There was a moment in the WVU/Texas game that many have probably forgotten by now. On one play during the game, Texas QB Sam Ehlinger’s helmet came off, meaning he would have to sit out the next play. The camera panned to backup QB Shane Buechele, who was running in a panic on the sidelines looking for his helmet. The moment seemed insignificant at the time, but it showcased one of the most important aspects of college football. As a college football player, you never know when your number will be called upon, and you have to always be ready to go. On Saturday, backup left tackle Kelby Wickline, found out just how true that statement is.
In the first quarter of the Texas game, WVU’s starting left tackle, and preseason all-Big 12 selection, Yodney Cajuste was ejected from the game. Following an extra point attempt, Cajuste got into a scuffle with a Texas player, and officials threw him from the game for what they perceived to be a punch. The call was the subject of much scrutiny, with even the members of the Fox broadcast team questioning the decision. There was nothing that could be done though, and as Cajust was being escorted from the field, Wickline found himself preparing to enter the game.
With losing a starting tackle, many people would have expected the Mountaineers to struggle against a solid Texas defensive front. Wickline proved throughout the rest of the game that he was up to the task. Wickline was very effective in run and pass blocking throughout the day, and only found himself beat by a defender on a few occasions. For much of the game, Wickline found himself matched up against Charles Omenihu, a played who considered entering the NFL last year. The O-line held strong all game, as they did not allow Texas to record a single sack.
On top of the solid overall performance, Wickline had two standout plays in the game. One came on the play following a penalty he received for being downfield on a pass play, his only major mistake of the game. The play saw him and TE Trevon Wesco open up a hole for Martell Pettaway to run in a 55-yard touchdown late in the game. His best moment though, came on the most important play of the game. As Will Grier rolled out to the right on a 2-point conversion attempt, Wickline helped clear the way. His block on DE Graham assured that Grier walked into the end zone untouched.
On a game that featured some of the best offense of the season, and one of the most important plays during WVU’s Big 12 tenure, Kelby Wickline finds himself as the unsung hero for the Mountaineers.