Connect with us

WVU Football

WVU Wins all Three-phases and Four Quarters for Impressive Win



(Photo by Doug Johnson)
1st Downs2425
3rd down efficiency5-173-11
4th down efficiency2-50-0
Total Yards369445
Yards per pass4.66.8
Interceptions thrown01
Rushing Attempts3728
Yards per rush3.96.2
Fumbles lost00
Interceptions thrown01


Morgantown, WV – The West Virginia Mountaineers bounced back in a big way in a 44-27 Saturday afternoon with a big one over ACC opponent North Carolina State Saturday afternoon after taking a 38-7 beating at Missouri a weak ago. WVU didn’t look phased, in fact looking more like a team that had something to prove.

“Big Win,” said West Virginia head coach Neal Brown as he began to address the media following the 17-point win. “I’m really proud of our staff and our players… this is why I love football. It mirrors life in so many different ways. To me, it’s not when you get back down, it’s how you respond. I’m so proud of not just our players, but our whole staff (and) how they responded this week.

West Virginia came into the game only rushing for 64 yards on the season and there was but a mere flicker of a pulse on the offense. The defense looked promising at times but continued to give up big chunks on the ground and gave up 232 rushing yards on the ground last week.

As a result, Neal Brown opened the competition up during the week in preparation for the Wolfpack. In essence, the starters were not making plays and it was time to give the young guns a shot. Although some of it was out of necessity.

Starting right guard Josh Sill was out due to an injury and subsequently, that gave Valdosta junior college transfer sophomore John Hughes an opportunity to start. Left guard Michael Brown missed practice all week due to an illness, so redshirt freshman James Gmiter to his spot. Then it was announced that Tevin Bush is going to be out, and they gave true freshman Winston Wright the starting nod and Briason Mays took over at center.

The defense came out and went to “that place” defensive coordinator Vic Koenning said he wanted them to go on Tuesday and they made a statement to start the game. WVU was playing with an edge and quite frankly, a little pissed off.

NC State was held to a three and out on the game-opening series; however, Rueben Jones was a little too fired up on third and ten, taking an extra step to hit the quarterback for a personal foul to keep the drive alive.

Then on 2nd and 2, freshman Zonovan took the handoff on an option read and cut up inside for a 17-yard run into West Virginia territory. NC State picked up another first down but on a 3rd and 10 at the WVU 29, Dante Stills came through the line for a sack that set up a 51-yard field goal that came up short.

Now, it was time for the offense to make their statement. After a three-yard rush from Alec Sinkfield, a backward pass to Sean Ryan appeared to set up a deep throw downfield. However, after scanning the defense, Sean Ryan tucked the ball reversed field and was sprung upfield by a key block form quarterback Austin Kendall as he turned a busted play into a 24-yard gain.

Three plays later, Sam James took a wide receiver screen and weaved his way through the secondary breaking tackles and muscling his way in for the 20-yard touchdown that put West Virginia up 7-0.

The way the team started had me revisit the teams’ Tuesday weekly media availability. Brown and his staff preach physicality and they hadn’t seen if from their players this season. It was clear they weren’t happy with any phases of the game and he made changes. After the game Neal reiterated what they went through during the week.

“We talked about four things,” stated Brown. “From Monday on, we focused on four things. Number one was perfect effort. That’s playing as hard as you can on every snap. The second thing was being physical and playing tough football. (The) third one was doing what we’re coached to do. And the fourth one was just a call to invest. Invest your time and energy into being the best you can. Preparing your body and your mind this week. For us to play winning football, we have to identify ourselves as a blue-collar unit. We’ve got to outwork people; we’ve got to out-physical people and we embraced that this week. I think that what you saw on that field today was a product of that. We embraced who we’ve got to be.”

West Virginia hit adversity in the second quarter after NC State scored 14 straight points to take a 21-14 lead with 3:13 left in the first half.

Just as the offense did to begin the game, they played with poise, confidence and an understanding of situational football. The Mountaineers drove 75 yards on nine plays behind the arm Austin Kendall who went 5-5 for 49 yards including a 13-yard strike to George Campbell for the touchdown to tie the game as 34 seconds remained in the half.

Then to begin the second half, West Virginia put together an 11-play 89-yard drive to set up a chip shot for kicker Evan Staley from 23 yards out to give West Virginia the lead.

The Mountaineer defense held NC State to consecutive three and outs and a big special teams play by fullback Logan Thimons blocking a punt, the first blocked punt in nearly two years by West Virginia (Oct 28th, 2017 against Oklahoma State), deep inside the Wolfpack territory gave WVU the ball at the 12 and it only took two carries from Kennedy McKoy to find the paint as West Virginia found themselves up 10, 31-21.

West Virginia didn’t play perfect, giving up 105 yards on 12 penalties and a crucial personal foul after the ensuing kickoff, on a touchback, gave NC State the ball near midfield. However, the defense held steady despite giving up 36 yards to put the Wolfpack in field goal range as Christopher Dunn knocked it through from 41 yards to get the game back within one possession.

On the Mountaineers’ next possession, Austin Kendall made one of his few mistakes on the day, albeit a big one, throwing back across his body for an interception and just like that, NC State had the ball deep in Mountaineer territory. The West Virginia defense stepped up again holding NC State to a three and out and to a field goal.

“Coach Brown was like ‘you need to step up in the pocket’ I knew myself where I messed up and then I was ready to prove it the next drive so I just kind of erased that from my memory,” said Kendall.

Austin Kendall moved on the following drive and started the fourth quarter with a 7 play 75-yard touchdown drive and it was highlighted by Kendall stepping up in the pocket then tucking the ball and scampering for a 25-yard run to get WVU inside the 10 and followed it up hitting freshman Ali Jennings for a nine-yard touchdown pass.

The defense didn’t allow NC State to cross midfield in the fourth quarter and after NC Stated failed to convert a 4th and 4 at their own 23, the Mountaineers put the final nail in the coffin handing it off to Leddie Brown for four-straight carries for the touchdown.

That last possession for WVU somewhat told the story for the offensive line on the day. NC State knew they were running and still was able to punch it in to seal the win and it all started up front with the young offensive line that capped off 173-yards on the ground for the day was nearly three times the output they had the first two games.

“As a coach, you’ve got to keep trying until you find that right mix,” stated Brown. “I think that’s one of the really fun things about coaching. You keep trying. It’s one of the things that’s really difficult.”

“Those guys that were in there – Briason Mays made his first start, James Gmiter made his first start, John Hughes made his first start,” continued Brown. “Chase Behrndt has played a lot of football. I haven’t watched the film yet, but my hunch is that he played with a different type of edge than he’s played with. They’re all led by Colton McKivitz. Colton to me, he’s a dude. He prepares like a dude, he plays like a dude, he leads like a dude. Then Kelby Wickline had his best week of practice and I think that showed. I think our communication was better than it has been. I know for a fact we blocked way better on the perimeter and then our running backs got vertical. They went north and south a lot better.”

Maybe this team is a week late on the old football cliché that the biggest improvement is from week one to week two, or maybe it took the second game against a power-five opponent to make the adjustments needed to see where they were at as a team. Whatever it was, they put four quarters of quality football and won all three phases of the game together, and that’s something that hasn’t been done by the Mountaineer Football Program in a long time.

Get WVSN in your mailbox!

Enter your email address to subscribe to WVSN and receive notifications of new posts by email.