WVU Receivers Look To Shake Off Bad Day
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Did you ever have one of those days?
You know the kind. You wake up, spill your morning coffee, bang your head getting into the car, your pen runs out of ink at work and you lose your cellphone.
If you have, you know the kind of day West Virginia’s wide receivers had last Saturday at Texas Tech and the kind of day they hope to avoid this Saturday when Kansas comes to Milan Puskar Stadium for the noon Homecoming game.
It wasn’t that everything went bad. Marcus Simms had his third straight 100-yard receiving day and is emerging as part of a receiving threesome that ranks with any in college football and Gary Jennings had a couple of great catches.
But there were drops… drops of passes they don’t just drop. Jennings, David Sills, T.J. Simmons.
Sills, a preseason All-American who is drawing extra attention, dropped from 10 receptions against Kansas State the week before to just four for 48 yards against the Red Raiders, and one of those was pass that slipped through Simmons’ hand, bounced off his chest was yanked out of the air by Sills.
“I was running my route, and I saw the ball was thrown to him,” Sills recalled. “It just kind of popped up in the air. So, I just went up and grabbed it. It was kind of an instinctive play. My first thought was, ‘Don’t let them intercept it.’ It bounced right toward me. So, I caught it, but they were right there.”
So what happened that these normally sure-handed receivers began dropping passes, especially Jennings, who numbers six TD receptions among his 22 this season?
“I think it’s a lack of focus,” offensive coordinator Jake Spavital said when it was brought up. “He looked at me right after the series where he dropped two in a row.
“On the first one, he was wide open, and he knew he was wide open. He was trying to get up field immediately. He just took his eyes off the ball and was expecting to catch that, get up field and score a touchdown. It’s just a lack of focus on that where you have to pay attention to details and make sure you’re focused on catching the ball first and the getting up field.”
Spavital compares that to his first of two TD receptions in the game, one that was a really difficult play.
“If you watch the first touchdown he had, there was a possible pass interference and he bounced off and he caught it. That was pretty amazing,” Spavital said.
And the second TD may have been even more spectacular.
“Then, you have the one at the end of the first half on a back-shoulder throw, and he grabbed that one out of the air. That was a phenomenal catch, too,” Spavital said.
So what happened on his three drops?
“ He just got caught in a situation where the was a little lack of focus. He may have been rattled after dropped the first one, but I think he has a short-term memory. He moved on and made some good plays for us later.”
You are going to have drops during the course of a game and during the course of the season.
What you can’t do is let it affect your play beyond that point. So how does a coach handle it this week?
“They are a mature team. You’ve heard that saying a lot, but they understand,” Spavital said. “There’s a lot of things they wish they had back. I know (senior wide receiver) Gary (Jennings Jr.) wanted a few back. But Gary also made some freaky catches in there.
“So there’s a fine line in how to address it. These kids are mature enough to understand that they didn’t make those play, and they wish they could have it back. You can’t dwell on it. You just have to move on. If it consistently becomes a problem, then we have to find ways to address it throughout practice.”
When you have a receiving corps as deep as WVU’s, one with so many options that 11 different players have two or more catches after just four games and a quarterback who is among the leading candidates for the Heisman Trophy, you hardly panic over some slip ups in one.
But you also don’t let it go without addressing it, just as the team addressed all the second half misadventures that almost cost it a road victory against a Top 25 in game in which it led, 35-10, at the half.
“It has been addressed,” Holgorsen said at his Tuesday media conference. “I’m not going to keep harping on it. I don’t think it’s a reoccurring problem. It didn’t happen in the other three games, so I don’t think it’s a reoccurring problem.
‘They know it; we came in here on Sunday, and we watched the video. All you have to do is watch the video. The first half, it looks really good. The second half, it looks like crap. So, they know, and we have to go out, and we have to do better.”