MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Skyler Howard made “Money Manziel” fingers, and Kevin White got his point across by flashing only one finger. Texas A&M pile up personal fouls like spare ribs and one of its assistants nearly went Woody Hayes on a couple of Mountaineers players.
Between the elevated trash-talking and post-play shoving, the Liberty Bowl became a testy finale for two squads that had been whoofing at one another for several days.
“We knew it was going to be like that,” said Howard, the West Virginia sophomore who graduated from high school in Fort Worth the same year Johnny Football rose to Heisman prominence.
“We met at the hotel. We had a dinner together. We had parties together. There were some jabs being thrown all week. We knew it was going to be amped up like this. We wouldn’t want it any other way. It’s really fun when it’s like that.”
The fun got out of hand when Texas A&M student coach Michael Richardson twice shoved West Virginia players along the Aggies sideline. He slapped cornerback Daryl Worley in the back of the helmet and jostled with running back Andrew Buie—two clips that had gone viral by halftime.
Which meant Richardson was gone for the second half.
“I was made aware of the situation at halftime,” Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin said. “He did not return to the field, and he’s already been sent home. That’s nothing that we condone. There’s nothing about that whole situation that’s a part of who we are and what we believe in.”
Word of Richardson’s sideline antics reached the West Virginia staff.
“I hope it gets addressed,” said WVU defensive coordinator Tony Gibson. “The guys in the press box were telling us, (because) I couldn’t see it from field level. There’s no need for that in any sport. That’s embarrassing.
“I told our kids don’t get caught up in the emotion. There were cheap shots thrown, and there were guys mouthing. We kept our cool on our side of the ball pretty well today.”
Texas A&M’s top tackler Howard Matthews was ejected for targeting in the first quarter, and West Virginia right tackle Marquis Lucas flirted with the same fate after taking two swings at Aggies nose guard Alonzo Williams. Officials threw off-setting flags for unsportsmanlike conduct before WVU coaches replaced Lucas with Michael Calicchio.
Best quote: What was K.J. Dillon’s take on West Virginia’s defensive lapses? “I think we didn’t do too bad of a job of tackling, we just didn’t do enough of it.”
Best quote (runner-up): What did Sumlin tell quarterback Kyle Allen after throwing a pick-six? “We said don’t do that again.”
Dawson on departing: After coaching his final game before joining Kentucky’s staff, offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson called WVU “an extremely hard place to leave.”
Dawson spent four seasons with the Mountaineers and was the last holdover from Dana Holgorsen’s original staff in 2011.
“I love that guy to death, and that’s never going to change,” Dawson said. “I can’t compliment Dana enough for the opportunity, and West Virginia fans have been amazing.
“There were some fond memories and there were some tough goodbyes in that locker room.”