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West Virginia University freshman cornerback Nicktroy Fortune started Saturday’s loss against Iowa State in place of injured senior Keith Washington.

MORGANTOWN — West Virginia University’s pair of senior cornerbacks have been a strong point for the Mountaineer defense in 2019, but on Saturday against Iowa State neither was on the field for much of the second half.

Keith Washington dressed but did not play due to a leg injury suffered in last week’s loss to Texas, and Hakeem Bailey was flagged for targeting and ejected early in the third quarter.

“[Washington’s injury is] serious enough where he couldn’t play,” first-year WVU coach Neal Brown said following Saturday’s 38-14 loss to visiting Iowa State. “He didn’t practice all week and hurt it kind of midway through the fourth quarter last week versus Texas. It’s a muscle injury, so it’s one of those things where you can’t really rush it because if you do then you put him at risk for being pout longer.

“He’s a tough kid. He’s played through injuries here and throughout his career. He couldn’t run full speed, and you can’t ask a corner — whose primary strength is his strength and his lateral agility — to go out there and play.”

Freshman Nicktroy Fortune started in Washington’s place — the first start and significant playing time of his young career. When Bailey was kicked out of the game early in the second half, that forced another true freshman, Tavian Mayo, into his first action of the season.

“I’ll have to watch [the film],” Brown said. “Mayo got beat on a touchdown, but again, that’s the first time he’s played in a game. We were hoping to be able to redshirt him and that was actually his first game action in the second half, and he played every snap once Bailey got ejected for targeting. I’ll talk more about him on Tuesday after I have a chance [to watch the film], but he went in there and made a couple of plays and he had at least one PBU.

“It’s tough, man, when you’re going out there and playing against one of the better quarterbacks in the country and you haven’t even ran down on a kickoff. We really weren’t planning on using him in this game either, but we’ll get him ready and he’ll probably have to play next week. We’ll get him some reps and get him ready.”

Since Bailey’s ejection for targeting came in the second half, that means he’ll miss the first half of next week’s game at Oklahoma — not exactly the team you want to face when you’re down on experienced defensive backs.

“It was a really tough situation for [Mayo],” WVU defensive coordinator Vic Koenning said. “It is what it is. Next week is going to be tougher. It’s what he came here for and we’re going to expect him to go in there and do the best he can and be competitive. I’ve got to do a better job of helping him.”


Senior running back Martell Pettaway did not play in Saturday’s loss to Iowa State, and Brown said if the Mountaineers can avoid injuries at that position going forward the plan is to redshirt Pettaway.

“He hasn’t had the type of year that he wants to have or that we want him to have,” Brown said. “I think some of that is some limited opportunities and some of that is he hasn’t been as productive as we or he would like him to be. He’s in a unique situation because he only played three games his freshman year. So, he and [running backs] Coach [Chad] Scott and I, we’ve been having some ongoing discussion and if everybody stays healthy the plan is to redshirt him.

“We’ve got depth — that is one position where we do have some depth, though [Alec] Sinkfield went down and was unavailable in the second half. We’ll have to see how he is.”

Pettaway has appeared in four games for WVU so far this season, totaling 72 yards on 27 carries with two touchdowns — both in West Virginia’s win at Kansas last month. He did not play in the Mountaineers home win last month against North Carolina State.

Contact Tom Bragg at or 304-348-4871. Follow him on Twitter @TomBraggSports. Read Tom’s WVU sports blog at