After what happened at Baylor on Thursday, it feels like a good time to have a tough conversation about the current state of West Virginia University football.
As it stands, the Mountaineers have won three games while losing six with four games left on the schedule. The defense, despite what feels like a near constant trickle of attrition and injuries, has shown flashes of what can be possible in the future with more than a few underclassmen stepping up along the way.
The offense, however, has shown no such promise. With one month left in the 2019 season and a bowl bid still technically on the table, the window for worrying about this season as opposed to looking ahead to 2020 is nearly shut.
First-year coach Neal Brown was not handed the keys to a Cadillac with the roster he took over upon arrival in Morgantown in January, but was the cupboard bare? Hardly.
The offensive line has been an adventure, and that is not likely to change in November. The run game has been, to put it as gently as possible, terrible. Kennedy McKoy has not lived up to expectations, Martell Pettaway opted to redshirt and try again next year, Leddie Brown — when healthy — has not shown much improvement from his freshman season and Alec Sinkfield has been relegated to almost exclusively appearing on special teams.
Some of that can be attributed to poor play on the line — particularly at the three interior positions — but the running backs have not done themselves many favors with their play this season.
The Mountaineers have been up and down at receiver. Some games, guys like T.J. Simmons and Sam James have looked like game breakers. In others, they look like defensive backs. Some of that is on them — receivers exist on a football team to catch footballs and WVU’s have been plagued by drops.
That leaves the quarterback, and it’s a touchy subject. Austin Kendall has battled against a nasty cut on his throwing hand he got early in the season at Missouri and had to come back from a pectoral injury that came early in a loss to Iowa State. Still, the Oklahoma graduate transfer has left a lot to be desired.
Neal Brown has defended Kendall throughout the season, which I get. As Brown has pointed out, it’s hard to get a true gauge on how good or bad Kendall is when there are so many other things going wrong around him.
With four games left, and a long-shot possibility for a fifth in a bowl game, the time feels right to see what someone else can do at quarterback. If Kendall gives you the best chance to win in November, he needs to remain the starter. But if someone else — and I’m pretty sure it’s not Jack Allison or Trey Lowe at this point — can win some games this month then that person needs to get in the game.
If it’s not Allison or Lowe, then Bowling Green transfer Jarret Doege is the next man up. The problem there is the coaching staff’s desire to keep a redshirt on Doege this season.
If he were to play this week against Texas Tech then see action in the remaining three games, WVU would need to hold him out of a bowl game if they make it to one in order to maintain Doege’s redshirt status. For that, I have a counterpoint: So what?
If there is even a possibility Doege could get WVU to six wins and a bowl game, then who cares if he actually plays in a glorified exhibition sometime the week of Christmas? The often overlooked but very important part of making a bowl is the month of practice a team gets. If West Virginia were to get that extra month of practice for this bunch, it could pay off in a big way going forward.
If Kendall is the primary quarterback this week against Texas Tech and can show an ability to move the offense down the field to score points, he’s still probably your guy for now. If not, however, it is time to see what the other guy can do.
Of course, the possibility also exists that Doege plays and is no better than Kendall has been so far this season. Still, with the way this offense has performed in 2019 and the end of a season with a long offseason looming, why not find out?