MOBILE – One the eve of the 23rd annual LendingTree Bowl, both head coaches met with the media one last time to preview Saturday’s game.
Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson opened by welcoming both fan bases to the city of Mobile. Eastern Michigan head coach Chris Creighton and Liberty head coach Hugh Freeze then fielded questions from the media about Saturday’s game at Hancock Whitney Stadium.
Liberty and Eastern Michigan are meeting for the second time ever at the 2021 LendingTree Bowl. Liberty’s only previous matchup with Eastern Michigan (Oct. 14, 1989) was a historic game for the Flames. Eric Green, the program’s only NFL first-round draft pick, caught the winning TD pass with 11 seconds remaining to give the Flames their first-ever win over an FBS opponent, 25-24. The teams are scheduled to play a home-and-home series in 2023 and 2024.
Eastern Michigan and Liberty are both first-time participants. A total of 27 different teams have played in the LendingTree Bowl. The 2021 LendingTree Bowl marks the second straight year the game featured two first-time participants. Georgia State defeated Western Kentucky 39-21 in battle of first-time participants last year.
Eastern Michigan is the 10th different MAC team to play in the LendingTree Bowl. The MAC has appeared in all but three LendingTree Bowl games. The league has compiled a 9-10 (.474) record.
Liberty is the first independent team to play in the LendingTree Bowl.
The bowl festivities wrapped up Friday with the annual LendingTree Bowl Parade, Pap Rally and Street Party in downtown Mobile.
Eastern Michigan and Liberty meet in the 23rd Lending Tree Bowl this Saturday, Dec. 18 at Hancock Whitney Stadium. The game will be televised by ESPN and kickoff is 4:45 p.m.
Here are some comments from today’ press conference:
Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson:
“We are excited to have both teams here in the city of Mobile, the birthplace of Mardi Gras. We feel like we were born to celebrate. We know that half of ya’ll will be celebrating after this bowl game, but while you are here we hope you really enjoy yourself. The entire city and community welcomes you and we are excited to host the LendingTree Bowl.
Eastern Michigan Head Coach Chris Creighton:
“We are really, really grateful for you to have us here. We’ve played football at Eastern Michigan for 130 years and we have won one bowl game (1987 California Bowl) and we’ve only gone to handful. So, when you talk about people that are excited to be a part of something like this, we are first in line. The hospitality has been awesome. This is an unbelievable venue. This is the first time that I have been here. So, we are super excited about it. We’ve played in a couple of bowl games, but we haven’t won one. Out theme this year is to be different and that is one of the ways we can be different than the other 128 years at Eastern Michigan. It’s been slow but steady. I am really proud of our team and our university.”
Liberty Head Coach Hugh Freeze:
“I am thrilled to be back in Mobile. It does feel like. I have known (LendingTree Bowl President) Jerry (Silverstein) for a very long time. The staff here has done an outstanding job putting together a bowl week that has been memorable. I love the community service projects and the other events. So it’s been a great week for us. I think the challenge is, as it always is on this weeks, is to enjoy the week but yet focus on beating a very difficult opponent. That’s always my worries and what keeps me up a nights. You want to have that balance. Hopefully, we’ve had that balance and we can play one of our better games. It will take that. We haven’t played that particularly well, to be very candid, down the stretch (3-game losing streak entering LendingTree Bowl). We played some really good teams, so give them some credit. We are going to have play one of our better games to beat this Eastern Michigan team. They are very disciplined. They know exactly what they are doing. It’s been a great team. Thanks to Mobile. It’ been a great week and we are excited to get to tomorrow.”