WVU Headed to Liberty Bowl
After missing out on a bowl appearance for the first time in eleven years last season, West Virginia is headed back to the postseason. Today, the AutoZone Liberty Bowl announced West Virginia has accepted a bid to play in the game. West Virginia will be matched up against Texas A&M.
The Liberty Bowl will kickoff in Memphis at 2:00 p.m. on December 29.
West Virginia (7-5, 5-4) earned a bid following a bounce back season. Head Coach Dana Holgorsen and his team notched a marquee when it knocked off then-No. 4 Baylor back in mid-October. West Virginia also finished the season ranked eleventh in total offense.
"We faced a very challenging schedule this season with five Top 12 teams and playing a tough opponent like Texas A&M in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl will be yet another challenge," said Holgorsen. "We had a good season and getting to play in a bowl game is a great way to reward our players, especially our seniors. We will prepare hard for this bowl game and try to finish the season on a strong note."
Under Head Coach Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M (7-5, 3-5) won its way to Memphis by finishing sixth in the SEC West. The Aggies had their biggest win of the season when it took down then-No. 3 Auburn on November 8th.
The only common opponent for West Virginia and Texas A&M is Alabama. The Tide beat West Virginia 33-23 in the season opener and took care of Texas A&M 59-0 in October.
Texas A&M offensive coordinator Jake Spavital served as quarterbacks coach at West Virginia in 2011 and 2012 before leaving for College Station.
For the Liberty Bowl, including West Virginia in its game has been part of the plan since agreeing to partner with the Big 12 Conference.
"One of the reasons we created this new partnership with the Big 12 is because of the affiliation with West Virginia," said Steve Ehrhart, Executive Director of the Liberty Bowl. "With the geography of Memphis, we're trying to bridge that gap between West Virginia and the other schools."
Ehrhart was in attendance the West Virginia-Kansas State and also met with West Virginia Athletic Director Oliver Luck in Austin prior to the West Virginia-Texas game last month.
Since, West Virginia missed out on a bowl appearance last year, gave the Liberty Bowl team selection group inclination Mountaineer fans would travel to wherever West Virginia ended up.
Memphis is within a ten-hour driving distance of Morgantown and even less than the southern part of West Virginia.
Furthermore, the Liberty Bowl is the seventh oldest bowl game and with its rich tradition, timing couldn't have fallen more perfectly for West Virginia to end up in its game.
"I guess it's a sign that fifty years ago in 1964 is the last time West Virginia played in the Liberty Bowl," Ehrhart said. "To have a fiftieth anniversary game, we'd like to bring back all the guys from that team fifty years ago. We'd honor them at half time."
Fifty years ago the game was held in Atlantic City, New Jersey at the Atlantic City Convention Hall. It was the first indoor bowl game ever.
The city of Memphis is also home to an important West Virginia advocate. Chris Wallace, the General Manager of the NBA's Memphis Grizzlies is a native of West Virginia and has pushed Ehrhart and Liberty Bowl committee to host the Mountaineers.
"The Mountaineers have a great booster in Memphis in Chris Wallace," Erhart added. "He's been hounding the table for West Virginia."
West Virginia will make its 33rd bowl appearance in program history when it take the field in Memphis later this month.
NOTE: WVSports.com spoke with Erhart on multiple occasions throughout the season.
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