7 Plays in 7 Days: Esdale’s Touchdown Catch Sends Seniors Off With a Win
7 Plays in 7 Days will highlight the seven most important plays from the West Virginia 2019 Football season, one day at a time. This is day six, the second most important play of the season.
7) Sam James 44-yard touchdown reception versus no. 11 Texas
6) Casey Legg 51-yard field goal versus no. 24 Kansas State
5) George Campbell 83-yard touchdown reception/Winston Wright 95-yard return touchdown versus no. 12 Baylor
4) Bryce Wheaton 50-yard touchdown reception versus no. 24 Kansas State
3) Four-play goal-line stand versus no. 12 Baylor
2) Isaiah Esdale 35-yard touchdown reception versus TCU
Sometimes all a player needs to succeed is the opportunity. Jarret Doege got that opportunity this season, starting each of WVU’s final three games. Doege threw six touchdowns in those games and led West Virginia to two road wins.
There were other players alongside Doege who were getting opportunities and making the most of them. Freshman receiver Bryce Wheaton has already appeared on this list scoring the game-winning touchdown against Kansas State, and another young receiver makes the list today.
Redshirt sophomore Isaiah Esdale worked as hard as anyone on WVU’s roster to get playing time this season. After sitting out a year after high school, Esdale played receiver and defensive back at Eastern Arizona College. After a year there he transferred to WVU and sat out to redshirt last season.
This year Esdale started the season buried on the depth chart. In WVU’s first six games Esdale caught one pass for six yards. As other receivers transferred away or sat out with injuries Esdale finally started to see the field in the second half of the season.
He made three catches against Baylor, five at Kansas State and even threw a touchdown pass against Texas Tech. But heading into the final game of the season against TCU, Esdale was still without a touchdown catch on the year.
As the game against the Horned Frogs went on, it did not seem like he would be able to get on either. Both offenses struggled in the game, neither surpassed 300 total yards at the end of the day. Doege was also off his game. He finished with less than 200 yards passing and missed 15 throws on the afternoon.
Doege’s deep ball was especially poor on the day. Each of the first three deep passes he threw in the game had been intercepted by TCU.
But trailing 17-13 with just over two minutes left to play, Doege decided to let one more rip and see what happens.
“That’s one of our base plays. It was really kind of a run-pass combo and they blitzed us…and Doege went to the right, that’s the guy that he goes to. We had him versus a safety and it was a tremendous throw,” head coach Neal Brown explained postgame. “(Doege) didn’t throw the deep ball very well today but that was a tremendous throw over the shoulder. We practice that catch all the time. Esdale probably has the best hands in our receiving corps, he tracked the ball well and tapped his toes inside, it was huge. Proud moment for him, great story.”
The 35-yard connection gave the Mountaineers a 20-17 lead that they would hold onto to come away with the victory. It also kept TCU (5-7) from qualifying for a bowl game and allowed WVU to send its seniors off with a win.
“I got hit so I had no idea what happened,” Doege said. “I get up and the ref throws his hands up as a touchdown and just in my head I’m thinking, ‘no way, how did that happen’.”
“Jarret didn’t have his A-game today, he wasn’t sharp, I don’t think he saw it very well,” Brown said. “He’s got good courage. He’s got hit quite a bit…and he stood in there. That was a great play by Isaiah Esdale.”
Esdale never lacked the talent or confidence to make plays, he just wanted the chance.
“I’m grateful that I’m on the field and everything. It just feels good to be out there,” Esdale said after the Kansas State game. “I knew I could do that stuff, it’s just more of being able to get on the field and do it. It just feels really good being out there.”