MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — When West Virginia plays host to Baylor on Oct. 25, the Mountaineers will finally be able to get the band back together.
The backfield quartet of Martell Pettaway, Kennedy McKoy, Leddie Brown and Alec Sinkfield will be fully available for the first time since the home opener against Youngstown State. Sinkfield dressed out against Iowa State – the first time he has suited up since getting carted off against the Penguins – but did not play. Neither did the freshman Brown, who is expected to be available for Baylor.
“Those guys were available, and they’re going to be a big part of what we’re doing moving forward,” Mountaineers coach Dana Holgorsen said. “They just weren’t as healthy as those other two were.”
West Virginia’s running game struggled against Iowa State, but not necessarily the running backs. The Mountaineers only ran for 52 yards, but that total is skewed because the seven sacks taken by quarterback Will Grier totaled minus-33 yards. McKoy and Pettaway averaged 5 yards per carry on their 17 combined carries.
Holgorsen thought the duo was fine against the Cyclones, but would also like to see another gear in their games.
“I thought Kennedy and Pettaway ran the ball OK,” Holgorsen said. “When you’re running into defenders, you’d like to make a bunch of guys miss like David Montgomery did. That guy is really good. That is a special running back.”
Montgomery, Iowa State’s star back, rushed for 189 yards on 29 carries against the Mountaineers.
Should future defenses attempt to defend West Virginia in a manner reminiscent of Iowa State, it stands to figure the backs will be very involved in the passing game to counter those attempts to eliminate the deep ball.
McKoy was an effective receiving option against the Cyclones with two catches for 28 yards. The return of Sinkfield will also help in that department. He was Grier’s favorite target out of the backfield in the season opener, catching two passes for 15 yards against Tennessee before getting injured the following week.
Even with the Iowa State disappointment factored in, West Virginia’s running game is on pace to finish this season in much better shape than last year.
McKoy (6.02 ypc) and Brown (5.8 ypc) are both doing better than last year’s leading rusher, Justin Crawford, who averaged 5.58 yards per carry. Pettaway isn’t quite at that level yet, but his average of 4.96 yards per carry is a huge improvement over his sophomore mark of 3.47. Even if Pettaway is the third option, he may be the ideal third-down option. On his four third-down carries, Pettaway has gained 37 yards.
“We’ll see how they practice, and based on how they practice over the next [week], we’ll see who gets the nod,” Holgorsen said. “Then, we’ll do it like we normally do it.”
For the first time in over a month, fans should get a glimpse at what that really means.