CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. - Virginia hopes to continue its push for a bowl game as it hosts Liberty on Saturday afternoon. The Cavaliers are coming off a 23-13 loss to Pittsburgh that knocked them out of the Top 25, while the Flames suffered a heartbreaking 62-59 triple-overtime loss to Massachusetts last week.
TV: 3 p.m. ET, ACC Network. LINE: Virginia -23.5.
Pittsburgh running back Darrin Hall gashed Virginia for 229 yards and three touchdowns, including a 75-yard run in the fourth to put the game away. “This exposed our weakness, and that’s when we played outside our system. We didn’t play clean enough and didn’t execute well enough to take control of the game,” Cavaliers coach Bronco Mendenhall told reporters after the game. Liberty went toe-to-toe with fellow FBS Independent UMass, but quarterback Stephen Calvert threw an interception in the third overtime session, leading to the game-winning field by the Minutemen. The Flames had only themselves to blame, failing to get a stop after letting a 14-point lead vanish over the final 6:42 of regulation.
ABOUT LIBERTY (4-4)
Liberty couldn’t stop UMass receiver Andy Isabella - though not many teams have been able to - as the FBS leader in receptions and receiving yards hauled in nine catches for 303 yards and two touchdowns. The defense surrendered 777 yards to UMass, including 708 in regulation - the most Liberty has allowed in school history. The Flames’ offense, however, had no trouble moving the ball against the Minutemen as they compiled 488 total yards, led by receiver Antonio Gandy-Golden's nine catches for 205 yards and two touchdowns and running back Frankie Hickson’s 133 rushing yards and two scores.
ABOUT VIRGINIA (6-3)
Defensive injuries hurt Virginia against Pitt as three starters and a replacement missed parts of the second half, allowing Hall to run wild. Defensive end Mandy Alonso (lower body) has been ruled out against Liberty, but safeties Joey Blount (lower body) and Juan Thornhill (foot) have been listed as starters on this week’s depth chart and should play. The Cavaliers will need to establish some sort of running game against the Flames after rushing for only 44 yards on 26 carries against Pitt.
1. This is the first meeting between the two teams as Liberty plays its first season as a provisional FBS member.
2. Virginia QB Bryce Perkins is responsible for 134 points on the season, which ranks second in the ACC.
3. Liberty has scored 40 or more points in five of eight games this season.
PREDICTION: Virginia 35, Liberty 21
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