NORMAN, Okla. — Austin Kendall’s exit from the University of Oklahoma could have left some with a bad taste in their mouths.
Kendall left OU as a graduate transfer bound for West Virginia University in January, but not without some drama. After serving as Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray’s backup in 2018, Kendall appeared to be in line to be OU’s 2019 starter until the Sooners brought in Jalen Hurts as a graduate transfer from Alabama. OU coach Lincoln Riley initially tried to block Kendall from transferring to West Virginia, but did not fight it for long.
On Saturday, Kendall made his return to Norman — fittingly for the Sooners’ homecoming game — as his Mountaineers were walloped by OU 52-14.
Kendall missed most of last week’s loss to Iowa State with what he called an injury to his pectoral muscle, and there was some doubt he would be available against the Sooners. WVU coach Neal Brown put that debate to rest on his Thursday radio show, and all things considered Kendall didn’t look bad against his former team. Kendall finished Saturday’s game completing 15 of 31 pass attempts for 182 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.
“I don’t think today was a good indictment on Austin,” Brown said. “I don’t know that this season has been because we just have not played well enough around him. Outside of two games, we haven’t been able to establish any type of running game around him. I think we had at least four drops in the first half, and I don’t know how many we had in the second half. I thought he made good decisions. He missed two plays on that last drive that he was in, but outside of that I thought he threw the ball. We didn’t win any 50-50 balls, and that’s something that we knew coming in that we were going to have to do. I thought he emotionally handled it well. I didn’t think he performed poorly, really, for the three quarters that he played. It’s early, and we need to get significantly better around him before we can make any determination on where he’s at.”
Kendall offered an honest assessment of his performance during the postgame press conference.
“I was just off and on, honestly,” Kendall said. “I had some missed throws, we had some drops. We just didn’t really move the ball as an offensive unit, and that’s what hurt us the most.”
As for his thoughts on coming back to Oklahoma, Kendall said it was a positive experience.
“It was pretty cool just to come in and see the road I used to take to go to my house and good to see everybody I haven’t seen in a couple of months,” Kendall said. “It was a cool experience.”
SCHOONER GOES DOWN: The running of Oklahoma’s Sooner Schooner — a horse-drawn buggy that does a quick lap in the corner of the field after OU touchdowns — is one of the most recognizable traditions in college football. On Saturday, it was the catalyst for a scary moment.
In the second quarter, following OU’s fourth touchdown of the game, the Schooner made its way on the field and began its usual routine. When it went to turn back for the stadium tunnel, however, something went wrong. The Sooner Schooner took the turn too sharp and flipped on the field, sending the people riding on the front flying to the turf and debris flying from the back. It also took a chunk out of the field as the ponies that pull the cart ran into the end zone.
Nobody was hurt in the incident and the animals were evaluated by a veterinarian on-site and deemed to be in good shape after the crash.
“We believe it was the result of weight distribution among riders in the rear of the wagon,” OU said in an athletic department statement. “Three individuals were evaluated at the stadium and released. All others reported that they were uninjured.”
n OU quarterback Jalen Hurts finished Saturday’s game with a passer efficiency rating of 308.5, which is a career-high. Hurts is just the third quarterback in OU history to complete at least 90 percent of his passes while throwing for at least 300 yards and three touchdowns. The other two were Heisman Trophy winners Baker Mayfield and Sam Bradford.
n WVU’s successful fake punt in the second quarter was the first for the Mountaineers since 2015 against Maryland. Brown said after the game that OU’s blocked punt might be the first against one of his teams since he has been a head coach.
“The football gods giveth, and they take away,” Brown said. “I don’t think we’ve had a punt blocked as a head coach, and we had one blocked today. Poor communication. We didn’t block the right people. We got a fake punt, but we gave one back there with a block.”