MORGANTOWN — It’s funny how things work out, no matter what the sport. Winning erases all the mistakes, losing magnifies them.
On another day, perhaps, the 62,069 Homecoming fans who had crowded their way into Mountaineer Field might have been talking about the 367 yards West Virginia quarterback Austin Kendall threw for against Texas.
They might have been talking about the three touchdown passes he threw or the 31 completion, statistics that dwarfed the 18 completions for 211 yards and two touchdowns the Longhorns’ Sam Ehlinger, who just happens to be the Big 12’s preseason offensive player of the year, threw for.
See, if Texas had lost the folks down Austin way might have been talking about Ehlinger’s subpar performance.
But Texas won, 42-31, and so, instead, it was the WVU mumbling about the four interceptions Kendall threw, making him the fourth Mountaineer quarterback since 2000 to throw four interceptions in a game, the others being Will Grier, Jarrett Brown and Derek Jones.
Sometimes, however, what the statistics show and what reality offers differ greatly, for Coach Neal Brown was not about to lay this defeat at the feet — or the arm — of Austin Kendall.
In fact, Brown would say that, without having had a chance yet to study film “that’s the best game he’s played.”
That may sound like a bit absurd, but his offensive coordinator, Matt Moore, offered a similar analysis.
“I think he is getting better every week,” Moore said. “You can tell he’s been away from playing for a while. Every week he gets a little bit better.”
Now one may wonder what they were seeing that 124,168 eyes in the stands weren’t.
“The first interception he threw was his fault. He read the wrong guy. The next three — two of them were in the receivers’ hand — and the third one we had the wrong route,” Brown said.
You have to accept Brown knows best, but the first one was intercepted by a linebacker Kendall should have seen but clearly didn’t, and the one that wasn’t dropped was a throw into coverage on the sideline, a play that looked a whole lot similar to the play back up quarterback Jack Allison threw at Missouri and was immediately lifted from the game.
Brown had Kendall’s back all the way, though.
“How many yards did he throw for. That’s a pretty good day against the No. 11 team in the country,” he said. “I think quarterbacks get too much credit when things go well and they get too much blame when things don’t go well.”
And then he made the strongest declarative statement he would make all day.
“We didn’t lose that game because of Austin Kendall, I’ll tell you that. We were in the game because of him. I’m not down on that kid at all.”
Just as important, Kendall is not down on himself.
No, he didn’t go out celebrating Saturday night because he threw or 367 yards and three touchdowns, but he approached it as if it were another day at the office ... and who among us hasn’t had a day at the offense that didn’t earn us employee of the month?
“I approach it the same way I do every game,” he said when asked how he would react to the happenings of the day. “Trust in yourself, trust in your team. We were in this game and unfortunately, turnovers were what killed us today.
“It’s the little things you learn from. You have to move on and build from it,” he said.
To hear his coach his still behind him can certainly boost his spirits and, even more, when he heard that left tackle Colton McKivitz, one of the team captains, had nothing but faith in him was equally as important.
“I have no doubt the team is still behind me,” he said. “Hearing that from one of the main leaders on our team is awesome. It feels good to have a guy like him, a senior, a guy who has played a lot of games, to still have my back.”
But it’s a long way from October to November and he has to step up and prove that the faith in him is warranted or it will be a long, cold winter.
Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel