MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia will not have to face Iowa State without its most potent offensive target.
Barring a setback, redshirt freshman wide receiver Sam James will be back on the field when the Mountaineers host the Cyclones on Saturday. James missed the fourth quarter of WVU’s 42-31 loss to Texas after hitting the turf hard near his neck and head.
“Unless something changes in the next couple days, Sam will play,” said West Virginia coach Neal Brown.
James leads the Mountaineers with 32 catches for 329 yards and two touchdowns.
“I’m excited about Sam this Saturday and for the next few years,” Brown said on his Thursday night radio show. “I see him maturing before our eyes as a football player and a person. I think he’s going to be a big-time player.”
West Virginia will be without fellow receiver Sean Ryan, who was also injured against the Longhorns. Ryan will be out several weeks after undergoing surgery this Monday, but should return by the end of the season. Redshirt freshman Bryce Wheaton and true freshman Ali Jennings will split snaps in Ryan’s absence.
Looking back at the Texas film, Brown found someone new to blame for quarterback Austin Kendall’s third interception of the game — himself.
Facing a third-and-1 from the WVU 17, Brown called for a pass play. Kendall’s delivery to Ryan was high and deflected in the air before coming down in Texas safety B.J. Foster’s heands. Though both Kendall and Ryan could have done better on the play, Brown says it never should have been called.
“That’s the main call that’s bothered me through the week,” Brown said. “Austin was a little late and Sean had a chance to catch it. But if I had to do it again, we’d have ran the ball in that situation. We had been running the ball well at that point.”
Texas took advantage of the short field to extend its lead to 28-17 early in the fourth quarter.
Bush absence explained
Slot receiver Tevin Bush notably did not play a single offensive snap against the Longhorns.
“We played bigger last week,” Brown said. “We probably played our tight ends on the perimeter more than we have all year because they had bigger bodies as far as blocking. Tevin’s been battling a little of a nagging injury, nothing serious, so that was a little of it. He played on the punt team and did a great job in coverage.”
The 5-foot-6 Bush has typically been on the field when the Mountaineers are in a four-receiver set. West Virginia had 11 plays from such formations against Texas with freshman Winston Wright getting all the snaps.
The Mountaineers will go outside the box against Iowa State and break out their newest set of uniforms. West Virginia will wear gray pants and gray jerseys topped off with blue helmets.
— WVU Football (@WVUfootball) October 10, 2019