Mountaineers Seeking Answers
After starting the 2019 season with three wins and one loss, the Mountaineers suffered two straight home losses. First, the Mountaineers lost a hard-fought battle with Texas. Then, the Mountaineers lost to Iowa State for the second straight season. Unfortunately, West Virginia lost more than the game last weekend. They also lost VanDarius Cowan to a season-ending knee injury. The Mountaineers lost their starting quarterback for most of the game. And they also lost veteran cornerback Hakeem Bailey to a targeting penalty. While a couple of those players return this weekend, the two-game skid leaves the Mountaineers seeking answers as they travel to Norman.
Because of a chest injury, Austin Kendall suffered in the first half, Head Coach Neal Brown answered questions early this week about Kendall’s availability this weekend. On Tuesday, Brown indicated Kendall was questionable for Saturday’s game in Norman. He added, “[w]e have a plan with the quarterback position if Austin can’t go. It’s not something I want to sit up here and talk about. If Austin can’t go, we’ll go through with that plan. Trey is getting better. But we thought Jack [Allison] gave us the best opportunity on Saturday.”
Translating Coach Brown
Several West Virginia writers loosely interpreted this comment to mean that Brown was not satisfied with Jack Allison’s performance against the Cyclones. And those writers went so far as to “translate” that Brown meant that he intended to start redshirt freshman Trey Lowe. Then, based on the following tweet early in the day Thursday, a few of those writers even cited “sources” (that were really this single tweet) for the proposition that Lowe would be West Virginia’s starter against Oklahoma.
After multiple conversations with coaches and players, can report Trey Lowe will be making his first career start this Saturday against Oklahoma #TrustTheClimb
— WVU Sporting News? (@headcoachNB) October 17, 2019
Unfortunately, those scouring for insider information stumbled across a parody account as the same twitter account sent the following tweet just a few weeks ago.
— WVU Sporting News? (@headcoachNB) October 1, 2019
Kendall Returns to Oklahoma
We certainly understand the desire for fans to clamor for changes during a midseason skid. But, as we have written and the staff and the athletic department have all said, this year would represent a climb for the Mountaineers. But there was never a true quarterback controversy, just a media-created blip on the radar. Brown cleared up the issue Thursday night when he said clearly that Kendall would start against his former team Saturday.
Many Questions Remain
Unfortunately, Kendall’s return does not answer all of the questions surrounding the Mountaineers. Cornerback Keith Washington is still questionable for Saturday’s game. Bailey must sit out the first half due to his second-half targeting ejection against Iowa State. Tevin Bush entered the transfer portal. Martell Pettaway will redshirt and return next season.
The Mountaineers’ depth suffers as a result. If Washington cannot play, then West Virginia will likely start two true freshman cornerbacks: Nicktroy Fortune and Tae Mayo. West Virginia will also start true freshman Tykee Smith at the spear position. As a result, the Mountaineers’ biggest question entering this weekend is whether the young but athletic secondary can slow down a historically-efficient Sooner offense in Norman.
On the other side of the ball, the Mountaineers have been mostly unable to run the ball, averaging only three yards per carry on the season. This is thanks, in large part, to the fact that the Mountaineers feature two redshirt freshmen in the middle of its offensive line. West Virginia also starts a redshirt freshman at tight end. Further, they rotate four freshmen or redshirt freshmen at wideout. So the second biggest question West Virginia faces is whether they can move the ball on a much-improved Sooner defense that is currently ranked 31st in the nation in scoring defense.
Mountaineers Seeking Answers
The biggest question for Brown and his team is who will step up and fill the holes left by off-season attrition, in-season transfers, and injuries. West Virginia’s youth has shown so far, but they also showed their blue-collar toughness for large stretches during both of their last two losses. Vegas set the spread at 33.5 in favor of Oklahoma. But we think the West Virginia toughness will produce a surprisingly-close result. That said, we don’t believe the Mountaineers will leave Norman with a victory. 38-28 Oklahoma.