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UL running back Chris Smith (21) will continue to play a bigger role for the Cajuns with freshman Emani Bailey now out another 2-4 weeks after getting his knee scoped Monday.

INSIDE THE GAME

WHAT’S AT STAKE?

A win would be 10th straight for Cajuns, both extending the program’s winning streak record and making it the first time with three straight 10-win seasons. It would also be UL’s fifth straight road win and second victory over Liberty in two tries.

KEY MATCHUP

UL linebackers vs. Liberty QB — Flames’ quarterback Malik Willis is a good passer, but what he really is a dual-threat guy who has gained more than 1,000 yards on the ground this season. Keeping him from impacting UL’s defense with his legs would go a long way to a road win in this matchup.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Cajuns: UL senior LB Ferrod Gardner is second on the team with 56 tackles, along with an interception, two pass breakups and a quarterback hurry.

Flames: Redshirt junior quarterback Malik Willis has thrown for 2,159 yards and accounted for 31 touchdowns this season.

FACTS & FIGURES

The Cajuns lead the series 1-0 — a 35-14 win two years ago. … UL is 37-5 under Napier when scoring more than 20 points. … Cajuns are 20-1 when Levi Lewis throws for more than two TDs in a game. … UL’s defense has notched 24 sacks this season, compared to 29 for Flames. … UL’s Chris Smith leads the Cajuns in rushing with 723 yards, 32 fewer yards than Willis. … UL has made four more field goals than Liberty this season (7-3). … Liberty wide receiver Demario Douglas has 42 receptions for 618 yards and five touchdowns. … In the first half at home this season, Liberty has outscored opposition 113-34. … Since joining the FBS, Liberty is 20-2 at home, including 4-0 this season. … Flames have outscored their opposition 196-54 in home games. … Liberty is 6-2 in games following losses under coach Hugh Freeze. … The Flames have 26 TD receptions, compared to 16 for the Cajuns. … UL is averaging 31.2 points and 414.4 total yards per game, while giving up 18.9 points and 357.5 yards. … Liberty is averaging 35.1 points and 446.6 yards per game, while allowing 18.7 points and 316.6 total yards.

NUMBERS TO KNOW

15 – Consecutive home wins for Liberty, trailing only Clemson (33), Cincinnati (25) and Oregon (18) nationally.

14 – UL’s national ranking in scoring defense, just one spot behind Liberty at No. 13 in that category.

1 – Number of teams that have ever traveled more than 1,000 miles and won at Liberty (North Texas, 2018) in eight games.

FOUR DOWNS

1 – Tackle the QB

Liberty quarterback Malik Willis is one of two quarterbacks in nation (Matt Corral of Ole Miss is the other) to rank in the top 40 in both passing touchdowns and rushing TDs.

2 – November focus

Since coach Billy Napier took over the Cajuns, UL is 13-1 in November games, including 13 straight wins.

3 – Sack chances

Despite Willis’ athleticism, he’s been sacked 38 times this season for a loss of 243 yards.

4 – Familiar coach

This is only UL’s second meeting against Liberty, but the Cajuns have faced coach Hugh Freeze two other times — 30-21 loss at Arkansas State in 2011 and 56-15 loss at Ole Miss in 2014.

SCHEDULES

LIBERTY (7-3)

Sept. 4 Campbell, W 48-7

Sept. 11 At Troy, W 21-13

Sept. 18 Old Dominion, W 45-17

Sept. 24 At Syracuse, L 24-21

Oct. 2 At UAB, W 36-12

Oct. 9 Middle Tennessee, W 41-13

Oct. 16 At ULM, L 31-28

Oct. 23 At North Texas, W 35-26

Oct. 30 Massachusetts, W 62-17

Nov. 6 At Ole Miss, L 27-14

Nov. 20 UL, 3 p.m.

Nov. 27 Army, TBA

UL (9-1)

Sept. 4 At Texas, L 38-18

Sept. 11 Nicholls, W 27-24

Sept. 16 Ohio, W 49-14

Sept. 25 At Georgia Southern, W 28-20

Oct. 2 At South Alabama, W 20-18

Oct. 12 Appalachian State, W 41-13

Oct. 21 At Arkansas State, W 28-27

Oct. 30 Texas State, W 45-0

Nov. 4 Georgia State, W 21-17

Nov. 13 At Troy, W 35-21

Nov. 20 At Liberty, 3 p.m. (ESPNU)

Nov. 27 ULM, 3 p.m.

THE ADVOCATE SAYS …

UL 30, Liberty 27

The Flames have won a school-record 15 consecutive home games and have scored at least 40 points in the past eight home games. Certainly this is a game the Cajuns could lose. It’s a nonconference game for a team focused on winning the school’s first outright league crown in 51 years. It’s also a challenge against a highly touted quarterback and a program held in high regard. The defense and special teams met a similar task at UAB last season. Sacks and turnovers will be the key. Trusting coach Billy Napier’s “trap game” denial, here’s to extending UL’s winning streak to 10.


Email Kevin Foote at kfoote@theadvocate.com.