Sills Turns Difficult Catch Into Spectacular Play

David Sills Made It Tough, Then Made Up For it


MANHATTAN, Kan. – David Sills made the most impressive play of the day even more difficult in the win at Kansas State.

In his prototypical style, Sills pushed himself near even his limits, making a twisting, turning touchdown reception midway through the second quarter. It was about as long of a four-yard completion as could be, WVU working the Wildcat defense from the far hash and throwing to the opposite side of the field toward the back end zone.

Having broken outside off a rub route with Marcus Simms – but not gotten separation or outside position as K-State’s secondary switched assignments effectively –  Sills turned inward before he located the ball. Where a simple over-the-shoulder catch might have sufficed on the fade, now Sills was facing a vastly tougher grab, one where he had to again generate momentum, diving for the ball near the back pylon in what was a gorgeous throw from Grier.

West Virginia wide receiver David Sills scores on a slant route

West Virginia rarely works this play from the opposite hash, and the inexperience showed. Sills got both hands under the ball, but was completely out of room.

“He made an unbelievable play,” Grier said. “He wasn’t used to it and got caught in an awkward position. He made it hard on himself. Made up for it. I can’t believe he made the catch.”

Indeed, Sills somehow drug his right toe – maybe only the little one – in the end zone, completing among the toughest catches of his career. The touchdown pushed WVU’s lead to 21-13, and was imperative considering the Mountaineers had already thrown incomplete on first and goal from the four and would have faced a third and goal sans confidence in its running game.

“I didn’t know if I had it or not,” Sills said. “I fell on some pretty hard turf, so I was kinda out of it. When I got to the sideline they told me it was a catch and my feet were in. I was excited. When you catch it you always think about getting your feet down and hope they are inbounds.”

Those opportunities are becoming few and far between. Receivers coach Tyron Carrier said the season started with teams trying to bracket Ka’Raun White, then Gary Jennings. As Sills continued to emerge – he leads the nation with 18 TD catches – defenses focused on him, and it’s showed in the stats with Sills having a combined nine receptions over the last three games. The junior had at least six catches in six of the first seven games.

Sills made four catches against Kansas State, including consecutive ones spanning the first and second quarters. One was an over-the-shoulder 43-yard reception down the sideline to get WVU inside the red zone at the end of the first quarter. The second came a snap later on a 16-yard scoring slant via a beautiful play call from Jake Spavital.

With the Wildcats pulling a safety up to take away said slant, the Mountaineers sent Gary Jennings in motion, faking an end around to the wideout. The action sucked in the safety five-plus yards, clearing a passing window for Grier. With the corner playing Sills outside, expecting help on the interior, Sills gained the inside shoulder and broke toward the post. Grier delivered a ball in stride, splitting two defenders, and Sills had his 17th touchdown of the season to give WVU a 14-6 lead.

It’s an impressive ratio, Sills’ 18 touchdowns on 55 receptions. Consider Jennings, who leads the team with 82 grabs, but has just one touchdown. Or White, with 51 catches and 10 scores. No player in college football with more than 50 catches comes close to Sills in pure touchdown-to-reception ratio.

But the receiver also had a drop on a play which would have resulted in a first down in the red zone to go with a lost fumble, part of four West Virginia turnovers. It’s that which will be the focus this week as Sills readies for what is shaping up to be a significant game versus Texas. If the Mountaineers (7-3, 5-2) can win, they remain in contention for the Big 12 title game.

“The third quarter, fourth quarter just making stupid mistakes,” Sills said of the problems. “Dropping balls, missing blocks. We definitely need to improve on that this week going into the Texas game. Monday I will be thinking about the dropped ball I had, the fumble I had. Those are the things I can improve upon. As an offense there are a lot of things we can improve upon as well.”