MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — After weeks of waiting, WVU found out Sunday it will play in the Liberty Bowl, set for 4 p.m. Dec. 31 in Memphis, Tenn. The last time the Mountaineers played in the Liberty Bowl was in 2014, a loss to Texas A&M, and it’s the third time the team has played in the Liberty Bowl and is the 38th bowl game overall.
“It’s been an unforgettable year with COVID-19 issues as we move forward and there’s been a lot of issues our student-athletes have had to face this year,” WVU athletic director Shane Lyons said. “It’s a great opportunity for them and I’m really happy for our seniors and our entire program to be able to play one more. It’ll be exciting to play in the rich history of the AutoZone Liberty Bowl.”
Attendance is expected to be between 12,000-13,000, about 20% of the normal capacity for the Liberty Bowl. Fans will be social distanced and tickets may be purchased at libertybowl.org.
For the teams, it will not be a typical bowl trip filled with special events in the host city. Instead, it will likely be treated more like a regular season road game with a much shorter stay, but there will be ideas to make the trip special for players, according to Liberty Bowl Executive Director Steve Ehrhart.
This year, the Mountaineers will face Tennessee, which is coming off a 3-7 season and 5th-place finish in the SEC East. WVU opened the 2018 season in Charlotte against the Volunteers, a 40-14 win for the Mountaineers.
“We look forward to getting to Memphis and not only playing in a bowl that has just a ton of tradition – a game that I grew up watching and appreciating — but also playing a tradition-rich team like Tennessee,” WVU coach Neal Brown said. “We’re going to make sure this is a rewarding experience.”
WVU (5-4, 4-4 Big 12) is looking to finish the year with a winning record after having the regular-season finale against Oklahoma canceled. The last time the Mountaineers played was Dec. 5 in a 42-6 loss at Iowa State.
Many teams opted out of playing in bowl games this season, but with the cancellation of the Oklahoma game, and as a consequence, the cancellation of Senior Day, Brown wanted to play in a bowl game to allow the seniors one more opportunity to play.
“We’ve got a really young football team and our guys are excited about it,” he said. “Unfortunately for our seniors, they didn’t have a traditional Senior Day. We’re using this game as a way to salute our seniors, as an exit for those who are leaving. Our kids were ready to play and they got a little time off and really came back with a lot of energy and are looking forward to getting back on the field.”