LAWRENCE, Kan. — Martell Pettaway could have turned into Martell Poutaway after one of the lowest moments of his career.
A week ago, Pettaway was a healthy scratch against North Carolina State. Outside of his freshman year, it was the first time the senior running back didn’t play in a game he dressed for.
As Neal Brown explained it, the N.C. State gameplan didn’t have any use for Pettaway, who only would have been used in two-back sets against the Wolfpack. But it still would have been easy for a fourth-year player who had already burned what should have been a redshirt season in 2016 to get frustrated. Moments like this are when you find out who is and who isn’t on board with a rookie head coach.
“Coach Brown has been telling me I needed to play better, and I used that for confidence,” Pettaway said. “Last week I wasn’t in the gameplan, but that’s fine.”
Consider Pettaway aboard the Good Ship Brown.
“Pettaway is a veteran guy. He doesn’t worry about things like that,” said fellow senior running back Kennedy McKoy. “He knew his opportunity was going to come. And he knew when his opportunity came, he would have to make the most of it.”
When his number was finally called in the second half at Kansas, Pettaway answered in a big way.
Pettaway’s first touch in two weeks was brilliant. Designed merely to pick up a first down on third-and-3, Pettaway turned it into a piece of art.
After making it past the marker, he picked up a block from tight end Mike O’Laughlin, then busted out a video game spin move to leave the defense grasping at air as he made his way to the end zone for a 23-yard touchdown.
“Mike O’Laughlin made a hell of a block to cut off the linebacker, and after I broke the tackle I bounced right back and knew it was going to be a touchdown if it happened like that,” Pettaway said. “That [spin] was just instinct. That just comes.”
Pettaway’s second touchdown run may have been better, albeit for different reasons.
With West Virginia facing a third-and-5 at the Kansas 7, Pettaway patiently waited for a hole to open. When a pair of options became available, he chose wisely, cutting his way to the inside of pulling right guard Chase Behrndt and cruising into the end zone for the touchdown that would ultimately be final difference on the scoreboard.
“We felt he deserved to get some reps after how he practiced this week,” Brown said. “The two touchdown runs he had were big-time plays. And that’s the kind of player he can be.”