Dropped passes it not a stat that shows up in the box score, but drops certainly hurt a team on the field, as West Virginia has learned first hand the last two seasons.
In 2019 WVU’s receivers dropped a lot of passes, but the excuse was that most of them were young and getting their first playing experience. Fast forward to this season and WVU’s receivers are older, more experienced and yet still dropping catchable passes.
“If I had an answer for it, it’d already be corrected,” WVU football coach Neal Brown said following the team’s 34-27 loss to Texas Tech Saturday evening.
Brown, a former collegiate wide receiver himself, said he has never seen a team have so many issues with catching the ball as West Virginia does.
“We have an issue with it. We [drop] more balls here than at any point in my career,” Brown said. “I’ve Never had this issue before so we’re going to have to continue to evaluate it.”
The Mountaineers’ leading receiver Saturday was sophomore Winston Wright, who caught nine passes for 126 yards. But even Wright had a drop or two in the game.
“We work a lot on it,” Wright said of WVU’s receivers. “After practice, before practice, after meetings, before meetings, getting on the ball machine. It’s just little things, if you don’t have your hands in the right place at the point of the break, it can lose your eyes.”
West Virginia offensive coordinator Gerad Parker, another former college wide receiver, said it is not enough to just catch balls off a jugs machine if they want to fix this issue.
“I can go out there right now on a jugs machine and catch balls at 39 years-old…and still catch it at a high level,” Parker said on Tuesday. “But the difference is, how many catches can we create that are game-like, that build confidence for the right reasons, that allow him to know that he’s going to catch the football when it matters most? So I think it’s going back to work but it’s also creating game-like catches so you build real estate in your mind to where one doesn’t turn into two.”
The man delivering these passes, quarterback Jarret Doege, said some of the blame is his as well.
“I had my fair share of missed reads so that’s like a drop for me. I’ve got to clean up some things before I can talk about other things,” Doege said. “Sometimes it might be in my feet, it might be timing, you’ve just got to go back on film and watch it. A lot of time it’s usually my feet, just having my base and delivering the throw.”
Doege’s completion percentage is down slightly from a year ago, 66% to 64%, but as a team the Mountaineers are passing the ball more time per game and gaining more yards. In 2019, WVU passed the ball 37.8 times per game for 248.7 yards. This season they are passing 41.6 times per game and averaging 291.2 yards.
In Big 12 play, WVU’s offense is averaging 26.25 points and 420 yards per game.