MORGANTOWN. W.Va. — What started out as a memorable night turned sour for West Virginia running back Alec Sinkfield.
After making his first start and scoring his first career touchdown on a 9-yard scamper in the first quarter against Youngstown State, the redshirt freshman went down with a leg injury in the second quarter.
Grabbing his knee in pain, Sinkfield needed help walking off the field. Once to the sideline, teammates gave him a pat on the shoulder pad as he sat in the back of a cart, eventually wheeled to the locker room with a towel over his head. He didn’t return to the game.
Coach Dana Holgorsen soothed concerns after the Mountaineers’ 52-17 win over the Penguins, believing Sinkfield “should be fine,” though a diagnosis hasn’t been confirmed.
Offensive coordinator Jake Spavital said Sinkfield earned the start over the other three because he had a good week of practice and thought Sinkfield fit schematically for what he wanted to do with the game plan.
“We thought we could use his speed to our advantage and he really practiced well this week,” Spavital said. “When he got hurt, though, some of those other guys showed just how explosive they can be, too.”
True freshman Leddie Brown showed what a force he can be not only between the tackles at 5-foot-11 and 211 pounds, but outside the hashes. He led the team with 115 yards and scored his first career touchdown in the third quarter.
Gashing, slashing and breaking tackles, Brown gave WVU a big sigh of relief when he took over for Sinkfield.
“He’s a pretty impressive kid and I love to see what he does after contact,” Spavital said. “You guys saw it out there – the kid runs hard.”
The total carries were close to being split between Brown (15), Martell Pettaway (12) and Kennedy McKoy (11), and Holgorsen made sure to profess again that no one is considered a starter. It will be by committee for the foreseeable future.
“We need all four of those guys,” Holgorsen said. “Sink got the first carry because of what we drew up, but I don’t consider any of them starters. Leddie didn’t look like a freshman and I thought that was pretty spectacular.”
Pettaway finished with 77 yards while McKoy added 76 and a touchdown. The four backs combined for 43 carries at an average of 6.3 yards a pop.
Youngstown State coach Bo Pelini is known for his stout defenses, so Spavital knew he had to run the ball because the Penguins like to play with defenders outside of the box.
“There’s a reason why coach Pelini has so much success as a head coach in the Big Ten — he knows what he’s doing,” Spavital said. “We knew the story of the game was going to be the running backs and turns out, it was.”