Liberty to feature ‘air’ attack against NIU

By Brian Wiencek

After Middle Tennessee State came into DeKalb on Oct. 3 and upset the Huskies, nobody wanted to see the symbols I-AA ever again. However, they are back, and they are in the form of the University of Liberty.

The Division I-AA Flames will fly into DeKalb sometime tomorrow afternoon in hopes of repeating the feat of the Blue Raiders three weeks ago.

However, this ballclub is much different from MTSU. The Flames started off strong—ranked No. 13 in the pre-season polls—but they have been slipping since. Currently, they hold a 4-3 record and are coming off of a 9-7 upset over Troy State.

The University of Liberty is the last of three Division I-AA teams on the Huskies’ schedule, but the Huskies are the only Division I-A team on the Flames’ schedule. The meeting will be the first-ever between the two.

The Flames are more of a pass-oriented team, earning an average of 219 yards per game in the air. They are led by senior quarterback Robby Justino. In his career, he has thrown for over 6,000 yards and continues his success this year.

Justino is 127-for-213 for 1,450 yards with nine touchdowns. His favorite target is junior wide receiver James McKight, who has caught 37 catches for 483 yards and four touchdowns.

On the ground, the Flames are averaging just over 100 yards per game. Their rushing attack is led by junior running back Adrian Cherry with 486 yards on 91 rushes.

Defensively, the Flames have allowed an average of 345 yards of total offense per game, while giving up 24 points a game. They are led by sophomore linebacker Dion Krause with two interceptions, 57 solo tackles and a total of 91 tackles. Junior free safety Calvin Thompson also leads the secondary with two interceptions.

If you look on the sidelines Saturday, you might see a familiar face in the Flames’ head coach. Sam Rutigliano, former head coach of the NFL Cleveland Browns, is in his fourth season at the helm of the Liberty football squad. He has a winning record of 22-17 in his tenure.