MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) — Coaches and teammates are rallying behind West Virginia quarterback Austin Kendall as fans question his ability to lead the team following another multiple-interception game.
Kendall leads the Big 12 with 190 pass attempts. He knows he needs to limit his mistakes in order for the Mountaineers (3-2, 1-1 Big 12) to have a chance to win games with Brock Purdy and Iowa State (3-2, 1-1) up next on Saturday.
“We’ve just got to be consistent,” Kendall said.
Offensive lineman Colton McKivitz put his arm around Kendall as the players left the field after the junior’s four-interception performance in a 42-31 loss to Texas on Saturday.
“Austin’s my guy,” McKivitz said. “Anything I can do to help him know that we’re going to be behind him no matter what. You have bad games as a player. I know a few guys said they’re pretty upset at their performances. It’s a tough game to lose. But overall, you can’t let this game affect next week.”
Kendall had never played a complete game in college before this season while backing up two Heisman Trophy winners at Oklahoma. He’s had had to learn a new system at warp speed since joining the Mountaineers in January under first-year coach Neal Brown.
Kendall has thrown seven interceptions and nine touchdown passes. Only Oklahoma State’s Spencer Sanders has thrown more interceptions among league quarterbacks.
Brown chooses to amplify the positive side of Kendall, who is completing 67% of his passes and twice has thrown for three touchdowns in a game, including against the Longhorns when he had a career-high 367 yards and also scored on a 1-yard run.
For the popular coach, sticking with Kendall may be an unpopular choice. Fans on social media implored Brown to make a change after Saturday’s loss.
Kendall might be the only true option at this point.
Junior Jack Allison attempted two passes in a loss at Missouri and one of them was intercepted. Redshirt freshman Trey Lowe played briefly against Missouri. Brown has said he plans to redshirt Jarret Doege, a Bowling Green transfer who has played in 19 games.
Brown said Kendall, who completed 31 of 46 passes against Texas, “gave us a chance” to win.
“When you throw the ball that many times you put yourself at risk for some turnovers,” Brown said. “I thought at times he played as well as he’s played all year.”
Cyclones coach Matt Campbell is equally as complimentary about Kendall.
“The thing that jumps off the screen is just his talent,” Campbell said. “I think anytime you get into a new system and you’re working through that, you’re going to have both positives and negatives. But I think the biggest thing that jumps off is the amount of positives that he’s having.
“You can see a young man that’s got the ability to make all the throws, a young man that’s athletic enough that he uses his legs to make things happen.”
Kendall said it’s satisfying to have his team’s backing.
“I had no doubt that they’re still behind me,” he said.
Not all of Kendall’s interceptions have been his fault. Brown said some wide receivers either had the chance to catch the ball or ran the wrong route.
Still, three of the picks Saturday led to Texas touchdowns.
Wide receiver T.J. Simmons said Kendall’s mistakes stick out because quarterbacks in general are in the spotlight more.
“He knows what he did wrong in the game and knows the mistakes that he had,” Simmons said. “Austin is always the guy that has a lot of time in the film room, has a lot of time correcting his mistakes and a lot of time just working with the coaches and working with the receivers to get ready for the game. So I think he’s going to take that same approach this week and come back and have a great game.”
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