Liberty football coach Hugh Freeze reiterated Monday there is a disconnect with quarterback Buckshot Calvert and the decisions he’s making in certain situations, backing up a point he made Saturday night following the Flames’ 35-14 loss at Louisiana.
Freeze offered more insight into the disconnect Monday during his weekly press conference. He specifically broke down a key play late in the second quarter in which Calvert failed to make the proper first read, allowing the Ragin’ Cajuns to take control and never relinquish momentum.
The struggles, however, have not changed Freeze’s opinion of the senior, who remains firmly entrenched as the Flames’ starting quarterback entering this weekend’s home contest against Buffalo.
“He’s our guy,” Freeze stated.
Calvert, the program’s record-setting signal caller, has struggled to open the campaign. He has completed 41 of 76 passes for 446 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. He also has been sacked 10 times.
The Plantation, Florida, native said after Saturday’s game there were plays that developed late and he needed to be more patient with his decision-making process. He also said one week ago that his reads on run-pass option plays needed to improve, especially with his pre-snap reads.
“We haven’t progressed exactly as far as I would have hoped in that regard yet,” Freeze said. “I believe in him. I told him that [Sunday] night, I believe in you.”
Freeze specifically broke down a second-down play with 3 minutes remaining in the first half and the Flames driving to take a lead going into halftime against Louisiana.
The second-and-3 call had Kevin Shaa lined up wide left of the line of scrimmage and three receivers lined up right. Calvert’s first look was toward the three-receiver set where all three were blanketed by defenders.
Calvert then quickly turned back left and fired an incomplete pass into the Liberty bench, which resulted in an intentional grounding call.
Shaa, who ran a slant route, gained inside leverage on Louisiana field corner Eric Garror and would have picked up the first down with a reception.
The Flames were forced to punt, and the Ragin’ Cajuns scored with 21 seconds remaining in the half to take the lead for good.
“He knows it,” Freeze said, adding Calvert quickly admitted to making the wrong read when the two talked on the headset after the drive. “I think it will help if I can get down there and just before we take the field and say, ‘Here’s the things I’m thinking about, and let’s talk through them real quick.’
“He overthrew some [deep] plays we had, too. We had some guys open, and looking at film [Sunday], he’s sick that he missed them, and he’s a little distracted by pressure, and we’ve got to fix some protection issues. It’s not all on him.”
Freeze has coached from the booth the first two weeks of the season, using a hospital bed in the opener against Syracuse and a medical chair this past weekend at Louisiana. The medical chair is in the home coaches’ booth for this weekend’s game against Buffalo if Freeze needs it.
Before he gets back to the sideline, his main goal is to get back to practice so he can work much closer with Calvert during the week in preparation.
“I’ve missed 23 practices and I’m sick of that,” he said. “I’ve had enough of that and I’ve got to do whatever I can to get back out there and get on the sideline where I can look him eye-to-eye. I think I can help with that.
“Having said all of that, there’s not an ounce of discouragement at all.”
Freeze also may make a change in where certain members of his staff are for Saturday’s game.
He and co-offensive coordinator Kent Austin have both been in the booth for the first two weeks, and that could change against the Bulls.
“We’ve talked about that scenario also,” Freeze said. “As the week will progress, I expect one of us to be on that sideline Saturday.”
True freshman Johnathan Bennett, a backup quarterback, played the final two series against Syracuse and got in for the final series against Louisiana. Freeze immediately shot down the idea that Bennett could see a larger role in the offense this week.
“It’s too early for me to say that. I’m not ready at all to say that that’s the case. We’ll continue to prepare him in practice,” Freeze said. “There’s some things that I hope to see out of Buckshot this week that could start changing that in my mind.
“When it’s third-and-4 and protection breaks down and you have a clear lane to get us a first down and get a new set of downs, you have to do that and you don’t have to force some throw somewhere for whatever reason. That mindset’s got to change. But [it’s] way too early.”
Damien Sordelett covers Liberty University athletics and local golf for The News & Advance. Reach him at (434) 385-5550.