An injury could not deny redshirt junior quarterback Austin Kendall’s return to Oklahoma, even though he needed to convince his coaches that he was ready to play.
After making his first start at the Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium since transferring from Oklahoma last winter, Kendall joked that he was going to tell head coach Neal Brown that he was fully healthy this week, no matter the circumstances.
“Around Wednesday, I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m 100 percent coach,’” Kendall said.
West Virginia’s starting quarterback admitted that by midweek, he did feel healthy enough to play, and any mistakes made during the game had nothing to do with a chest injury he sustained early in the loss to Iowa State.
His quick recovery earned him praise from co-offensive coordinator Matt Moore, who said Kendall again proved how tough and determined he is by suiting up against the Sooners.
“I really respect that kid,” Moore said. “He really studies hard. I really appreciate that kid and how hard he works, how tough he is. He wanted to come out there and compete against his old teammates — you’ve got to respect that.”
Those former Sooners teammates must have respected it, too: Kendall said he received a warm welcome upon his return from both opposing players and fans.
“The atmosphere was awesome,” Kendall said. “A lot of fans weren’t really negative towards me. They were kind of supportive, and that was good to hear.”
But this reunion of sorts was far from perfect.
The Mountaineers were dealt a hefty 52-14 defeat at the hands of Sooners, who dominated WVU behind a sharp display from the nation’s best offense, a solid performance on defense and a splash play on special teams.
While Kendall connected with wide receiver T.J. Simmons for two first half touchdowns, he completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes for the first time as a Mountaineer — by far his least accurate outing of the season.
“We didn’t come out and do what we wanted to do, but it was good to see everybody that I’m really close with and the rest of my old teammates,” Kendall said.
Brown noted that those stats aren’t an accurate reflection of Kendall’s talent, though, as the rest of the West Virginia offense also sputtered at times.
WVU put forth another poor performance on the ground, racking up just 51 rushing yards, roughly one-fifth of the team’s total offensive output.
Until the Mountaineers can provide more support to Kendall in that category and others, Brown thinks it will be tough to truly evaluate the transfer quarterback.
“I told [Oklahoma head coach] Lincoln [Riley] this before the game: I don’t think today was a good indictment, and I don’t know if this season has been, because we just haven’t played well enough around him,” Brown said. “Outside of two games, we haven’t been able to establish any type of run game around him. We had at least four drops in the second half, I don’t know how many we had in the second half. I thought he made good decisions.”
Brown added that Kendall did make some mistakes, including missing multiple open targets throughout the game, but he commended the transfer quarterback for handling the emotions of his return to Oklahoma and battling against the Big 12’s top team.
“We’ve got to get significantly better around him before we can really make any determination on where he’s at,” Brown said.