MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The love-hate affair that West Virginia fans have had with quarterback Jarret Doege took a new and, to be quite honest, unexpected twist on Saturday as he was leading the Mountaineers to a 31-23 victory over Texas, keeping alive their chances to qualify for a post-season bowl game.
For much of two seasons, fans have been unappreciative of Doege’s efforts, to try and find a polite way to put the social media postings and barroom conversations that have been taking place.
Fans were upset some last year and certainly lost whatever true affection they had for Doege in the Liberty Bowl when he had to be benched before the Mountaineers could get enough offense to defeat Army.
Many, maybe most, expected Garrett Greene, the redshirt freshman who had become the anti-Doege through no doings of his own or of Neal Brown’s, figured sooner or later the plug would be pulled … but like Father Time, he kept on going out there. Failures in the passing game were pinned on him by his critics, some fairly, some not.
Successes, it seemed, were all great catches to those same people. It was a case of Doege being unable to win, and you can take that any way you want.
But he deserved a break on Saturday. It was Senior Day and he had spent his career here either being sacked by unhappy fans or blitzing linebackers. This, however, was a day to let bygones be bygones, by golly.
But Doege had a few surprises up his WVU jersey sleeve. The one-time Bowling Green quarterback came up with an amazing game against Texas, throwing for 290 yards and three touchdowns but, more important, making victory possible with some of the most amazing escapism since Patrick White played quarterback.
He did it not with legs, as did White, but by turning bad situations into good one, once converting a third-and-18 into a first down en route to a touchdown after a pair of sacks and another time turning a third-and-16 into another first down.
“We had some third-and-longs and were able to overcome them” Brown said. “You know, we’ve been kind of hot and cold on third and longs this year. I thought he did a nice job. He was accurate, didn’t put the ball in jeopardy and our receivers made some contested catches as well.”
On Senior Day, Jarret Doege heard cheers.
And fans heard something, too, for in the midst of the game, ESPN2’s sideline reporter confided that she had spoken to Doege this week or earlier in the day and he had told her that he was planning to return to play another year, the year he gets to make up for the COVID season.
It wasn’t as though we couldn’t have guessed that, especially since what Neal Brown said during the week and would repeat after this game about what a strange Senior Day this was.
“I wouldn’t take a whole lot credence about who walked and who didn’t walk, just because they make a big deal out of it,” Brown said. “If they wanted to walk, they walked. I would say that some of the guys that walked will come back. Some of the guys that didn’t walk, I don’t know. They may not come back.”
Doege, it should be noted, did not walk. He seems a likely candidate to return, which would give Brown an experienced quarterback. He surpassed the 10,000-yard passing mark, combined between his Bowling Green and WVU stints, during the game. With that, he could bring his young quarterbacks along slowly, use Greene as he has been, work true freshman Will “Goose” Crowder in and redshirt his prized incoming freshman quarterback out of Arizona, Nicco Marchiol.
Then there’s a matter of facing the truth. Doege is not an NFL quarterback, so why not extend his career as long as he can? He’ll have forever and day after its over to let the bruises heal.
And, like most athletes, he craves competition.
Say what you like about him, he is similar to former WVU QB Skyler Howard in that he takes a licking and keeps on ticking, driven by inner fires that would burn some from the inside out but others use to spit out at adversity like a fire-breathing dragon.
Athletes like Doege don’t run away from challenges. They run to them, just as a moth comes to a flame even though he knows he may be burned.
While we all know that Texas at this moment is not very good, having been eliminated from bowl consideration yesterday, he certainly sees this win as a breakthrough, one he can build on next week against a weak Kansas defense and then hone through the spring and summer to set up a super senior season.
He admitted that he has a strong relationship with receiver Bryce Ford-Wheaton, who helped him with his stats for the day wiht a spectacular diving catch of a perfectly thrown pass he lofted deep down field and would like to spend next year reaping benefits from it.
The one thing we don’t know is whether Brown wants to have him back or whether he feels it’s time to move on and see what’s behind Door No. 3.