on the direction of the program.

“I would say that they are fairly similar in terms of their style but everybody has their nuances and the things they do differently,” said Brown. “There is a good amount of that as well but the thing I think about most with Liberty is balance.

“They can run it, they can throw it and they are going to challenge you in all phases.”

The engine that drives the Liberty offense is sophomore dual threat quarterback Kaidon Salter, a 6-1, 200-pound transfer from Tennessee.

Salter has completed 127-of-214 passes for 2,184 yards and 26 touchdowns with four interceptions. His passer rating is a stellar 181.43. He has also rushed for 705 yards on 115 carries and nine touchdowns. If Slater posted those numbers on an undefeated team from a Power-5 conference, he would be in the Heisman Trophy conversation.

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