Mays Overcomes Nerves, Performs Well In First WVU Start
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Briason Mays was nervous.
He says he always is before a game, even back last year when they let him dress as a freshman before the Tennessee opener, probably because he is from Tennessee.
“There was no chance I was going to play at all, but I was anxious,” he said.
But now it was Saturday and the site was Mountaineer Field and there was no chance he would not play.
In fact, on Friday, the first call he made after he learned he was starting was to his mother back in Tennessee.
“She was surprised,” he admitted.
His first start, at home, working to help offset the absence of two injured starting offensive linemen, the opponent a big-time program in North Carolina State.
You bet he was nervous, and so was his offense coordinator and line coach Matt Moore.
“Briason pregame was out there spraying his snaps all over. He was nervous. I went up and told him, ‘OK, you’re going to be fine’ but I wasn’t sure what was going to happen,” he admitted.
“We talk about the strike zone, just like a pitcher,” Moore explained. “If you are drop back passing all the time you can have one high, one low, but you need to throw a strike because that quarterback has to get his eyes straight right now.
“If he is reaching up for a snap or down for one it really throws off your RPO game. A lot of times if it’s a bad snap you have to hand it off because you don’t have time to read anything.
“He hadn’t had a bad snap all last week and all of a sudden he’s spraying his snaps everywhere,” Moore recalled. “I was trying to reassure him and I was hoping I didn’t have that nervous sound in my voice.”
Mays got it together.
This is probably as good a point in time to turn the clock back as any. Last year, when WVU put Mays at center, the problem wasn’t nerves. It was that he really had little idea what he was doing.
Mays, a high school tackle, didn’t find snapping the ball easy, with some going high, some low, some heading off into areas unknown.
But he had worked on it and gotten it together to the point that he became a legitimate candidate to start.
“My roommate is (quarterback) Trey Lowe. I snapped a lot to him at the house. He probably got tired of me,” Mays said. “We were snapping in the hallway. You know, it’s narrow so if it wasn’t straight you’d hear it (hitting the wall). If you heard it hit his hands, you knew it was good.
Still, come camp, there were problems.
“During camp my snaps were all over the place. I had to go back and re-evaluate how I was holding the ball, my landmarks — like when do I release it and how I release it,” he said.
Mechanics repaired, everything seemed fine but in pregame he was so hyped, was snapping the ball back so hard you couldn’t have held it if you could catch it.
He ran out through the tunnel, worked with the No. 1 unit, the game started and they ran a play.
“After that first play everything calmed down. The first hit is very important. It knocks the jitters out of you,” Mays said.
In this case, the last hit was very important, too, for Mays had played every snap and now, with the clock ticking down, WVU was at the N.C. State three-yard line and a touchdown would put the game out of reach.
The ball went to bruising running back Leddie Brown. He followed Mays’ block into the end zone, Mays not only knocking his man back off the line of scrimmage but, as the players say, pancaked him into the ground.
“That was pretty cool,” Mays admitted. “But I’m not going to lie to you, I was more happy with the touchdown and icing the game than with my play.”
If the first block knocked the jitters out of him, the last one knocked the you know what out his opponent.
And then it was over and he joined his mother, who attends every WVU game.
“She was all crying and stuff. I was like, ‘Oh, geez.’”
The nerves were gone.