Liberty smashes expectations, sets new standard in Cure Bowl victory

ORLANDO, Fla. (WDBJ) -- The message from every Liberty player and coach before their trip to Orlando was that, despite already making history just by getting there, the job was not finished.

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The Flames didn't go to show up, but to show out, and earn the first bowl game win in program history.

After 60 minutes of hard-nosed defensive football, they finished what they set out to accomplish at the start of this season, winning the Cure Bowl over Georgia Southern, 23-16.

"So much emotion, words can't really explain," said senior quarterback Stephen "Buckshot" Calvert. "Just so happy for myself and my teammates and just all the hard work that we put in. All four years for me and this year especially, just putting in that extra work, it finally means something when you can actually say that it's been accomplished."

Georgia Southern scored just one touchdown and the Flames' defense credited the coaching staff's gameplan for shutting down the Eagles' triple-option offense.

"They just really harped on us to be consistent," said linebacker Solomon Ajayi. "That was the biggest thing for us is just being consistent and just putting the work in. They gave us the gameplan, they gave us the blueprint, and we just had to go out and execute so big ups to the coaching staff and big ups to all the guys on defense doing their job and getting the job done."

Liberty's defense held the Eagles to just 4-of-17 on third down, and with eight tackles, two for loss, and two sacks, Jessie Lemonier was named the Cure Bowl MVP -- an honor that left him speechless.

"I can't even fathom what to say right now," he said in the postgame press conference. "It's just for my teammates because all I do, I do it for my teammates and every day I struggle and I grind as hard as I can and I just look around me when I'm down like, it's for these guys. It's for everybody. I can't just do it by myself. Everybody has a part on the team."

And for the players in this senior class, head coach Hugh Freeze used one word to describe them: trailblazers.

"They're the first, and no one can ever repeat it," Freeze said. "It's the DNA of this football team and this coaching staff that was together for this time. They're trailblazers and forever will be regarded as the measuring stick."

Now, Freeze and his program hit the offseason, as the Flames await a juicy 2020 season opener at Lane Stadium against Virginia Tech.

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