WVU’s Kendall ‘Questionable’ For Oklahoma; Will Throw Today
The good news is that West Virginia quarterback Austin Kendall has not been ruled out of Saturday’s game against Oklahoma, at least as of Monday at noon. However, WVU’s starter through its first six games is still limited from the hit he took early in the Iowa State game, and will be testing his throwing ability to see if he could possibly play this week.
“We will go out this afternoon (Monday) and he will throw a little bit and see where he’s at,” head coach Neal Brown said on Monday before practice. “Right now, I would say he’s questionable. For the game, it depends on how much work he is able to get in this week.”
Kendall suffered an injury to his chest area, but one that does not involve his shoulder or arm.
Brown has noted that players who miss all or the majority of practice time often won’t play, so Kendall’s availability for the heavy work days of Tuesday and Wednesday will have a bearing on how much, if at all, he can go against the Sooners. That, in turn, will have an effect on the number of repetitions Jack Allison, who filled in for Kendall following the injury, gets.
“I think anytime you get a large number of reps you will improve,” said Brown of Allison’s potential to be better prepared if he gets the call. “Under the circumstances (against Iowa State) he didn’t do a bad job. We’re going to see where Austin is and then make a determination on how to split the reps.”
With game plans changing each week, it’s important for the starter to get as many reps as possible, so they are familiar with the tweaks and modifications being run in that particular week. That makes for a difficult job for the coaching staff as they try to judge where a player is in the recovery process and if he has a reasonable chance to play three or four days hence.
A number of other players missed all or parts of the Iowa State game, and Brown, as is his custom, will update those at his press conference on Tuesday.
“We had a lot of guys coming in on Sunday and Monday [for treatment],” Brown said, noting that it was still too early to offer a solid opinion on whether they could play. “A lot of those guys are still up in the air.”
* * * * * *
While the fifth-rated Sooners present a formidable challenge, Brown is more focused on his team.
“Our whole deal is we just have to get better. We have to play Oklahoma, but we have to get better in all three phases. That’s been my mindset all year. We have done some really good things past two weeks. We’ve been able to hang around, hang around, hang around, and go into the fourth quarter with a chance to win, but we haven’t been able to do the things to get those wins. That will be my message to the team this week. We just have to get better. It just so happens we have to get better vs. Oklahoma this week.”
Brown noted that offensive coordinator Matt Moore and head coach Lincoln Riley had a lengthy working relationship at Texas Tech, and through that connection he has gotten to know the Sooners’ head coach, who was blessed with a cornucopia of riches in his first head coaching job.
“I don’t know the first time Lincoln and I met, but he and Matt Moore worked together for seven years at Texas Tech. I’ve gotten to know him through Matt. I have a lot of respect for him as an offensive mind and as a head coach. People think you get one of these premier jobs and those are easy jobs. I think they are high pressure jobs, and he has done a phenomenal job of handling that. He followed the legend of Bob Stoops and handled that passing of the baton very well. His offseason hires have shown the kind of big picture aspect he has.”
For his part, Riley is complimentary of WVU’s play so far.
“They’ve been really disruptive defensively. Their new coach (Vic) Koenning does a great job defensively,” Riley said, noting West Virginia’s ability to create negative plays. “He’s been doing it for a long time. They have been improving from week to week.”
The Mountaineers have recorded 38 tackles for loss this year, including 11 sacks.
Riley brought in a new defensive coordinator, Alex Grinch, who has helped the Sooners move from the bottom of last year’s defensive rankings to a No. 41 position this year.
* * * * * *
Brown also had high praise for the Sooners’ offense, which is no surprise.
“I don’t think there’s anybody playing better in college football at that position (than CeeDee Lamb),” Brown said bluntly of OU’s standout receiver. “He blocks well and is a great punt returner too. I don’t know if I can give him any higher praise.”
Lamb is tied for first nationally with 10 touchdown receptions, and is 12th in receiving yards per game. He’s also averaging 9.2 yards per punt return in an age when only 21 players are averaging more than 10 yards per return.
Getting the ball to him in the passing game has been Alabama transfer quarterback Jalen Hurts, who has shown much more in that part of the attack than many have given him credit for. Don’t count Brown among those who downgrade his passing ability.
“I think Jalen is the best runner we have played, and the special thing about him is how quickly he has adapted to Oklahoma’s offense,” said Brown, whose team has faced a string of dual-threat quarterbacks this year. “I don’t see any of the deficiencies people put on him in the passing game. He’s getting more opportunities at Oklahoma, and he has been really accurate in his downfield throws. He has a lot of weapons to use.”