As the Texas A&M Aggies (8-5) ran out the clock on the West Virginia Mountaineers (7-6) in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl, third year head coach, Kevin Sumlin, improved his record to 28-11 overall. Now, Sumlin stands alone with the best starting mark in the history of the A&M football program. Not even Paul “Bear” Bryant or R.C. Slocum could accomplish what Sumlin has in three seasons at the helm for the Aggies. Sumlin has won all three of his bowl games as A&M’s head man, and the Aggies have won four-straight bowl games overall.
Points were certainly not hard to come by as A&M defeated the Mountaineers, 45-37. This game was expected to be entertaining, and it did not disappoint. Dana Holgorsen’s West Virginia squad fought hard, yet the loss of quarterback Clint Trickett was too much to overcome. Trickett retired from football several days ago due to a series of concussions sustained throughout a 14 month span. His replacement, QB Skyler Howard, did throw for 346 yards and 3 touchdowns; however, he was terribly inaccurate at times, going only 20-45 on the day. When he was not overthrowing or throwing behind open receivers, he looked pretty good. Howard did find Biletnikoff finalist, wide receiver Kevin White, multiple times on the afternoon. White had seven grabs for 129 yards and a touchdown in Monday’s Liberty Bowl.
Rushel Shell’s success on the ground for the Mountaineers was stifled by the Aggies’ defensive front. A&M’s defense came to play, holding the magnificent WVU running game at bay throughout the contest. As was aforementioned in my bowl preview article, I said that the game would be won or lost in the trenches. Well, that is exactly how it unfolded — A&M’s defensive line did enough to get pressure on Howard, and the Aggies’ offensive line dominated the Mountaineers’ defensive front the entire game.
The Aggies rushed for 235 total yards on the day, averaging 4.9 yards per touch on 48 attempts. Behind A&M’s powerful offensive line, running back Tra Carson, made the most of his opportunities with 25 carries for 133 yards. Additionally, RB Trey Williams, had a very good day hitting the hole quickly and often. Williams’ speed and agility were the difference in the game between A&M and West Virginia; his touchdown catch on a 4th and 5 play early in the game, and his rushing touchdown in the second half lifted the Aggies.
A&M true freshman quarterback, Kyle Allen, showed flashes of brilliance in his bowl debut. After throwing a pick-six that gave the Mountaineers a 17-7 lead early, Allen settled down to go 22-35 for 294 yards and 4 touchdowns. On a miraculous scramble play, Allen even managed to use his legs as a WVU dagger, rushing for one score as well. Throughout the contest, Allen continually called upon sophomore wide receiver Josh Reynolds and senior WR Malcome Kennedy to make plays. Both wideouts came up big, and the struggles of the A&M receiving corps came to a halt in the Liberty Bowl — the Aggies entered the bowl game with the highest number of dropped passes in the SEC.
The laundry was flying throughout the entirety of the game, yet Texas A&M managed to outlast eight penalties for 102 yards. The biggest blow to the Aggies’ defense was the ejection of defensive back Howard Matthews early in the game due to a targeting penalty. Matthews lowered his head on a violent helmet-to-helmet hit; that play would be the last of the senior DB’s collegiate career.
Winning the battle in the trenches, in the running game and Allen’s arm led to a victorious Texas A&M team in the 56th annual AutoZone Liberty Bowl.
*Section Photo credit to Grant Halverson, Getty Images; Featured Photo (above) credit to ChatSports