Though he is said to be a legitimate contender for the starting quarterback position at West Virginia, Austin Kendall is expected to go into the 2020 season as the backup for the Mountaineers. Jarret Doege ended the 2019 season with a strong grip on the job, and Kendall will have to prove his ability to manage the offense to be better to win it back. Easier said than done.
While Kendall’s play wasn’t exactly up to par in 2019 — strongly contributing to the team’s five-game losing streak in the middle of the season — this was due to some misfortune for the Oklahoma transfer. If we’re being honest, Kendall didn’t look bad in the season opener against James Madison. He managed the game well, and played a turnover-free game as he led WVU to a 20-13 victory. However, a week two loss to Missouri is where things would begin to go off the tracks for Kendall.
The team would suffer a 38-7 defeat at the hands of the Tigers, and Kendall would look shaky in the process. Though his play wasn’t great, many attribute this to an injury Kendall sustained early in the first half. He would cut his hand when being tackled in the first quarter, and this would prove to be the beginning of the end of Kendall’s potential in Morgantown.
His play would clearly be affected by the injury for the rest of the game, and even moving forward. The following week, Kendall would have a solid outing against N.C. State. But any NAIA quarterback could have success against Tony Gibson’s defense. The rumor was that Kendall’s hand would become infected, and he would begin to clearly struggle with the deep ball.
It appeared as if he may get back on track against Iowa State. On the first drive, Kendall looked alive. He would evade tacklers, and look like he brought his athleticism to the table that chilly October day. However, the last play of the first drive would finish the day for Kendall as he would suffer an “upper body injury” after being sacked. From this point on, Kendall’s season was virtually over.
He would start the next three games. In each contest, Kendall struggled with down the field passes, and finished with three touchdown passes to three interceptions. It was at this point when the team was 3-6 that WVU head coach Neal Brown would decide to make a change. A now healthy Jarret Doege would be inserted into the lineup and make all the difference for WVU.
The fact of the matter is that Austin Kendall was only completely healthy for one game the entire season — against JMU. Outside of that, he would battle injuries to areas of the body that could significantly affect his passing abilities. How could someone who looked so solid in the season opener suddenly fall off a cliff? The injuries he sustained are simply the only clear option.
Had we seen a healthy Austin Kendall all season, who knows, he may be the craze of the Big 12 going into 2020. Instead, he caught the “wrong place at the wrong time” bug, and has now had to fight for his collegiate-life all offseason. It is disappointing to say, but Kendall’s stardom at WVU was short-circuited by injuries. The former four-star had all of the talent to be a stud signal-caller in Neal Brown’s offense. He will now be holding a clipboard and wearing a baseball cap on the sidelines this season, and will be pegged as a “what could have been” when his time is over in Morgantown.