RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – N.C. State head coach Dave Doeren knows exactly what his team will be up against on Saturday.
The No. 21 Liberty Flames are no household name when it comes to college football royalty.
But they sure are playing like it.
The Flames are 8-0 on the year and have already taken down two ACC teams.
Doeren has seen this before when he was head coach at Northern Illinois.
Over a two-year stretch, Doeren led the Huskies to a 23-4 record.
He did it without the benefit of four and five-star talent.
That’s how Liberty’s getting it done this year.
“That locker room is full of guys that felt like they could have played a higher level,” Doeren explained. “Those kids will have a chip on their shoulder when they play a Power 5 team.
“They want to be noticed. They know this a chance to showcase not just their individual abilities but how they can play as a football team against teams that have Power 5 behind their name.”
The Flames are led by a Power 5-type quarterback, Auburn transfer Malik Willis.
The junior has passed for 1,645 yards and 15 touchdowns.
He’s thrown just one interception and leads the team in rushing as well with 700 yards and 9 touchdowns.
“He’s an elusive player, physical, and can throw the ball anywhere on the field,” said Wolfpack safety Tanner Ingle. “We just got to do a good job of playing collective football as a defense. We’ve got to make sure everyone’s doing their job, everyone’s doing what they’re supposed to be doing and that’s the only way we will be able to contain him.”
Willis is not the only Flame with star power.
Liberty head coach Hugh Freeze is a proven winner, having led Ole Miss to four straight winning seasons.
“We’re going to get a team that believes because they haven’t lost this year,” noted Doeren. “They’re playing for a coach who knows how to win games. It’s going to be a very confident group. It’s going to be a group that wants to prove themselves.”
Teams like that are dangerous.
Playing with confidence while adding a chip on the shoulder can be a lethal combination. That’s Liberty this year, a team that has the Wolfpack’s attention.
“We take every opponent seriously,” said junior running back Ricky Person.”
Liberty and N.C. State kickoff at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN3.