MORGANTOWN, W. Va. – (December 30, 2020) — Throughout this entire season, the Coronavirus pandemic has been a burden for players, coaches, administration and fans. This time, COVID-19 did what was right for the game of college football.
As the hours went by on bowl bid day, Army was looking without a game during the bowl season. College football fans across the country were amazed to see under .500 Power-5 programs have bowl games, while a 9-2 team was left off the slate.
The notion of the Power-5 bias was at an all-time high as a great football program was left out of playing in a postseason opportunity.
On Dec. 20, it was announced that West Virginia (5-4, 4-4 Big 12) would take on the Tennessee Volunteers. From there, COVID-19 checked in from the bench once again.
Not even 24 hours after the matchup was set, the Vols had to opt-out of the bowl game. UT coach Jeremy Pruitt announced that players and coaches test positive for COVID, and wouldn’t be able to be ready on New Year’s Eve.
Now, WVU was without an opponent.
It was just bound to happen this way, wasn’t it?
On Dec. 21, WVU coach Neal Brown accepted the opportunity to play Army (9-2) in the Liberty Bowl with this tweet.
Even though coach Brown will play anyone, at any place and any time, he would be the first to admit that it’ll be tough to prepare for Army.
“This is going to be a tough opponent on such short notice,” Brown explained.
The Mountaineers have played one game in the last 45 days, which was a loss to Iowa State, 42-6, on Dec. 5.
Army has notable wins over Navy (15-0) and Air Force (10-7), with their only losses coming from No. 8-Cincinnati (24-10) and Tulane (38-12).
The Black Knights have a great offense that is featured by a triple-option play style. Army averages 27 points-per-game this season.
That is probably the only normal stat on the offensive side of the ball you’ll see. This team is just full of crazy stats.
Army is such a run-heavy offense that they only have ATTEMPTED 70 passes in ten games.
The Black Knights have NINE rushers to run for over 100 yards in the season; ten players have rushed for touchdowns. Army distributes the ball evenly like a pie of pizza.
“It’s tough to defend,” Brown said. “A lot of motions, formation varieties and they do a really good job of mixing up those looks and finding plays each week that are effective.”
Tyhier Tyler leads the Black Knights with 502 yards. Tyler has rushed 115 times for Army.
Jakobi Buchanan is right behind Tyler in rushing with 474 yards. The fullback has reached the end zone six times.
Tyler and Buchanan are supported by Tyrell Robinson, Anthony Adkins and Christian Anderson with gaining yardage.
Another crazy stat for the Black Knights: their touchdown leader, Sandon McCoy, has reached the end zone ten times, but only has 250 yards to show for it. McCoy isn’t a receiver, by the way!
The gauntlet that is the Army running game will be up against one of the best defenses in the country in West Virginia.
On Monday, Darius Stills and Tykee Smith were named AP All-Americans. Stills was named on the first-team, while Smith was listed to the third-team.
Stills has 7.5 tackles for loss and was able to sack a quarterback three times. The senior from Fairmont also has an interception that came during the Kansas game.
Smith has recorded eight tackles for loss. The sophomore also has two interceptions with deflecting five passes.
As good as the Mountaineer defensive group is, they will be without one of their most impactful players in Tony Fields. The former Arizona Wildcat opted out of the bowl game to prepare for the 2021 NFL Draft.
The West Virginia offense may not be as fancy as Army’s, but they can get the job done as well.
Jarret Doege has 2,428 passing yards with 13 throws into the endzone in nine games. Doege has only thrown three interceptions this year.
The Bowling Green transfer somehow has two-less interceptions than the entire Army offense. That’s with Doege throwing 279 more passes!
Leddie Brown has been a problem for defenses throughout the year, rushing right under the 1,000-yard mark with 945. The Philadelphia native has scored 11 touchdowns, nine rushing and two receptions.
Coach Brown is excited to play in his first bowl game with West Virginia and feels the excitement increasing as the game comes closer.
“Our players and coaches are really excited about finishing 2020 in Memphis at the Liberty Bowl,” Brown said. “For our guys and our program, I think it’s a tremendous opportunity for our team.
“There is going to be a lot of attention on this game,” Brown added.
West Virginia and Army will set to kick-off for the 62nd AutoZone Liberty Bowl in Memphis at 4 p.m. on Thursday afternoon. Coverage will be on ESPN.