Memphis and the Liberty Bowl call Mountaineers to home of Elvis
The Liberty Bowl in Memphis. On the surface it seems a more comfortable landing spot than the Pinstripe Bowl was two years ago when West Virginia was literally mired in the ooze of Yankee Stadium, losing to Syracuse.
The bowl opponent is Texas A&M, a team from the Southeastern Conference that plays Alabama and LSU . . . while West Virginia is located a long distance from its Big 12 games against Texas Tech, TCU and Kansas State.
West Virginia and the Aggies have never played each other. The Mountaineers only touch with any Liberty Bowl came way back in 1964 when the game was played indoors in the Atlantic City Convention Hall, snug alongside the ocean in New Jersey. West Virginia’s loss to Utah that afternoon came in the first bowl game ever played indoors.
What does Texas A&M bring to Memphis for the December 29 game? It has the same 7-5 overall record as West Virginia. After winning its first five games of the season, the Aggies lost five of their last seven games, including a season finale against LSU.
Some football history concerning the Aggies has to mention John David Crow and Johnny Manziel as the school’s two Heisman Trophy winners. The ESPN documentary titled “The Junction Boys” depicted the boot camp atmosphere put in place by new coach Paul “Bear” Bryant when he unceremoniously accepted the football job in dusty College Station.
Texas A&M is famous for its “12th Man”, a group of students from the ROTC program that stand the whole game in support of the team. Scrawled on the side of a wall supporting the upper deck seats are the words “Home of the 12th Man”.
West Virginia might try duplicating the 70-33 win Coach Dana Holgorsen’s first team produced in the Orange Bowl against Clemson.
Like Texas A&M, the Mountaineers also finished with a 7-5 overall record, actually snapping a three-game losing skid with a season-ending win against Iowa State.
Skyler Howard replaced quarterback Clint Trickett, who had suffered a concussion in a loss that continued the three-game slide.
Holgorsen has offensive weapons in Rushel Shell, Kevin White, Mario Alford, Jordan Thompson, Daikiel Shorts, Wendell Smallwood and placekicker Josh Lambert. But any success West Virginia has will depend on how the sometimes suspect offensive line of Quinton Spain, Adam Pankey, Tyler Orlosky, Mark Glowinski and company perform.
The Aggies will probably do their share of scoring against the defense that usually focuses on Terrell Chestnut, KJ Dillon, Brandon Golson, Karl Joseph, Nick Kwiatkoski, Noble Nwachukwu, Daryl Worley and Shaq Pettway.
Now that college teams can have players with the same number (as long as they both are not on the field at the same time), West Virginia’s fate could fall into the hands/arms/legs of Trickett and Dillon (both No. 9) and Shell and Worley (both No. 7).
It’s an afternoon game, leaving the fan faithful willing to shell out $85 per ticket to sit in the West Virginia section plenty of time to see the sights and test the gourmet food Memphis is known to provide its visitors.The muddy Mississippi River separates Tennessee from Arkansas.
Beale Street is the home of The Blues. Elvis Presley made Graceland his home when he wasn’t throwing used handkerchiefs to his Las Vegas audiences. The city also boasts of the Memphis Rock ‘n’ Roll Museum, Sun recording studios, the Orpheum Theater, the Memphis Zoo, the National Civil Rights Museum and enough mouth-watering restaurants to ruin any attempt at maintaining a rigorous diet.
Food of many sorts and varieties comes from the Rendezvous Restaurant with its dry rub ribs, the Silver Caboose, the Trolley Stop Market, Gus’s World Famous Hot & Spicy Fried Chicken and a fistful of BBQ joints that the city draws much fame for providing.
The stadium seats 60,121 folks, but some locals will stay away because the Memphis Tigers will have just played in the Miami Beach Bowl on December 22.
It’s Holgorsen’s third bowl in his four seasons in Morgantown. The two teams have no history . . . but both will be trying to make memories on the field just as they will at the buffets, barbecue blowouts and high-calorie meals they will be inhaling.