CHARLOTTESVILLE — Liberty redshirt senior running back Frankie Hickson said earlier in the week that his recruiting process in high school included talks with Virginia. Hickson even said he was assured a spot on the roster, but it was filled before signing day, and he elected to play for Liberty with the knowledge he may never get to play the Cavaliers on the gridiron.
The Flames, after to transitioning to the Football Bowl Subdivision as an independent program without a conference affiliation, played UVa twice in Hickson’s final two seasons at Liberty.
He rushed for 181 yards and two touchdowns against the Cavaliers, with 88 yards and a score coming in Saturday’s 55-27 loss at Scott Stadium.
“It feels good, but neither game was a win,” Hickson said. “At the end of the day, I still have to live with losing to UVa twice in my career. That’s facts. That’s what the facts are, and there’s no getting around it.”
The Heritage High School product’s 88 rushing yards gave him 2,582 for his career. He is the sixth player in program history to eclipse 2,500 rushing yards, joining Dre Barnes (4,035), Stacy Nobles (3,711), Rashad Jennings (3,633), Lawrence Worthington (2,723) and Chip Smith (2,617).
“The coaches did a good job of figuring out some looks and run plays that we could get them on,” Hickson said of his success Saturday.
The Liberty defensive gameplan focused on containing UVa quarterback Bryce Perkins and making sure he didn’t use his legs for big gains.
The Flames were able to limit the redshirt senior to 30 yards and one touchdown on 13 carries.
However, Perkins used his arm to hurt Liberty by completing 18 of 30 passes for 199 yards and two touchdowns.
Flames redshirt senior safety Rion Davis served as the spy on defense on third-down plays, and he delivered a pair of sure tackles to prevent Perkins from picking up first downs in the first half.
“He threw the ball [well],” Liberty redshirt senior defensive end Jessie Lemonier said. “Running it, we had the scheme for him.”
While Perkins didn't run the ball effectively, PK Kier and Lamont Atkins combined to rush for 143 yards and two touchdowns on 19 attempts.
Special teams woes
Special teams coordinator Tanner Burns turned a unit that was borderline dreadful last season into a capable group that has performed well throughout the course of this season.
Until Saturday, that is.
Seneca Milledge, filling in for Joe Reed as kick returner, racked up 130 yards on four kickoff returns to consistently give the Cavaliers good starting field position.
Flames kicker Alex Probert made 2 of 3 field-goal attempts, and punter Aidan Alves had a 14-yard punt midway through the third quarter that set up a quick UVa scoring drive.
“Our special teams were as bad as they have been all year,” Flames coach Hugh Freeze said. “We have been pretty solid, and we were not very good today.”
One bright spot was Shedro Louis, who had a 52-yard kickoff return to the UVa 48.