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 four, the fourth most important play of the season.
4) Bryce Wheaton 50-yard touchdown reception versus no. 24 Kansas State
Sometimes a team’s biggest plays can come from the unlikeliest of heroes. Against Kansas State Casey Legg was one such hero, but that game also produced a few others like him.
Bryce Wheaton did not play a lot this year. Even when injuries to Sean Ryan and T.J. Simmons thinned out WVU’s receiving corps Wheaton only saw a handful of targets. The redshirt freshman made the most of his chances, however, catching 12 passes for 201 yards and two touchdowns on the season.
Wheaton had a few good games on the year, two catches for 43 yards and a touchdown against Texas sticks out, but his single reception against Kansas State was easily his most important of the year.
After Legg’s 51-yard field goal the Wildcats still led the Mountaineers 20-17 in the fourth quarter. WVU’s defense forced a Kansas State’s offense to go three-and-out and the offense suddenly had the chance to drive down the field and take the lead with a touchdown.
This game was also the first career WVU start for quarterback Jarret Doege. Head coach Neal Brown had played coy throughout the week as to who would start at quarterback and surprised people when Doege came out with the offense. Doege had played well up to this point in the game, throwing a pair of touchdowns to George Campbell and giving WVU the chance at the upset.
Despite it being his first start at WVU, Doege was not inexperienced, having started 17 games at Bowling Green prior to transferring to West Virginia. This game, quarter and drive were all a chance for Doege to prove that he could be a Big 12 quarterback.
A Kansas State penalty on the first play of the drive moved WVU into plus territory right away. With first and 10 at the K-State 38 yard-line, the Wildcats sacked Doege and the offensive line was called for a false start to push WVU all the way back to third and 22 from midfield. The drive looked dead and WVU was going to have to punt the ball back to Kansas State, squandering their chance at the lead.
Doege, Wheaton and the entire WVU offense did not let this chance slip away, however, resurrecting the dive with one of the best plays of the entire season up to that point.
Faced with immediate pressure, Doege stepped up in the pocket and rolled to his left, keeping his eyes downfield, and found a wide-open Wheaton who had slipped behind the Wildcats’ cover two defense. The 50-yard touchdown was Wheaton’s second of the year and Doege’s third of the day. It also gave WVU a 24-20 lead that they would not relinquish en route to the victory.
“I saw they were cover two, so the corner has the flat responsibility so I outside released on him and he just let me go, run free basically,” Wheaton explained afterward. “The safety that was his help went down with the crossing route and he also came down with Jarret Doege, when he started to scramble. So, I was just wide open in the back.”
“As I was getting out of the pocket I saw that there was no one behind him so I was going to try and get it up there and give him a chance,” Doege said. “When I looked up after I came off the ground, he was in the endzone.”
For Brown, this play exemplified what he liked about Doege.
“The thing I like, he’s got big-time courage,” Brown said of Doege. “You go back and look at the shot he took, and he knew he was going to get hit on that scramble play that we hit Bryce for the touchdown, he got smoked. He knew it, he stepped up and he made the play. I’m proud of him for stepping up and taking advantage of the opportunity.”
The upset of the Wildcats was West Virginia’s biggest win of the season and it snapped a five-game losing streak that the team had been on. Doege went on to start the final two games of the year, picking up one more win against TCU.