Matt Jones Earns Respect After Tough Start
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – There are moments in life you remember forever.
Your wedding day. The birth of your first child. College graduation. Your first day on your first job. All of it was rolled together for Matt Jones on Sunday in his first college start.
Matt Jones is not a household name around these parts … yet. Offensive linemen seldom are.
Yet he may just hold the key to the Mountaineers season, for he fills the rather large shoes of center Tyler Orlosky, and it all started on a big stage playing rival Virginia Tech on ABC with more than 67,000 fans rumbling in the stands.
“It was awesome. I’ve been dreaming of playing for the Mountaineers since I was little. I was really excited and anxious to get out there and play,” Jones said. “It was just a good time, great atmosphere … a storybook beginning.”
But not a storybook ending.
Let us go to that ending first. Each team had played its hearts out but when David Sills couldn’t come up with a diving catch in the end zone on the game’s second-to-last play, Tech walked away with a 31-24 victory.
Jones had performed well in his starting debut. As the center, he had to make the calls, snap the balls, do his blocking … and he handled it well enough that the Mountaineers were able to roll up the most yardage ever gained by WVU on a Bud Foster defense.
But there were a couple of blips on Jones’ radar screen, including a pair of holding calls, which brings us to the end of the game. Jones was on the field with senior offensive guard Kyle Bosch.
“After the game, he came up to me and apologized,” Bosch, a transfer from Michigan, recalled.
And when he did, memories flooded back to Bosch.
“I grabbed him by the back of the neck — remembering I did the same thing in my first game when we lost to Michigan State as a freshman, going up and apologizing to the O-line coach — and told Matt there’s never one person’s fault when you lose a game.
“This is the only sport in the world where every single person’s actions affect the outcome of the game. We were all responsible for the loss.”
But that Jones had seen fit to apologize, just as Bosch himself did, said a lot to Bosch.
“Just seeing the pride and dedication to the program that he felt he needed to apologize to a senior for losing said something,” Bosch said. “But I told him that was stupid. You are going to make mistakes. He will bounce back this week.”
Think of it this way, much was made of how tough it was for quarterback Will Grier to get back to playing after having sat out more than a full year — and Jones not only sat out a year, but he had never played in a college game before.
The biggest transition in a football player’s life is from high school to college and it probably would be beneficial to allow redshirts a certain number of plays or games to get their feet wet in their redshirt year without costing them a year of eligibility.
“Naturally, you would like to play,” Jones admitted, “but I wasn’t prepared to play. It wasn’t meant to be.”
This was a big step for Jones and he quickly realized it.
“High school I was always the biggest guy. It was a big transition here but everyone goes through that. (Strength) Coach (Mike) Joseph and his strength staff got me prepared physically. It took two years to get physically prepared to play.
“(Line coach Joe) Wickline got me prepared schematically and ready to make the calls. He had me feeling comfortable and the O-line and quarterback trusted in me and I had trust in them.”
The night before, Jones did what he could do to clear his mind and keep from being nervous, but that just doesn’t happen.
Bosch recalled how his first start went.
“I told him going into the game he would have butterflies, he’d be big-eyed and bushy tailed. He’d be nervous,” Bosch said. “It’s hard to be focused on the task at hand. The older you get, the more and more you realize it’s just practice in front of people. He handled it really well, was not letting the game day environment get to him. He held his composure, he was smart with his calls.
“Obviously, he had those two holding penalties but you are a young kid and you got a 300-pound kid, a junior who has rotated on the Virginia Tech D-line for three years, it’s hard. It’s not easy. It’s going to happen.”
Bosch again thought back to when he was with the Wolverines and lined up against the Spartans.
“I remember playing Michigan State as a true freshman. It was my first start and it was at Lansing, Michigan, and it was a very hard environment to play in,” Bosch said. “That environment paled in comparison to the environment we played in Sunday.
“Matt really held his composure. He played really well, beyond his years. He played like a senior.”