MORGANTOWN, W.Va – To say West Virginia head coach Neal Brown is upset about receivers dropping passes would be an understatement. Brown made a point to keep bringing up the receivers needing to get back the fundamentals while discussing the loss to Texas.
While it’s fair to say the defense has been more of an issue than the offense for WVU this season, and that was also the case in Austin, there were too many dropped passes (seven counted by Brown), especially in crucial moments for Brown. The drops were certainly a factor in the Mountaineers worst offensive performance in terms of total points scored this season. WVU scored only 20 points, 13 of which came in the 4th quarter. The sluggish start for the WVU offense coupled with the inability for the defense to get a stop set the tone early and put the game out of reach after just one half of play
“It was an issue. You think about it in the first half and I know we had five. If you catch those balls, I don’t know if we win and I don’t want to discredit what Texas did, but it is a different story. I get to the point where, man, I am just tired of talking about it. It has been an issue on and off again and it was huge,” Brown said to the media following the loss to the Longhorns.
“You get in these matches where they are obviously making some explosive plays, and you have opportunities to make plays of your own. If you don’t checkmate that, it is tough sledding. And we didn’t checkmate them in the first half,” Brown continued in an effort to emphasis the impact he believes the drops had on the game.
Brown was far from the only person heavily critical of the receivers.
“We are trying to be elite receivers. Any time the ball touches our hands, if it is in our radius, we have to catch it. We didn’t do that early, which hurt the team,” said Bryce Ford-Wheaton, who has emerged as the top receiver of the team and leader of the group as a whole. Ford-Wheaton did lead WVU with 8 receptions for 93 yards, but was vilified for a key drop in the season opening Backyard Brawl loss to Pitt.
Bryce Ford-Wheaton might be the best receiver in the country not enough people are talking about.
— Mike J. Asti (@MikeAsti11) September 10, 2022
It is important to recognize there have been plenty of positives from the receivers so far this season. In particular, Ford-Wheaton has multiple games with two touchdown receptions and overall numbers that will likely see him surpass his 2021 statistics across the board. He currently has 35 receptions for 412 yards, an average of 82.4 yards per game and 4 touchdowns. And Ford-Wheaton isn’t the only receiver who quarterback JT Daniels has been able to rely on. Sam James has stepped up, Kaden Prather has become a key target and Reese Smith has even pitched in with some big catches.
Unfortunately for the WVU receivers, their drops are now being remembered much more than any quality catch, granted that’s often how it goes when the entire team is struggling and losing games. There’s only going to be more pressure put on the receivers to make plays with running back CJ Donaldson, who has been a major weapon for the offense, part of the concussion protocol process.
By no means, are the receivers the single reason this team sits at 2-3 (0-2), but the drops just can’t be ignored either. And even if other issues have arguably contributed more to the losing, the dropped passes may take the cake as the most annoying problem. This is especially true with Brown’s belief that it’s rooted in a lapse in fundamentals. Brown described how he too often sees receivers trying to make more work for themselves by placing their hands in the wrong position to catch the ball with ease.
When you have a problem in fundamentals, you need to just keep working on it until it’s fixed. WVU will now have extra time to to correct the hands of their receivers with a bye coming up and then a matchup with Baylor under the lights on Thursday, Oct. 13.