Bits and Bytes: WVU - Texas A&M

Our last pre-game look at the Liberty Bowl match-up of West Virginia and Texas A&M.


Both teams are 0-1 in the Liberty Bowl, and both laid down something of a stinker in their solo appearance. WVU lost to Utah 32-6 in the inaugural game in 1964, played on an ersatz shortened field in a convention hall in Atlantic City, N.J. At least the Mountaineer got on the board, however. The Aggies were shut out in the 1975 game, losing 20-0 to USC.


While he’d certainly rather kick extra points than field goals, Mountaineer placekicker Josh Lambert is just two attempts away from tying the NCAA record for most field goal tries in a season. Lambert has lined up 36 times, while the NCAA record is 38. If he gets those chances and converts them, Lambert would also tie the record for most games (10) in which he made two or more successful kicks.


Former Mountaineer tight end Anthony Becht will be the color analyst for ESPN’s broadcast of the game.

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Becht, who had 83 catches for 1,173 yards and 10 scores as a Mountaineer, went on to a solid NFL career, spanning 14 seasons. He played in 152 consecutive games for the New York Jets, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, St. Louis Rams and Arizona Cardinals before moving on to a broadcasting career that has steadily progressed. Starting out with smaller outlets, he moved on to the NBC Sports Network and Tampa Bay’s radio team before landing his current spot with ESPN in 2013. He moved into the booth this year as a color analyst for ESPNU, and appears to be primed for even bigger and better things down the road – that is, is the worldwide leader values solid football knowledge, good presentation and excellent analysis over schtick and debate.


In 21 of its 36 bowl trips, Texas A&M did not have to leave the Lone Star State. Thirteen of those appearances came in the Cotton Bowl.


Texas A&M will be seeking a bowl win for a fourth straight year, which has never been done in program history. Prior to that, A&M had lost five consecutive postseason contests. The Aggies are 16-19 all-time in bowl games. The Mountaineers will be trying to erase the stench of a putrid Pinstripe Bowl performance from two seasons ago. WVU is 14-18 all-time in bowl games, including a stretch of four consecutive wins following the 2005-08 seasons.


Eight current Mountaineers from the 2014 team graduated on Dec. 19, and are thus holders of a WVU diploma. Ishmael Banks, Michael Calicchio, Mark Glowinski, Tanner Grose, Michael Molinari, Wes Tonkery, Kevin White and Maurice Zereoue will be proud alumni when they take the field in Memphis.


Texas A&M puts a lot of emphasis on fast starts, and even works on cranking things up early in practice sessions, where it will often go 11-on-11 for a couple of series. The idea, similar to WVU running Oklahoma drills at the start of some sessions, is to get adrenaline flowing early and establish the importance of being ready to play with maximum effort from the opening whistle. That has paid off under Kevin Sumlin, as the Aggies have scored first in 32 of his 38 games at the helm, including nine of 12 this year. However, it also points out the fact that the Aggies can have trouble holding on to that early advantage, as their 7-5 record attest. West Virginia would love to turn the tables on this stat, but if A&M does light its side of the board first, the Mountaineers have no reason to get flustered.

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