For WVU, It Was Next Man Up When Kendall Went Down
MORGANTOWN, W.Va.–Coaches don’t have the luxury of panicking when a player gets hurt. They use the term “next man up” because that’s the only choice they’ve got.
In the first quarter Saturday, West Virginia’s starting quarterback Austin Kendall came off the field with his right arm hanging limp at his side. Obviously something was seriously wrong, and the injury, which WVU head coach Neal Brown later said was to Kendall’s chest, would ultimately keep him out the rest of Saturday’s game against Iowa State.
The Mountaineers were punting right after Kendall was hurt, so they didn’t have to rush their backup in immediately. The No. 2 QB, Jack Allison, began taking some warm-up tosses and the coaches started to readjust their game plan.
“We went to our backup quarterback plan and said, ‘Hey, let’s get rolling’,” explained WVU offensive coordinator Matt Moore.
“We got on the phones with (quarterback coach Sean) Reagan in the box, and we have our list of plays that Jack is good at and what he’s repped that week in practice,” Moore noted. “You don’t want to ever put a kid in there and start calling plays he hasn’t run during the week. We made sure everything we called was something he had run.”
In West Virginia’s practice regime, the starting quarterback gets about 80 percent of the practice reps and the No. 2 gets the other 20 percent. WVU’s coaches chart what plays the backup runs in practice and keeps a list of what works best for him.
“We have a plan each week for the backup on our play sheet and what he can do well and what he’s gotten reps at,” said Moore. “That’s the big thing. You can’t rep two quarterbacks equally during practice and expect the first guy to do well. The second guy, you keep up with how many reps he’s getting during the week and what he’s doing well. Then you have to talk to him and ask him what he’s comfortable with, what he feels good about.”
A fourth-year junior who has been at WVU for three seasons after transferring from Miami, Allison said he felt prepared.
“I felt comfortable; I really did,” he stated. “I was maybe a little too excited at the beginning, but eventually I felt comfortable out there.
“I prepare every week like I’m going to get in there. I know I’m one play away, especially at quarterback,” Allison continued. “I was involved in the game plan during the week. I’m preparing and ready when my team needs me.”
Things went pretty well for Allison early. He completed 10-of-12 passes in the first half for 107 yards, and he led the Mountaineers on a touchdown march at the end of the second quarter that tied the game at 14-14 at the midway point.
“We were rolling, and everybody felt in rhythm,” said Allison of the scoring drive. “We definitely felt like things were going well.”
“We hit a couple runs, and we didn’t get behind the chains and get in third-and-longs,” added Moore of the 14-play, 76-yard TD march that culminated in a seven-yard scoring catch-and-run by T.J. Simmons. “We got in some third downs, but Jack did a really good job of stepping up in the pocket and hitting the crossers. He did those well.”
That was the biggest positive moment for Allison and the entire Mountaineer offense Saturday. Iowa State shut WVU out in the second half en route to a 38-14 victory.
After amassing 146 yards of total offense in the first half (116 passing and 30 rushing), West Virginia managed only 44 yards of offense in the second half (33 passing and 11 rushing).
“From an o-line standpoint, I didn’t think we gave Jack a chance at being super successful,” said Moore, who also serves as WVU’s offensive line coach “If we could have just rushed for 120 or 130 yards, I think we would have had a chance, but we just didn’t do it.
“You hate to put a kid out there who hasn’t done all the plays and motions,” noted Moore. “That’s not fair to him. So, it scaled us back a little bit. But he did do a good job. He went in and had that one really good drive. We just didn’t help him out at all up front. I put that on me and the o-line. We had to get the run game going to be able to help him. We just didn’t do that. I think that we protected him pretty well (in the passing game), but we just couldn’t move the ball as far as running it down hill.”
Allison wound up completing 18-of-24 passes in the game for 140 yards. He also threw an interception in the second half, which he called his biggest mistake against the Cyclones.
“I can’t force that throw,” Allison admitted. “I’ve got to find my check down or get on to my next read.”
For West Virginia (3-3), with either Allison or Kendall at quarterback, the next read will be a difficult one, as it comes at No. 6 Oklahoma (6-0) next Saturday.