First-year West Virginia University football coach Neal Brown aggressively defended Mountaineer quarterback Austin Kendall after a four-interception game Saturday in a loss to visiting Texas.
“He played well, that’s what I’m trying to tell you,” Brown said. “We had three interceptions where two of them our guys had a chance and one of them our guy ran the wrong route.
“He had how many yards against the No. 11 team in the country? 376. he had a pretty good day. I may be singing a different tune on Tuesday after I watch the film, but i have a pretty good eye for things down on the field. I thought he played his best game. I realize he threw four picks, but at the same time, we had a chance to make plays on three of them and didn’t make them.”
I don’t know that I’m buying all of what Brown was selling about his quarterback following the game. Texas’ defenders said all they did was watch film to learn that Kendall has a tendency to stare down his receivers, and while we didn’t have the view Brown did, it sure looked that way from the press box.
“Quarterbacks get too much of the credit when things go well and too much of the blame when things don’t go well,” Brown said. “We were in the game offensively because of Austin Kendall.”
Think about how long it has been prior to this season and how long it has been — if it has ever happened — since Kendall had to face the music after a game like that one. West Virginia lost by 11 points, 42-31, and Texas turned three of Kendall’s four interceptions into touchdowns on the following drive.
Brown did the quarterback a big favor by falling on the grenade during his portion of Saturday’s post -game interviews, and I get it — Brown hasn’t been shy about telling the media how he feels, and when he said he didn’t think much of the blame for Saturday fell on Kendall’s shoulders, he genuinely believes it. Once it was Kendall’s turn to take questions, he was as even-keeled as ever.
Kendall took the blame, but it wasn’t all doom and gloom for the North Carolina native.
“We’ve just got to finish,” Kendall said. “That’s what it comes down to. Turnovers are what kill teams, and we had four of those and they are all on me. If I’m going to be a good quarterback in this league, I can’t turn the ball over.”
I don’t want to downplay the importance of those four plays, but despite them Kendall came in to take questions after the game with the demeanor you would want from a leader on your team. Barring an injury, I don’t anticipate West Virginia going with any of the other quarterbacks on the roster this season. So for better or worse this is Kendall’s team and how he handles adversity — and it’s hard to imagine this month finishing without more adversity — can help shape not just the 2019 team but how this program goes forward under Brown’s guidance.
“I’m not down on that kid one bit,” Brown said.
WIDE RIGHT REDUX
West Virginia has already seen open competitions for several positions during the season that were not producing to the coaching staff’s liking. After another afternoon of poor field goal kicking, it could be close to time to go down that path.
Evan Staley, the former Hampshire High standout, pushed his first two attempts wide right against Texas. Two weeks ago Staley missed to the right at Kansas and put another one of his field goal attempts in off the right upright.
For the season, Staley has made seven of his 12 field goal attempts. He missed just four of his 20 attempts last season and went 6 of 7 in 2017. Something is off for Staley, and as much as you’d like to see him given the opportunity to turn it around there has to come a point where the Mountaineers at least explore their other options at placekicker.