Going to Saturday’s matchup with TCU, Mountaineers quarterback JT Daniels was coming off arguably one of the worst performances of his career in West Virginia’s 48-10 blowout loss to Texas Tech.
The Mountaineers’ 38-point defeat was the largest in Daniels’ five years of playing college football and is tied for the biggest deficit West Virginia has endured under head coach Neal Brown. Ten points matches the second-lowest total Daniels has scored as a signal caller.
Instead of getting down, Daniels came back and turned in one of his stronger games of the year against the No. 7 ranked Horned Frogs, despite the Mountaineers falling short.
“He’s very even-keel,” Brown said of Daniels. “The mentality is next. You gotta go in and play with confidence.”
Daniels completed 23-of-39 passes for 275 yards and two touchdowns against TCU. This was Daniels’ third-highest yard total of the season and his first multi-score performance since Week 2 against Kansas.
Daniels also tallied a 130 quarterback rating and completed his first eight consecutive passes to begin the game.
There were two miscues for Daniels against the Horned Frogs, however, but did not hit the same impact mark as Texas Tech.
He fumbled in the second quarter when he was hit from behind by TCU lineman Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson. Daniels was then intercepted by Bud Clark on a desperation heave during the game’s final play.
Against Texas Tech, Daniels threw three interceptions in a game for the first time in his career.
“He didn’t play as well as he needs to play,” Brown said of Daniels’ performance against the Red Raiders on Oct. 22. “He was off a little bit.”
It’s tough being critical on a collegiate player, but with the potential Daniels has at his position, it may have provided the necessary spark that got him back on track.
This was also the first time Daniels threw multiple picks since his true freshman season at USC, when the Trojans lost to UCLA on Nov. 17, 2018. He did this four times that year.
Despite the miscues, which includes Daniels recording giveaways on back-to-back drives coming out of halftime when the Mountaineers trailed by only two scores, the West Virginia coaches backed him up.
“Those decisions weren’t wrong,” West Virginia offensive coordinator Graham Harrell said. “We were in situations where we got the matchups we wanted, we just didn’t finish. We gotta find a way to make those plays.”
Granted, all three of Daniels’ interceptions were to receivers who were countered with one-on-one coverage, which also made Brown side with Daniels on the choices to throw.
“When you throw into one-on-one coverage, you gotta have the expectation that your guy is gonna come down with it or it’ll be incomplete,” Brown said. “We gotta make those plays, or at least knock it down.”
West Virginia could greatly benefit from having such an experienced quarterback like Daniels, who could potentially return for a sixth season overall after suffering two prior season-ending injuries, as well as, being affected by the COVID year.
Daniels just finished his eighth game for the Mountaineers, which is the most he’s played in a season since appearing in 11 during his freshman campaign.
With support like what Daniels is receiving from his coaching staff paired with his skill set, West Virginia could be back on the rise sooner than later.