A couple years ago, Hugh Freeze nearly returned to the Southeastern Conference – as an offensive coordinator.
Both Auburn's Gus Malzahn and Tennessee's Jeremy Pruitt interviewed the former Ole Miss head man, Freeze, when the programs both had an opening after the 2018 campaign.
Ultimately, however, Freeze accepted the opportunity to revive his head coaching career at Liberty University.
On Saturday, against Southern Miss, Freeze's Liberty Flames helped punctuate Freeze's career renaissance with a comfortable, 56-35 win against visiting Southern Mississippi.
The Flames led 35-7 at the break and cruised to their sixth-straight win to open the 2020 campaign – the program's best start to a season since 2008. Included in that blitzkrieg thus far this year was a 17-point win last week against ACC resident Syracuse, which trailed top-ranked Clemson just 27-21 late in the third quarter Saturday before Clemson pulled out to a 47-21 win.
Liberty's unblemished start comes on the heels of Freeze's debut campaign atop the program in which he guided the Flames to an 8-5 season that culminated in a 23-16 bowl win against Georgia Southern. It was the program's first-ever season as an FBS program after it had transitioned from FCS competition in August 2019.
Flames quarterback Malik Willis – an Atlanta-area native who transferred to Liberty from Auburn – carved up the Golden Eagles Saturday with seven touchdowns; Willis posted six scoring tosses and ran for another touchdown.
Southern Miss coached the game with an interim interim coach, after temporary head man Scotty Walden this week tested positive for COVID-19. Walden had been tabbed as the interim head coach when Southern Miss moved on from Jay Hopson after a season-opening loss to South Alabama. Tim Billings filled in for the head coaching role.
Freeze was head coach at Ole Miss from 2012-16 after he turned around the Arkansas State and Lambuth programs, respectively, in his previous two stops. Freeze posted double-digit wins in at least one season at all three schools, and he's won 14 of his first 19 games at Liberty.
The Flames, who are an independent, have scheduled games left this season against ACC foes Virginia Tech and North Carolina State; they also are set to host Western Carolina and UMass before ending their regular season Dec. 5 at 25th-ranked Coastal Carolina.