MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The more schemes West Virginia’s defense threw at Jace Amaro, the more passes No. 16 Texas Tech threw his way.
Beating all brands of coverages, the 6-foot-5 big tight end proved too big, too agile, too determined to be stopped Saturday, making nine catches for 136 yards that carried the Red Raiders to a 37-27 comeback victory.
With West Virginia leading by 11 points late in the third quarter, Amaro sought out coach Kliff Kingsbury with a simple demand.
“He said ‘Put it on my shoulders’ and I said ‘All right, the ball’s coming your way.’ He kept making plays,” Kingsbury said.
The Big 12′s top pass-catcher coming in with 47 receptions, Amaro made grabs of 37 and 32 yards on Texas Tech’s next two touchdown drives. His 10-yard touchdown catch on third down with 1:01 deflated WVU’s final hope.
“It’s a great feeling when you know the game’s closed out,” Amaro said.
“In the second half he said ‘Put it on my shoulders’ and I said ‘All right, the ball’s coming your way.’ He kept making plays.” — Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury
Some three hours earlier, Amaro jumpstarted Texas Tech (7-0, 4-0) with a 10-yard touchdown on his team’s second series.
“We tried all sorts of things: three-deep concepts, two-deep concepts, bracketing, man under. He’s a handful,” said West Virginia defensive coordinator Keith Patterson.
“He’s a great player and, boy, they did a nice job getting him the football.”
On a third-and-2 play in the third quarter, Amaro ran past nickelback K.J. Dillon for a 32-yard catch down to the WVU 11.
“They went to cover zero, and I actually ran the wrong route,” Amaro admitted. To help quarterback Davis Webb cope with the blitz, he was supposed to cut his route short, but he stayed with the vertical. “I was supposed to be hot on that play, and I ended just saying I was going to beat him off the line.”
And Webb had time to float a perfect pass downfield, part of the freshman’s 462-yard passing day. That included an eight-catch, 112-yard receiving day for Bradley Marquez.
“(Amaro) just makes everybody else on the field that much better,” Patterson said. “You put so much attention on trying to bracket him that you’ve got guys singled up all over the place.”
Various scouting agencies have Amaro among the top three or four tight ends eligible for next spring’s NFL draft, though he insists he’s planning on returning for a senior year.
“My mindset right now is playing college football—it has nothing to do with the NFL,” he said. “I plan on staying here all four years.”
Amaro’s coach, who spent three seasons in the NFL and two more quarterbacking in the Canadian Football League, suspects otherwise.
“If the money’s right, where it’s supposed to be, you’re going to kick him out the door,” Kingsbury said. “That’s part of the game and he needs to go make what he can make.
“We’ll see at the end of the year with the evaluation process. We’ve got to do what’s best for Jace.”
Whenever Amaro departs for the NFL, Patterson has a prediction: “He’s going to be an All-Pro.”