While it wasn’t pretty by any means, the Neal Brown era of West Virginia football began with a win as the West Virginia Mountaineers held off the No. 2 ranked FCS James Madison Dukes in Morgantown by a final score of 20-13. The Mountaineers are now 20-0 all-time against FCS opponents.
The game started out as sloppy as one would expect from two teams breaking in a new head coach, with the Dukes coming away with a quick three-and-out on the first drive of the game. West Virginia followed up with a three-and-out of their own that featured Austin Kendall going 3-for-3 for -1 yard. LSU transfer Josh Growden came on to kick a 36-yard punt that was muffed by JMU return man D’Angelo Amos and recovered by Exree Loe. West Virginia couldn’t get anything going on the ensuing possession, and kicker Evan Staley missed a 49-yard field goal to the left.
West Virginia would get another crack at getting the first points on the Dukes’ next possession, when redshirt freshman Kwantel Raines forced a Percy Agyei-Obese fumble in Mountaineer territory, but the Mountaineer offense were unable to get anything going once again.
James Madison took over for their third drive with 4:25 remaining in the first quarter, and manhandled the Mountaineer defense to march down the field and score the games first points with a nine yard run from Solomon Vanhorse.
West Virginia answered with a 38-yard field goal on their following drive to narrow the lead to 7-3, and then blocked a field goal on James Madison’s next drive. The two teams then traded punts to run out the first half.
When asked about his team’s performance in the first half, Brown simply stated that it was just bad football, and boy this guy has not lied once about this team and I respect it.
The second half was better for the Mountaineers, but still not outstanding.
Kendall hit Tevin Bush on the first play of the half for a 41-yard gain, which went on to set up a 28 yard touchdown to George Campbell to give the Mountaineers a 10-7 lead. The lead didn’t last long as James Madison kicked a field goal on the next drive to tie it back up.
West Virginia regained the lead on a 43-yard field goal a couple drives later, and then took a 13-10 lead after Keith Washington picked off Ben DiNucci to set the Mountaineers up in James Madison territory. Three plays later, Kendall found Bush again — this time for a 22-yard touchdown to put West Virginia up 20-7
Austin Kendall put a poor first half showing behind him to finish the day 27-of-41 passing for 260 yards and two touchdowns. Tevin Bush led all receivers with four catches for 74 yards and a touchdown. Florida State transfer George Campbell hauled in the other touchdown pass from Kendall on his only target of the game — a 28 yard reception in the 3rd quarter. TJ Simmons caught five passes for 58 yards, while Sam James caught six for 38 yards.
Josh Chandler led the Mountaineer defense with 14 total tackles (9 solo). Dante Stills, Darius Stills, Reuben Jones and Taijh Alston each recorded a sack, with Dante adding two additional tackles for loss.
The Mountaineers travel to Columbia, Missouri next Saturday to take on the Missouri Tigers in the back end of a home-and-home agreement. That game will kick off at Noon ET, and will be televised on either ESPN or ESPN2 — an announcement should be made about that later this evening or tomorrow morning.