West Virginia defense suffers setback during bowl blistering

Texas A&M freshman quarterback Kyle Allen threw for four touchdowns and ran for a fifth during the Aggies’ 45-37 win over West Virginia at the Liberty Bowl.


MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Tony Gibson’s one-word description of West Virginia’s tackling at the Liberty Bowl?


After a season marked by defensive improvements and a hefty pay hike for the first-year coordinator, the Mountaineers backslid severely during Monday’s 45-37 loss to Texas A&M.

“Just bad defensive football,” said Gibson, whose until matched two dubious season-highs in points allowed and yards per play (6.9).

Texas A&M (8-5), which had averaged only 22 points since the start of October, got a Liberty Bowl-record five touchdowns from freshman quarterback Kyle Allen and chunks of rushing yardage from Tra Carson and Trey Williams. It added up to a 529-yard output, the highest for the Aggies since Sept. 20 and the third-most allowed by West Virginia all season.

Though Gibson worried about the postseason layoff leading to missed tackles, he didn’t foresee Texas A&M carving up his defense so thoroughly.

“I would have never expected they would score 45 points,” he said.

Fabulous freshman: While Allen threw for four touchdowns and 294 yards, the most in his five college starts, two third-down plays stood out.

He spun away from several blitzers on a 14-yard touchdown scramble that put the Aggies up 28-27 at the half. Allen later escaped pressure on a third-and-20 play to fling a 21-yard completion that led to a score and a 38-27 lead.

“I’m frustrated but the quarterback played really well,” Gibson said. “I knew he was capable. He threw the ball well and sometimes we made it easy for him, too.”

Texas A&M’s Tra Carson ran for 133 yards against West Virginia in the Liberty Bowl.

Aggies on the run: Only twice this season had Texas A&M rushed for 200 yards—against FCS member Lamar and one-win SMU—yet it ran for 235 against West Virginia.

The Aggies entered the Liberty Bowl averaging 142.8 yards rushing per game, yet Carson broke loose for 133 by himself. Wiliams added 86 more on 11 carries.

“Tra Carson had a nice night, Trey Williams did too,” Kevin Sumlin. “Trey averaged 7.8 yards per carry. When you’re able to do that it takes pressure off the play-calling. It takes pressure off your quarterback.
“It also creates some other one-on-one type situations on the perimeter. It’s something I think we were able to get done tonight, and I think it was a big key in controlling the game in the second half.”

The game was reminiscent of West Virginia’s struggles to slow the rushing attacks of Oklahoma (301 yards), Alabama (288), Texas (227) and TCU (223).

“We couldn’t get in the right alleys,” said WVU nose guard Kyle Rose. “They were creasing us in there.”

Burning WVU’s blitz: Gibson hoped to rattle Allen, who threw an early pick-six. But the freshman beat West Virginia’s all-out blitz with a fourth-and-5 dump pass to Williams, who jetted 40 yards for the score.

“That was on me,” Gibson said. “We zero blitzed, they snuck the back out and caught us. I should’ve checked out of it and didn’t. That was squarely on my call.”

Allen said the play was a bowl-week add-on, specifically targeting Gibson’s blitz-heavy nature.

“They brought everyone and they left four people to cover the receivers,” the quarterback said, “but we knew they wouldn’t cover the running backs.”

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