The West Virginia Mountaineers hung on to win the Liberty Bowl 24-21 over the Army Black Knights. Here are five thoughts as both teams’ seasons have come to an end in Memphis, Tennessee.
1. West Virginia’s QB Situation is Not Good
The Mountaineers made strides in Year 2 under Neal Brown, reaching and winning a bowl game, which did not happen in 2019. But if this program wants to take the next step and start competing atop the Big 12, it needs to find a quarterback. Anyone watching this team all season knew that Jarret Doege was serviceable, but he was not going to be the reason this team beat top teams in the conference. Any Big 12 team needs that to win. Doege got benched in this game in favor of Austin Kendall, who had some nice throws, but we’ve seen this book play out as well, and it wasn’t pretty for much of the 2019 season. Maybe freshman Garrett Greene out of Florida is the answer for 2021 and beyond, but the reality is WVU needs to improve at that position to get to the level the fan base, and the program, wants to be at.
2. Mountaineers strong against the run
Give the Mountaineers credit for stopping this Army triple-option offense in impressive fashion. Even though you know what’s coming (the run), it’s not as easy as it seems, especially when you’re a program that never expects to see, or play against, an offense like this. WVU held the Black Knights to 182 rushing yards on 59 carries, good for 3.1 yards per carry. That’s how you beat Army, and despite giving up a couple of big passes, the Mountaineers defense did its job and did it well.
3. The Liberty Bowl is Fun
The Liberty Bowl is never going to be confused with the Cotton Bowl or the Rose Bowl or even the Alamo Bowl. But it’s a fun bowl game that is fairly accessible for most of the Big 12 and has led to a bunch of really good games in recent seasons. The last five Liberty Bowls have been decided by eight points or less and the last two have been decided by three points (Kansas State-Navy in 2019). Plus, it’s sometimes a chance to see a team that is on the verge of next-level success (i.e. TCU, who played in the Liberty Bowl in 2016, and then went to the Big 12 Championship in 2017).
4. The WVU Running Game Looked like 2019
The West Virginia running game was the worst in the Big 12 Conference in 2019 before making serious strides in 2020. Well in the Liberty Bowl, the running game looked like it did last season. The unit finished with just 42 rushing yards on 27 attempts, good for 1.6 yards per carry. Leddie Brown was the second-leading rusher in the Big 12 Conference and only had 65 rushes on 20 carries.
5. Goodbye, Darius Stills
Darius Stills came to West Virginia under the previous regime, but regardless, he eventually brought his brother, Dante, with him to Morgantown and helped WVU become one of the best defenses in the Big 12 in 2020. This was the last time Mountaineers fans would see him in their uniform as he takes his talents to the NFL Draft. We actually did a feature piece on Darius Stills back in January of 2017, before he arrived on campus, and he could not have been a nicer, more motivated, yet humble, young man. You can read that piece here. As a team, he may not have achieved what his goals were at WVU, he did prove that local products can, and frankly should, play for the Mountaineers and then can take their talents to the next level. He should be viewed at as an inspiration for local talent and we hope he always remembers his roots (which I believe he definitely will). We will be rooting for him wherever he lands in the NFL.
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