I was intrigued.
Yes, WVU’s football team is 3-1 following its 29-24 win over Kansas in Lawrence. The Mountaineers are following the script by beating the Jayhawks and James Madison and splitting the Missouri and N.C. State games. The Mountaineers, in fact, are in first place within the Big 12, along with Texas, at 1-0.
Yet what, I wondered, would West Virginia coach Neal Brown say about his quarterback on Monday’s Big 12 conference call?
True, Oklahoma transfer Austin Kendall has been at the controls for the three wins. Yet check out his stats. He’s No. 71 nationally in passing yards a game (217.8). Also, in pass efficiency, where Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts is No. 1, LSU’s Joe Burrow is No. 2 and Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa is No. 3, Kendall is No. 94 (125.7).
Within the Big 12, Kendall is No. 8 in total offense at 224.2. He’s No. 7 in passing yards average. And he’s not listed among the top 10 in pass efficiency.
“I think he’s done some really good things,” Brown said on the conference call. “I thought he managed the game well at Kansas. It wasn’t his best throwing game. It was windy. I don’t know if that came into effect; I hope not. But he wasn’t as accurate as he has been.”
Kendall was 25-of-37 for 202 yards passing with a long of 18 yards.
“I thought he did a good job managing the game – especially the two-minute situation before the half and the four-minute situations,” Brown continued. “I thought he did a nice job. We have to be more productive in our explosive plays. That’s something we have to improve on.”
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Veteran writer Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman put a solid question to Brown on Monday. WVU, of course, has an off week before a 3:30 p.m. meeting with Texas on Oct. 5 in Morgantown.
“Before the year, the perception was this would be sort of a rebuilding year [for WVU], a new year with a new coach and [the team] would take some lumps,” said Tramel. “Now, though, you have two really good wins. Do you recalibrate what the upside is and what it could be for this season?”
“We’ve just been going to work, honestly,” Brown replied. “From a football standpoint, we’re young. We’ve said that. We’re inexperienced at a lot of different spots. We’re a group that’s going to get better as we go. I think we’ve made some steady improvement from Week 1. We’ve made a lot of improvement from our showing at Missouri.
“We’re just going week to week. I know that sounds coach cliché-ish, but we’re just trying to figure out how to win each week and get our guys better. So, we didn’t set a lot of long-term goals. Our goal is to have one of the top special teams in the league. We want to be one of the top teams in turnover margin. We’ve felt if we did those things they would give us a chance to be successful and win some close games. That’s kind of the path we’ve stayed on.”
In regard to special teams, WVU is No. 5 within the Big 12 in kickoff returns (20.1), No. 6 in field goals (.667), tied for first in PAT kicking (1.00), No. 3 in punt return average (8.8), No. 6 in punting (37.4) and No. 8 in kickoff coverage (39.9).
In regard to turnover margin, the Mountaineers are No. 4 with five gained and four lost (+1).
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Notes and quotes:
- Brown said he’d know more about offensive lineman Josh Sills’ injury on Tuesday.
- One area of concern for WVU has been at linebacker. Mountaineer fans might be seeing Alabama transfer VanDarius Cowan soon though.
“His four-game suspension is up,” Brown said. “He’ll be eligible to play going forward. He’ll be heavily evaluated this bye week and heading into the Texas game.”
- Junior cornerback Dreyshun Miller, a four-star recruit, is still out after surgery, still rehabbing, Brown said. The coach said he should know more about Miller in the next week or so. Charlie Benton, a redshirt junior linebacker, has been available, Brown said, but “he just hasn’t played yet.”
- WVU kicker Evan Staley was the Big 12’s special teams player of the week after going 3-for-3 on field goals versus Kansas. He hit from 44, 37 and 22 yards out. He also averaged 62.8 yards on kickoffs leading to four touchbacks.
- And finally…
Believe it or not, WVU’s season is already a third of the way finished.
“I’m proud we found a way to win three games,” Brown said. “The last two – especially the road win at Kansas – we didn’t play particularly well in any phase. But we were able to find ways to win. I think that’s a sign of a maturing football team.”
Brown was also asked about standouts on each side of the ball. He struggled to come up with a defensive standout, but that wasn’t the case in regard to offense.
“Offensively, our best player through four games is our left tackle Colton McKivitz,” said the coach. “He’s our leader. He’s played really physical. He’s protected our passer well. He’s playing at a really high level.”
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