Austin Kendall, West Virginia Come Back to Beat Army 24-21 in 2020 Liberty Bowl

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistJanuary 1, 2021

West Virginia quarterback Austin Kendall (12) looks to pass during the second quarter of their NCAA college football game against Texas Tech in Morgantown, W.Va., Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019. (AP Photo/Chris Jackson)
Chris Jackson/Associated Press

After the Independence Bowl was canceled, it took Tennessee dropping out of the Liberty Bowl for Army to finally get a bowl invite this postseason. The Black Knights almost made the most of the opportunity.

West Virginia (6-4) beat Army 24-21 on Thursday, slowing the Black Knights' triple-option rushing attack (182 yards on 59 carries).

The insertion of backup quarterback Austin Kendall in the third quarter—and a surprise onside kick recovery—sparked the Mountaineers, who put together two touchdown drives in the second half to overcome a 21-10 deficit.

Army Football @ArmyWP_Football

Big play to setup our second TD of the game. We are back in action in the second half. Live on ESPN. #GoArmy https://t.co/EteHRcn0N6

Army Football @ArmyWP_Football

Great drive to open the half and Army leads 21-10. With the 3 rushing TDs Tyler has tied a @AZOLibertyBowl record. #GoArmy https://t.co/1s3TtlGTru

WVU Football @WVUfootball

Mike O'Laughlin (@M_O_3_) makes it a one-possession game with this touchdown catch! 📺 https://t.co/pAfwY9I06Z https://t.co/q1tAJU9xbV

WVU Football @WVUfootball

#ForTheBrand https://t.co/tvG3Lx461x https://t.co/zLpqQP9J09

WVU Football @WVUfootball

Austin Kendall (@A_Kendall11) finds a wide open T.J. Simmons (@a_scouts_dream) for touchdown No. 2️⃣! #HailWV https://t.co/qXA0m4V1Mv

Nick Farrell @ByNickFarrell

One last thing about 2020 that you never dreamed you’d read: #WVU beats Army in the Liberty Bowl, 24-21, because Austin Kendall threw two TD passes in the second half to erase an 11-point deficit.

Quinn Maretzki missed a potential tying field goal from 39 yards with less than two minutes to play, but Army had one last chance to steal the win after forcing a three and out, getting the ball back at its 31-yard-line with 1:22 to play. The Black Knights picked up 22 yards, but Josh Chandler-Semedo intercepted Christian Anderson to seal the game.

It was a tough result for Army and its defense, which had slowed West Virginia in the first half. Javhari Bourdeau intercepted a pass, and Malkelm Morrison strip-sacked Jarret Doege to give the Black Knights a short field for their second touchdown.

Dennis Dodd @dennisdoddcbs

If you need any more example of the lack of leadership in college football, consider no one, NO ONE advocated for Army in a bowl when it got left out. It took a COVID outbreak at Tennessee for Knights to get into Liberty. That's shameful treatment of America's best and brightest.

Army was trying to reach 10 wins for just the fourth time in history and the third time in head coach Jeff Monken's seven seasons. The Black Knights finished 9-3.


Key Stats

Austin Kendall, West Virginia: 8-of-17, 121 yards, 2 TD

Leddie Brown, West Virginia: 20 carries, 65 yards

Jarret Doege, West Virginia: 15-of-25, 159 yards, TD, INT

Tyhier Tyler, Army: 24 carries, 76 yards, 3 TD

A.J. Howard, Army: 3 carries, 18 yards

Anthony Adkins, Army: 9 carries, 26 yards


Austin Kendall Came Up Huge

After he threw a three-yard touchdown pass to Mike O'Laughlin, Kendall helped give the Mountaineers a three-point lead with just over five minutes remaining when he connected with a wide-open T.J. Simmons from 20 yards out.

The Oklahoma transfer threw for 1,989 yards and 12 touchdowns with 10 interceptions in 2019 but landed behind Jarret Doege on the depth chart this season. But when West Virginia needed a spark, he provided it.

Nick Farrell @ByNickFarrell

A New Year’s Eve harbinger of better things to come in 2021: Austin Kendall. Proof that if you tough it out and keep working — like we all had to do this year — you can have a happy ending.


Tyhier Tyler Had Himself a Game

No, Tyhier Tyler didn't throw a pass (Anderson finished 4-of-6 for 57 yards). No surprises there—Tyler attempted all of four passes this season.

But Army's leading rusher did his work yet again, topping the team in attempts and yards while scoring all three touchdowns. Watching Tyler spearhead the offense is a blast from the past, as the Black Knights condense their formation, use quick motions and deploy pitches to run the ball persistently.

Pat Forde @ByPatForde

Interesting watching Army's short-yardage QB keep -- they pause for a second to let the linemen get push before pressing the running lane. It's worked, when the objective is getting 1-2 yards at a time.

RedditCFB @RedditCFB

Some day Army is going to have a 99-yd 40 play drive that takes up an entire half.

It only works with a dynamic leader such as Tyler and a strong defense. Army had both this season, though it wasn't enough to reach 10 wins for the third time in four years.