WVU Sports with Tom Bragg

VIDEO: WVU QB Austin Kendall, Oklahoma postgame

WVU PASS OFFENSE VS OKLAHOMA PASS DEFENSE

The big news this week out of Morgantown came Thursday with the announcement that quarterback Austin Kendall will play for WVU this week against his former team, which is much improved on defense this season. Oklahoma ranks third in the Big 12 in pass defense, allowing 199.8 yards per game. Senior cornerback Parnell Motley leads the OU secondary and has been an advanced statistics darling in addition to having a team-high six passes broken up.

EDGE: OKLAHOMA

OKLAHOMA PASS OFFENSE VS WVU PASS DEFENSE

At 335.3 yards per game, Oklahoma ranks No. 5 in the country in passing offense, and it is easy to see why. Senior receiver CeeDee Lamb has been one of the best, if not the best, receivers in all of college football this season and was last seen embarrassing the Texas secondary in the Red River game last week. WVU is thin in the secondary and depending on the health of senior Keith Washington, will start at least one true freshman at cornerback.

EDGE: OKLAHOMA

WVU RUN OFFENSE VS OKLAHOMA RUN DEFENSE

West Virginia has shown little ability to move the ball consistently on the ground this season and will turn to sophomore running back Leddie Brown as the starter this week in an attempt to breathe some life into the run game. Oklahoma has been pretty good against the run this season, ranking fourth in the league in run defense at 140.5 yards allowed per game. Linebacker Kenneth Murray was the Big 12 Preseason Defensive Player of the Year and has lived up to the hype.

EDGE: OKLAHOMA

OKLAHOMA RUN OFFENSE VS WVU RUN DEFENSE

OU leads the conference in rushing offense at 286.3 yards per game, with quarterback Jalen Hurts leading a group of Sooners with a talent for running with the football. Hurts, considered a serious Heisman Trophy contender by many, averages 8.5 yards per carry with eight rushing touchdowns. WVU allows 174.8 rushing yards per game — seventh-best in the Big 12 — with junior lineman Darius Stills among the league leaders with 8.5 tackles for a loss.

EDGE: OKLAHOMA

SPECIAL TEAMS

Fields goals are still an adventure, but West Virginia finally got an Australian punter on campus and in uniform this season in the form of LSU transfer Josh Growden, who has been pretty good. It has been weeks since an opponent attempted to return one of Growden’s punts. Texas-born OU punter Reeves Mundschau has been good too when called on, averaging 45.7 yards per punt and place kicking has been solid since the season-opener.

EDGE: OKLAHOMA

INTANGIBLES

Neal Brown and the West Virginia coaching staff will have their hands full trying to figure out how to slow down a powerful OU offense and move the ball on a pretty good Sooner defense. Lincoln Riley has Oklahoma rolling again this season after replacing another Heisman winner at quarterback and somehow seeming better on offense for the second consecutive season. Oh, and it’s homecoming week in Norman.

EDGE: OKLAHOMA

AP PHOTO

We finally know where Kenny Robinson will land.

Robinson, an All-Big 12 safety in 2018 with West Virginia, was one of the Mountaineer players who left the team this offseason and opted to explore his professional options. On Wednesday, Robinson was selected in the XFL draft by the St. Louis Battle Hawks.

Robinson played in 25 games in two seasons at WVU, starting 20 times. He ranked second in the Big 12 in 2018 with four interceptions in 12 starts at safety for the Mountaineers.

So far, four former West Virginia players have been selected by XFL teams — Dravon Askew-Henry (New York Guardians), Marquise Lucas (Tampa Bay Vipers) and Terence Garvin (St. Louis).

WVU PASS OFFENSE VS IOWA STATE PASS DEFENSE

West Virginia had one of its best passing days in terms of production last week against Texas, but did throw four interceptions. The good news for WVU is freshman Sam James, the team’s leading receiver, is expected to play after leaving the Texas game with an injury. For Iowa State, senior safety Lawrence White is a tackling machine and has one interception and three pass break-ups so far this season.

EDGE: IOWA STATE

IOWA STATE PASS OFFENSE VS. WVU PASS DEFENSE

Cylcone quarterback Brock Purdy has been very good this season. The sophomore is on the short list of the Big 12’s best quarterbacks with 356.2 total yards per game and a league leading 315.6 passing yards per game. West Virginia has been decent against the pass despite depth issues in the secondary. Senior cornerback Keith Washington leads the conference in passes defended and is second in the Big 12 with three interceptions.

EDGE: IOWA STATE

WVU RUSH OFFENSE VS. IOWA STATE RUSH DEFENSE

The Mountaineers have not been able to establish much of a run game yet in game this season, though sophomore running back Leddie Brown has had some success moving the ball with a team-leading 5.2 yards per carry on just 25 attempts. Iowa State ranks third in the Big 12 in rush defense, allowing 113.6 yards per game. Cyclone linebackers are making a lot of tackles behind the line of scrimmage, led by sophomore O’Rien Vance 6.5 tackles for a loss.

EDGE: IOWA STATE

IOWA STATE RUSH OFFENSE VS. WVU RUSH DEFENSE

Purdy leads ISU in rushing with 203 yards and five touchdowns as the Cyclones continues to break in new featured running back Johnnie Lang, a sophomore. The Cyclones rank 8th in the conference at 159.6 rushing yards per game. West Virginia, meanwhile, is 7th in the league in rushing defense, allowing 181.2 yards per game. Junior defensive lineman Darius Stills is tied for 3rd in the Big 12 with 8.5 tackles for a loss this season.

EDGE: WEST VIRGINIA

SPECIAL TEAMS

West Virginia kicker Evan Staley’s up and down season continued in last week’s loss to Texas with two missed field goal attempts. Punter Josh Growden, however, has been very good with nine punts landing inside opponents’ 20 yard line. Iowa State kicker Conor Assaley is a perfect 23 of 23 on extra point attempts and has connected on 7 of 10 field goal attempts, with a long of 42 for the season.

EDGE: IOWA STATE

INTANGIBLES

Neal Brown and West Virginia had everything they wanted off the field working in their favor last week against Texas but still came up short against the Longhorns. Mountaineer fans will likely be out in full force again when Iowa State visits, but the home crowd only counts for so much. ISU coach Matt Campbell and the Cyclones haven’t been the same team away from Ames this season, but they don’t lose games in October — at least not in recent seasons.

EDGE: IOWA STATE

West Virginia University football coach Neal Brown cleared up the injury status of redshirt freshman Sam James during his Thursday evening radio show.

James, who left last week’s loss to Texas after hitting his head and neck hard on the Milan Puskar Stadium turf, is expected to play on Saturday when the Mountaineers host Big 12 rival Iowa State (4 p.m. on ESPN)

“Unless something changes in the next couple days, Sam will play,” Brown said.

James has been West Virginia’s top receiver so far in 2019 with 32 receptions for 329 yards and two touchdowns, including one prior to his exit against Texas.

“I’m excited about Sam this Saturday and for the next few years,” Brown said “I see him maturing before our eyes as a football player and a person. I think he’s going to be a big-time player.”