5 Thoughts On The Liberty Bowl

Recap, 5 Thoughts and what's next for each team in the Liberty Bowl

Dec. 29 AutoZone Liberty Bowl
Texas A&M 45, West Virginia 37

And You Care Because … Kyle Allen ran threw four touchdown passes and ran for another as Texas A&M won a shootout, but there were some rocky parts early on. The Aggies took a 7-0 lead on a 44-yard Josh Reynolds touchdown, but West Virginia scored 17 straight helped by a 45-yard Mario Alford touchdown catch and a 35-yard pick six from K.J. Dillon. But Allen got hot finding Malcome Kennedy for an 11-yard score, running for a 14 yard touchdown, and leading the way to a 45-30 lead after three quarters finished off by a nine-yard Kennedy catch. The Mountaineers kept fighting, pulling within eight late on a four-yard Elijah Wellman scoring catch, but A&M held on.
What Else? Texas A&M QB Kyle Allen completed 22-of-35 passes for 294 yards and four scores with a pick, and ran ten times for 33 yards and a touchdown
- West Virginia QB Skyler Howard completed 20-of-45 passes for 346 yards and three touchdowns and ran ten times for 33 yards. West Virginia QB Kevin White caught seven passes for 129 yards and a score
- Texas A&M RB Tra Carson ran 25 time for 133 yards
- Total yards: Texas A&M 529 – West Virginia 472
Game Rating: B

By Rich Cirminiello
1. Nice win, Aggies. Now, go get your house in order.

It’s going to be a busy offseason in College Station for Kevin Sumlin, assuming he doesn’t get lured into the NFL by some rudderless organization. The Aggies have a slew of issues, many of which were on display this afternoon in Memphis. On a macro level, Texas A&M is sorely lacking discipline, evidenced by numerous personal fouls, missed tackles and even sideline cheap shots from staffer Mike Richardson on defenseless West Virginia players.

More specifically, the program must fix a defense that yielded close to 500 yards to the Mountaineers and young QB Skyler Howard, who only started because Clint Trickett couldn’t. Sumlin’s first step will be to hire a permanent successor to deposed coordinator Mark Snyder, a move that could determine the ceiling for the 2015 team.

The good news this afternoon is that A&M moved closer to finding its quarterback of the future, as Kyle Allen looked sharp. The reality? In a world without Johnny Manziel, the Aggies are in danger of becoming just another SEC team.

By Pete Fiutak
2. Kyle Allen is still a freshman. He might have come up with a strong second half of the season and started to look like the superstar prospect everyone projected him to be, but he’s still a young player who’s still trying to figure it all out. He looked like the main man, though, against West Virginia and a franchise-maker to build around, even with an early pick six to overcome. He might have to improve his accuracy, and he might have to become a better decision maker, but that comes with a little bit of time. The game will slow down for him, all the great receiver recruits will be better, and the numbers will be astronomical.

3. Clint Trickett might not have been able to go, but West Virginia’s offense kept on rolling with Skyler Football. Skyler Howard might need to come up with more big things before he can start to do the Johnny Manziel gesture like he did after Mario Alford’s early touchdown, and he missed on way too many passes, but he threw for 346 yards and three touchdowns, keeping the Mountaineers in the game. After all of the team’s problems last year, West Virginia found more of a running game and the defense improved, even if it didn’t seem like it against Texas A&M, and in the end, Howard getting to play was a major plus. It doesn’t matter in the long haul whether or not West Virginia won this game, but it was a big deal that Howard got to work as the starter for an entire month and in a big game.

4. What’s next for West Virginia
Skyler Howard got his work in this bowl season, and now he should be the main man going into spring football with a great array of backs to work with. All the top runners return including Rushel Shell, Wendell Smallwood, Andrew Buie and Dustin Garrison – the Mountaineers are loaded. Star guard Quinton Spain is gone, but three starters return including both starting tackles. The problem will be in the receiving corps that loses Kevin White and Mario Alford, needing Jordan Thompson and Daikiel Shorts to start to do more.

Six of the top seven tacklers return, but the problem will be in the pass rush losing Shaq Riddick and the top three sackers. Fortunately, most of the defensive front three is back along with most of the depth, even with the loss of Riddick. The linebacking corps gets back main tackler Nick Kwiatkoski along with KJ Dillon and Edward Muldrow on the outside, and the secondary will be one of the team’s biggest strengths – A&M game aside – with all four starters back. Groza finalist Josh Lambert is back along with P Nick O’Toole, who averaged close to 43 yards per punt.

5. What’s next for Texas A&M
Kyle Allen showed what he could do against West Virginia and has seemingly solidified himself as the star of the program for the next several years – but Kenny Hill is still around. The O line, though, has to undergo an overhaul losing Cedric Ogbuehi and Jarvis Harrison from the left side – Germain Ifedi might be the next great Aggie O lineman, though. The weapons are there with Tra Carson, Brandon Williams and Trey Williams all returning in the backfield, while Speedy Noil, Josh Reynolds, Edward Pope and Ricky Seals-Jones form a devastating receiving corps.

The D not only has to be far better, but it has to do it without three of its top four tacklers losing defensive backs Howard Matthews and Deshazor Everett along with LB Justin Bass. Three starters return up front including pass rushing terror Myles Garrett and Alonzo Williams on the nose. The linebacking corps that had to rely on young players should be better with time, while the secondary needs De’Vante Harris to be terrific as the only returning starters. Taylor Bertolet will get the first shot at the full-time placekicking gig, while Drew Kaser is back as one of the nation’s best punters.


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