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Recap: It Wasn’t Pretty, but West Virginia Defeats James Madison

The Neal Brown era in Morgantown starts with an win over James Madison. No, matter how ugly it was.

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West Virginia Mountaineers quarterback Austin Kendall Jr warms up - Getty Images - Icon Sportswire
Getty Images - Icon Sportswire

Vegas had this as a 7-point game. West Virginia was never supposed to win big, but this one was about as ugly of a win as there is. The Mountaineers defeated James Madison 20-13 after heading into halftime facing a 7-3 deficit.

“Just bad football, honestly”

– Coach Neal Brown at halftime

The offense continued to struggle in the second half, but the Mountaineer’s defense came up big in the fourth quarter. Keith Washington picked off a Ben DiNucci pass that eventually led to a Tevin Bush touchdown. That score changed the game as it gave West Virginia a 10-point lead. The defense was then able to hold off James Madison in the final seconds. 

The Mountaineers caught plenty of breaks. If I’m honest, they most likely would have lost without them. James Madison muffed a punt and gave up a fumble in the first quarter. WVU managed to block a field goal in the second quarter which again, kept JMU from adding points. The final drive saw a questionable holding penalty called on JMU.

It was ugly, but a win is a win, and at this stage Neal Brown will take every single one he can get. 

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Key Plays

14:56 3rd [WVU 1st & 10 at WVU 18] – This was the first play of the second half. The Mountaineers came out of the locker room with only three points and started the half with a big gain. Kendall found Bush on an underneath route and he took it 41 yards. That gave the Mountaineers offense some momentum and they later scored a TD on that drive to give them their first lead of the game. 

10:26 4th [JMU 1st & 10 at JMU 28] – There were a few big plays in this one, but Keith Washington probably made the most important. He picked off Ben DiNucci with just over ten minutes left in the fourth quarter. The throw was a terrible decision by DiNucci who evaded pressure before throwing the ball right back into coverage. Washington had the easiest interception he’ll ever have, and it led to a Mountaineer touchdown which gave them a 10-point lead. 

5 Key Stats

4 Turnovers – West Virginia forced four James Madison turnovers. They only managed seven points off of those turnovers, however. 

34 Rushing Yards – West Virginia was held to 34 rushing yards on 24 attempts. They’ll need to be much better as the season progresses. 

172 Rushing Yards – That’s how many yards James Madison ran for. Most coming in a first half in which JMU dominated the trenches. West Virginia is in trouble if that continues.

260 Passing Yards – That was Austin Kendall’s total after this one. He attempted 42 passes, completing 27 of them, and was up and down all day. If he can fix his deep ball he should be just fine this year.

61,891 – Neal Brown has been adamant about students and fans showing up early and being loud. Despite the game being against a FCS school the total attendance reached 61,891, an impressive showing and a sign of optimism around the program. 

WVU Players of the Game

Tevin Bush – 4 catches, 74 yards, 1 TD

Keith Washington – 2 tackles, 1 INT

Josh Chandler – 14 tackles, 9 solo tackles

Josh Growden – 8 punts, 40.4 AVG

5 Takeaways

Neal Brown Can Call Big Plays – Neal Brown drew up about four or five deep shots, all of them had open receivers. Austin Kendall was a touch off on most of those shots. He still was able to hit George Campbell and Tevin Bush for relatively long passing touchdowns. As the season goes on and Kendall gets a better touch on those deep balls look for Brown to look more like a genius with those calls. 

Run Game Might Not Be as Good as Advertised – The Mountaineers simply were nonexistent running the ball. They totaled 34 yards on 24 carries for a 1.4 yard per carry average. The Mountaineers were viewed as a team with a strength at the running back position and this was not a good indication of any strength from that group.

West Virginia Misses Matt Jones and Yodny Cajuste – So, the running game may be lacking, some of that was on the backs but a lot of it was on the offensive line. There were no holes and many times the backs were stuck trying to make something out of nothing. The departure of both Cajuste and Jones is definitely hurting the Mountaineers early in this season.

Defense Sent Mixed Signals – The fact that WVU held JMU to 13 points is very inspiring considering how much they seemed to struggle. James Madison ran all over West Virginia in the first half but still only managed seven points. The passing defense was very good but lacked pressure for most of the game. When WVU finally got pressure it caused turnovers and sacks. 

Austin Kendall Will Get There…Eventually – Kendall struggled a lot, but he made some clutch throws and got the job done. He threw for two touchdowns but if he fixes his deep ball, which was a few inches off, he could have thrown for a lot more. With more and more reps that deep ball will get there. The receivers actually look better than advertised so Kendall will be just fine. 

Lastly, A Few Highlights

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