MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Austin Kendall and Kennedy McKoy made sure that West Virginia didn’t repeat a miserable offensive showing from its last game.
Kendall threw three touchdown passes to lead West Virginia to a 44-27 victory over North Carolina State on Saturday.
McKoy helped West Virginia’s run game break out of a slump with a pair of scores, and the Mountaineers (2-1) had by far their highest offensive production of the season one week after looking lethargic in a 38-7 loss at Missouri.
“For us to play winning football, we have to identity ourselves as a blue-collar unit,” West Virginia coach Neal Brown said. “We have to outwork people, we have to outphysical people. And we embraced that this week. I think what you saw on that field today was a product of that.”
Kendall threw two interceptions against Missouri and had another pick on Saturday but overcame that with mostly solid decisions. Kendall had first-half TD tosses of 20 and 13 yards. His 25-yard run early in the fourth quarter set up his 9-yard scoring toss to freshman Ali Jennings for a 38-27 lead.
Kendall went 27 of 40 for 272 yards.
West Virginia broke a 21-21 halftime tie with the help of its special teams and defense, which had been criticized by the coaching staff for 22 missed tackles a week ago.
North Carolina State (2-1) managed just 97 yards of offense in the second half. Sophomore Matthew McKay threw a first-quarter touchdown pass but was harassed all game in his first road start.
McKay finished 23 of 48 for 207 yards. He was 9 of 24 for 72 yards after halftime.
West Virginia’s McKoy had a 23-yard TD run in the first quarter and scored from 5 yards out in the third after Logan Thimons blocked a North Carolina State punt at the 12.
After combining for 27 points in its first two games, West Virginia finished with 445 yards of offense Saturday and avoided its worst three-game start to a season in 11 years.
“I told them, I said, they got embarrassed last week at Missouri. You’re going to get their best,” said North Carolina State coach Dave Doeren. “They’re going to come home and not want to show that to their fans. I knew that was coming. I told them that was coming.”
North Carolina State: Facing its first Power 5 opponent, the Wolfpack ran 18 more offensive plays than West Virginia but fell flat. They were limited to two second-half field goals after outscoring their first two opponents 75-6.
West Virginia: The Mountaineers entered the game with an FBS-worst 1.1 yard per rushing attempt and wasn’t expected to improve much with the pregame announcement that right guard Josh Sills would miss the game with an injured shoulder and left guard Michael Brown was out with an illness. But West Virginia’s offense avoided the middle for most of the game. Its most effective plays went to the outside and through laterals.
McKoy said he saw a big difference in blocking on Saturday compared with the previous two games.
“When you get that movement, it makes it easier for us running backs to find those holes,” he said.
Christopher Dunn’s 51-yard field goal try on North Carolina State’s first drive was well short, breaking his streak of 19 consecutive made field goals, the longest streak in the nation.
FROSH WR CONTRIBUTIONS
Three freshmen receivers helped infuse some needed life into West Virginia’s offense.
Sam James caught nine passes for 155 yards and a score, Winston Wright had four catches for 13 yards and Jennings had three catches for 28 yards, including the fourth-quarter TD.
North Carolina State: Hosts Ball State next Saturday.
West Virginia: Travels to Kansas for the Big 12 opener next Saturday.