By Robert L. Herron and Taylor Rogers |
College football’s highly anticipated bowl season has kicked off and the LendingTree Bowl was held near the United States Sports Academy right across Mobile Bay. We caught up with Academy alumnus Fred Reed – M.S.S. Sports Management 2002 – who is the defensive pass game coordinator and safeties coach for Eastern Michigan University after the game’s conclusion on Saturday evening.
The Liberty Flames (8-5) defeated the Eastern Michigan Eagles (7-6) in the 23rd-annual bowl in Mobile, Ala. This was the second meeting between the two programs (1st since 1989) in front of an announced 15,186 in attendance.
Reed reflected on how the Academy helped his career. “It helped me be qualified for more jobs. I enjoyed the Academy because it gave me the opportunity to continue to work in my profession [while in school] and to advance my degree.”
Additionally, Reed commented on the tough loss to Liberty but he was encouraged by successful season. “It was a good year, our kids played really hard to get to this point. Liberty played really well and has a really skilled, dynamic quarterback that makes a lot of plays for them, and that was tough for us.”
Inclement weather delayed the start of the game that was hosted for the first time at Hancock Whitney Stadium on the University of South Alabama’s campus.
Eastern Michigan started the game with a 66-yard opening drive resulting in a 27-yard field goal and dominated time of possession in the first half (21:22 to 8:38). However, time alone was not a enough to slow down Liberty who led 33 to 10 at the half behind a fast-paced, big-play offense and finished comfortably with a 56-20 win.
Liberty was led by quarterback Malik Willis, who threw for three touchdowns (13-24 for 231 yards) and ran for two more (8 attempts for 56 yards) – on his way to earning the game’s MVP award. Malik, who started his career at Auburn University, has had a tremendous career with the Flames and will get drafted in the upcoming NFL Draft.
Both defenses also got in on the scoring action with Liberty’s safety Skyler Thomas (awarded Defensive MVP) returning an interception 27 yards for a touchdown and Eastern Michigan’s Jeff Hubbard returning one for 34 yards and a TD.
This was Liberty’s third bowl victory in as many years as a program at the Division 1 Football Bowl Subdivision level.
Robert L. Herron is Acting Director of Sport Exercise Science at the United States Sports Academy. Robert is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist® with distinction from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA-CSCS*D®) and a Clinical Exercise Physiologist through the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM-CEP®).
Taylor Rogers is the Academic Affairs Coordinator at the United States Sports Academy. Taylor is currently a graduate student at the United States Sports Academy where she is completing her master’s in Sports Management.