Pettaway Bides Time, Comes Up Big For WVU
LAWRENCE, Kansas — After not getting a call for duty in last week’s win over N.C. State, WVU senior running back Martell Pettaway could have pouted, or gone into a funk. That he did neither, continued to work in practice and was ready when called upon in the third quarter against Kansas is a testament to his leadership, understanding of the game and personal character. It’s also a big reason why the Mountaineers recorded a 29-24 win to move to 3-1 on the season.
Pettaway’s time off the field had stretched to six quarters by halftime of the Mountaineers’ match-up with the Jayhawks, but when WVU reached a critical third and three on the KU 23-yard line during its opening drive of the third quarter, Pettaway took over. With the Jayhawks crowding the line of scrimmage, Pettaway ran hard inside, bounced off — more correctly, ran over — a KU defender and scooted 23 yards for a touchdown.
“Coach Brown has been telling me I need to play better, and I took that as confidence,” the Detroit native said. “I used it to do better at practice and to be able to produce better for this team. Last week I wasn’t in the game plan, and that’s fine. I know it was for the best for the team.”
That didn’t mean Pettaway was happy with the decision, of course. Like any competitor, he wants to play. So when he got his chance, he was ready for it, and he already had an idea of how it would develop.
The play turned out to be something of a signature for Pettaway, who has made a habit of turning short yardage situations into big gains for the Mountaineers.
“It felt great, first carry of the game,” he recounted. “They were in a three down front with a safety over the top. I already knew the play was on the cutback side. Mike O’Laughlin made a hell of a block and cut off the play side ‘backer. After I broke the tackle I bounced right back to where the hole was. It happened just like I thought it might.”
Pettaway’s strong build helps him run through tackles that others might no break, but he credits another aspect of his game for being able to power through attempts to wrap him up.
“I guess it’s just my feet,” he said when asked what allows him to stay upright through contact when others go down. “We do footwork drills every day in practice — that’s a big point of emphasis in what we do.”
On his second score, which ended up providing the winning margin, Pettaway found more initial room and then cut off a block to cruise into the end zone with 5:04 to play. That carry, the final of his six on the day, resulted in a seven-yard scoring jaunt. It also came on third down, but Pettaway thought it could have happened one play earlier.
“The line was doing an amazing job of blocking up front the whole game. Coach Brown had a good scheme up for them,” he said, acknowledging the work the line did in helping grind out 192 rushing yards on 48 attempts. I could have gone anywhere (on the touchdown run). The play before, I slipped on the same play. I tried to cut off of Chase Behrndt and I saw the ‘backer played over top, and the same cut was there, so I took that cut.”
Pettaway wound up with six carries for 40 yards and two scores. His 6.7 yards per carry average was the best of any ballcarrier on the field on the day.