MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia’s mundane passing attack against William & Mary was tempered by several near-misses, the kind of plays that must be converted to upset a much more daunting opponent like Oklahoma.
Whereas coach Dana Holgorsen envisioned receivers catching balls underneath and squirting through the secondary, what he got instead was rather ordinary production.
“We caught a ball or two and fell down,” Holgorsen said. “That’s what I saw.”
That assessment struck a nerve with receivers such as KJ Meyers (three catches for 30 yards), Devonte Mathis (four for 44), Ivan McCartney (two for 15)—all returnees who were hoping to at least approximate the post-catch impact WVU relished from Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey.
“We don’t need just the average, routine plays,” Myers said. “When you play wide receiver, just by being at that position you’re going to catch the ball. But you need more than that.
“(Holgorsen) wants us to be athletic, be big-time playmakers and make big-time plays.”
Though true freshman Daikiel Shorts enjoyed an encouraging college debut, he averaged a pedestrian 9 yards on his team-high seven catches. (“He stepped up and caught some balls but didn’t do anything with it after he caught them,” Holgorsen said.) Only junior college transfer Ronald Carswell, who raced home with a 69-yard scoring bomb, delivered the kind of game-busting dynamic WVU’s passing game demands.
“A guy like Mario (Alford) came here to be the next Tavon, but he’s got a lot of developing to do.” — Dana Holgorsen
Carswell could be a factor again at outside receiver Saturday, especially if Kevin White’s reported foot injury hasn’t sufficiently healed. (Holgorsen described White as questionable Thursday night but said he would travel to Norman.) And what can West Virginia expect from inside receiver Mario Alford, the junior-college signee with the best wheels on the team? His Week 1 production amounted to a 7-yard run and a dropped slant pass that foiled a potentially massive gainer.
“A guy like Mario came here to be the next Tavon, but he’s got a lot of developing to do,” said Holgorsen, noting Alford has recovered from his own foot injury and looked better at practices this week than he did leading up to William & Mary.
Whereas the FCS Tribe dropped seven and sometimes eight men into an umbrella coverage, the Sooners defense is expected to load the box and rely on defensive backs to play man coverage.
Said Shorts: “We’ve got to catch the ball, secure it, get upfield and make somebody miss.”