MORGANTOWN, W.Va. –It wasn’t a pretty brand of football, but West Virginia held off the No. 2 ranked FCS James Madison in Morgantown by a final score of 20-13 Saturday. WV are now 20-0 all-time against FCS opponents.
The Mountaineers couldn’t get their running game in gear and were frankly plain off on the offensive side of the ball all game long.
West Virginia averaged just 1.4 yards per rush, leaving it up to Kendall to bail them out.
He did — somewhat
“We’ve got to be better as a team, especially me. We’ve got to be better on offense.” WVU Austin Kendall said.
The WVU quarterback was under constant pressure for four quarters but did just enough to give head coach Neal Brown a win in his first game while preventing the Mountaineers from losing to an FCS opponent for the first time.
Kendall helped lead West Virginia (1-0) back from a 7-3 halftime deficit with his arm. For the game, he finished 27 of 42 for 260 yards and two touchdowns – both in the second half – while not turning the ball over against the Dukes.
“I thought his decision-making was good, but we’ve got to play better around him and we’ve got to be able to connect on the deep ball. Some of those were on the receivers, some were on him.” Brown said.
The Mountaineers’ strengths entering the season was its depth at running back and on the offensive and defensive lines. All those units underperformed as the Dukes dominated the line of scrimmage for most of the match.
West Virginia’s run game struggled to get going all day against James Madison. WVU finished with a total of 34 yards on 24 carries and never seemed to be able to find any momentum moving the ball on the ground throughout the game.
“Say what you want,” Brown said. “The offense wasn’t pretty. I was really proud of this group and how we reacted at halftime. We didn’t panic. I thought we took control of the game, even though we had to win it right at the end of the game.”
Kendall hit Tevin Bush on a short pass that turned into a 41-yard gain to start the third quarter, leading to Kendall’s 28-yard TD toss to FSU transfer George Campbell.
Evan Staley kicked two field goals for the Mountaineers, including a 43-yarder early in the fourth that put West Virginia ahead 13-10.
Keith Washington intercepted Ben DiNucci’s next pass and West Virginia took over at the Dukes 30. Three plays later, Kendall found Bush wide open behind two defenders in the end zone on a 22-yard touchdown.
DiNucci had a decent day with both his running and passing. He twice converted long third-down throws on the next drive, leading to Ethan Ratke’s 31-yard field goal with 4:33 remaining on the clock.
DiNucci went 13 of 20 for 156 yards but was sacked four times.
“We weren’t consistent enough with our passing game. I thought they wore us down a little bit as the game went on.” Dukes coach Curt Cignetti said.
James Madison fumbled the ball away twice and also had a field goal blocked.
James Madison: The Dukes looked like the better team for much of the game under their new coach and showed why they are ranked No. 2 in the Championship Subdivision preseason polls.
“I think we have a chance to be a good football team,” Cignetti said.
West Virginia: The Mountaineers entered the season with a young squad and their concerns only seemed to grow after getting outgained 328-294.