WVU fades in 2nd half of 45-37 Liberty Bowl loss

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — For the first half of a Liberty Bowl shootout, West Virginia played Texas A&M to a virtual draw.

The Mountaineers couldn't quite keep pace the rest of the way.

Kyle Allen threw four touchdown passes and ran for a fifth score Monday, and the Aggies erased an early 10-point deficit in a 45-37 victory. Allen went 22 of 35 for 294 yards and overcame an interception that KJ Dillon returned for a touchdown.

West Virginia's Skyler Howard went 20 of 45 for 346 yards and three touchdowns while making his second career start in place of Clint Trickett, who announced Friday he was giving up football because of multiple concussions.

Kevin White had seven catches for 129 yards and a touchdown. Josh Lambert made all three of his field-goal tries. His 30 field goals this year were one shy of the NCAA record.

"Too many stalled drives," West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said. "When you play a game that you're going to have to score 46 points to win it, you can't settle for that many field goals. ... I thought we moved the ball well. We just didn't score enough points."

West Virginia (7-6) led 17-7 early in the game and was still ahead 27-21 late in the second quarter before Texas A&M (8-5) scored 24 of the next 27 points to take control. Texas A&M's Tra Carson rushed for a career-high 133 yards on 25 carries, and Malcome Kennedy caught two of Allen's touchdown passes.

The Aggies have won bowl games in four straight seasons for the first time in school history.

The game lived up to its billing as a shootout between two fast-paced offenses that had scored over 30 points per game while allowing more than 25 this season. This wound up as the second-highest scoring day in the Liberty Bowl's 56-game history, trailing only Louisville's 44-40 victory over Boise State in 2004.

The first quarter alone featured 34 combined points, with West Virginia leading 20-14. The most notable hits of the first half came out of bounds: Sumlin ordered Michael Richardson off the sideline for the second half after videos showed the student assistant striking West Virginia players in two separate incidents.

"I was made aware of the situation at halftime," 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."

Texas A&M outlasted West Virginia by outrushing the Mountaineers 235-126 and holding West Virginia below 4 yards per carry. The Aggies had allowed 5.1 yards per rush during the regular season.

"We weren't getting off blocks," Holgorsen said. "We were stuck on blocks like I haven't seen in some time. Our D-line was terrible."

Perhaps the biggest play of the game came in the first quarter.

Texas A&M trailed 17-7 when it went for it on fourth-and-5 from the West Virginia 40. The move paid off when Allen found running back Trey Williams for a touchdown.

"That's a play we had put in this week specifically for that blitz they were bringing us," Allen said. "They brought everyone and they left four people to cover the receivers, but we knew they wouldn't cover the running backs."

Texas A&M pulled ahead for good 28-27 with 53 seconds left in the first half as Allen went to his right and saw a defender converging, then headed to his left and ran down the sideline for a touchdown.

"He just made plays when they needed him to," Dillon said. "We thought we had him trapped in the pocket sometimes, and he'd use his legs."

Texas A&M scored 17 points on its first three series of the third quarter to pad its advantage to 45-30. West Virginia cut the deficit to 45-37 on Howard's 4-yard touchdown pass to Elijah Wellman with 2:32 remaining, but the Mountaineers' offense wouldn't touch the ball again.

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