Iowa State Cyclones

Iowa State football: 5 Things to know about West Virginia

New coach Neal Brown is former Texas Tech offensive coordinator

West Virginia head coach Neal Brown arrives before Saturday’s game against Texas at Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown, W. Va. (Ben Queen/USA TODAY Sports)
West Virginia head coach Neal Brown arrives before Saturday’s game against Texas at Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown, W. Va. (Ben Queen/USA TODAY Sports)
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AMES — Everything is new in Morgantown, W. Va., this season.

West Virginia has a new coach, new quarterback, new receivers, new defense.

Here are 5 Things about the Mountaineers heading into Saturday’s game at Milan Puskar Stadium.

1. The coach

After Dana Holgorsen left West Virginia for Houston, the Mountaineers were tasked with finding a new leader. They landed on former Troy coach Neal Brown.

Brown won at least 10 games in three straight seasons at Troy, going 3-0 in bowl games during that time. In 2017, his Troy team beat No. 22 LSU, a signature win for Brown.

Brown is familiar with the fast-paced, high-scoring games of the Big 12. He was Texas Tech’s offensive coordinator from 2010-12. In 2012, Texas Tech’s offense ranked 13th nationally in total offense, averaging 471 yards per game and scored 34 points per game.

In his final season at Troy, his offense averaged 390 yards and 31 points per game.

Troy also had, statistically, the second-best defense in the Sun Belt Conference. His defense allowed 348 yards per game. What helped bolster his defense was its ability to create turnovers. Troy had 18 interceptions last season, which led the Sun Belt. The turnovers haven’t translated to West Virginia, yet, which has just three interceptions through five games.

In fact, in a total rebuild, which is what he’s having to do at West Virginia, nothing has translated. The Mountaineers have the worst offense in the Big 12 and the second worst defense — better only than Kansas.

2. Introducing Austin

West Virginia quarterback Austin Kendall has been hit or miss for the Mountaineers this season.

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On one hand, he’s thrown for 1,238 yards, which ranks fourth in the Big 12. On the other hand, he’s only thrown nine touchdowns and has seven interceptions.

 

A junior who transferred to West Virginia from Oklahoma, Kendall was a backup for two seasons to Heisman Trophy winners Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray.

Kendall has had two games where he’s thrown multiple interceptions. He threw two against Missouri in the second week of the season and four against Texas last week.

Against Kansas, which has the worst defense in the Big 12, Kendall only passed for 202 yards and no touchdowns in a game West Virginia won, 29-24.

Kendall’s best game came in Week 3 against North Carolina State when he threw for 272 yards and three touchdowns, completing 68 percent of his passes.

3. Meeting McKoy

West Virginia has struggled to run the ball this season. It has the worst rush offense in the Big 12 by a wide margin.

The Mountaineers average just 3.4 yards per carry, the next closest is Texas, which averages 4.5.

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Senior running back Kennedy McKoy played last year for the Mountaineers and was more productive, but with some offensive line turnover, his production has fallen off,

McKoy is West Virginia’s leading rusher, carrying the ball 54 times for 181 yards and three touchdowns.

Sophomore Leddie Brown has been pretty good when he’s had opportunities. In four games, he’s rushed the ball 25 times for 130 yards and a touchdown.

4. Bantering with brothers

Brown brought defensive coordinator Vic Koenning with him from Troy.

Koenning’s defense is led by brothers Darius and Dante Stills. Both are defensive linemen and both have four sacks this season.

Darius, a junior, has 19 total tackles with 8.5 tackles for loss and Dante, a sophomore, has 13 tackles and 6.5 tackles for loss.

5. Associate with Sam

West Virginia lost its productive receiver duo David Sills and Gary Jennings. Last season, Sills had 15 touchdowns and Jennings 13. No other receiver had more than two.

This season, the ball is being distributed to more receivers, led by freshman Sam James. James has 32 receptions for 329 yards and two touchdowns after redshirting last season while Sills and Jennings set records.

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James’ best game came against North Carolina State when he had nine receptions for 155 yards and a touchdown.

Three other receivers have at least 100 yards and six different receivers have at least one touchdown.

l Comments: benv43@gmail.com

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