Holgorsen, Sumlin ready for 'great matchup'

It was impossible for Dana Holgorsen and Kevin Sumlin to avoid the inevitable question Thursday when the two head coaches took questions from the media in Memphis during a press conference for the AutoZone Liberty Bowl.

Although West Virginia and Texas A&M have never squared off in football, there is plenty of familiarity between the coaching staffs on each sideline.

Holgorsen, of course, coached with Sumlin at Houston where Aggie offensive coordinator Jake Spavital was a graduate assistant before eventually becoming a quarterbacks coach under Holgorsen at WVU. There have already been jokes back and forth online between Holgorsen and Spavital about knowing each other's signals.

"We're going to change our entire offense," Holgorsen joked Thursday.

But while the two teams and their staffs have the same general philosophy behind what they like to do offensively, time apart and experiences they have had have allowed the schemes to veer into different directions. And they expect the same will continue to happen during the next few weeks as the two teams prepare to square off in the Liberty Bowl.

"It's like looking in the mirror - that's the hard part," Sumlin said. "There are going to be a lot of plays in this game. There's great familiarity and also, knowing Dana and our guys - once we get done with recruiting - we've got some creative guys on both staffs and I know there are going to be a few new things going into this game."

The two teams combine to average nearly 1,000 yards of total offense and are among some of the best scoring teams in all of college football, and they have achieved their success through some adversity along the way.

After setting the college football world on fire the first few weeks of the season, Sumlin benched quarterback Kenny Hill in favor of true freshman Kyle Allen following three consecutive losses by the Aggies. Allen has thrown for 1,028 yards with 12 touchdowns and six interceptions so far this season while winning two of the four games he has started – including a four-touchdown performance in A&M’s victory on the road against then-No. 3 Auburn.

“(Hill) went from a guy that nobody knew to a household name in about three hours. Then over the course of time, Kyle Allen started the last few games and had solid performances and continues to get better,” Sumlin said. “Kyle has taken that role over and we’ll continue to work with him and see where we’re at.”

Meanwhile, Holgorsen and West Virginia has had to do a little juggling at the quarterback position as well after Clint Trickett left the Mountaineers’ loss to Kansas State with a concussion and missed the regular season finale against Iowa State, thrusting sophomore dual-threat signal caller Skyler Howard into the spotlight.

In his first career start against the Cyclones, Howard completed 21 of 40 passes for 285 yards and three touchdowns while also running for 69 yards.

“Clint has given it everything he’s got (this season). He’s in limbo right now, we’re not sure if he’ll be able to get it done or not,” Holgorsen said. “Any time you deal with concussions, it’s 100 percent out of the coach’s hands. He’s being evaluated by the doctors. We gave him a few week off to rest and we’ll reevaluate him when we get back.

“Skyler Howard did a great job of stepping in … If we need to go with (Howard), we will. Clint is still our starting quarterback because of what he’s done throughout the course of the year.”

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