MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Jarret Doege says “I remember it like it was yesterday” even though it was a whole lot of yesterdays ago.
He was a kid then, “seventh or eighth grade” as he recalls it, growing up in Lubbock, Texas, which meant he was football mad, a condition multiplied many times by the fact that his brother, Seth, was the starting quarterback at the local university, Texas Tech, which on that week was scheduled to play against a Big 12 newcomer, West Virginia.
“West Virginia came in and was No. 5 and came in with Geno Smith and Stedman Bailey and all those guys,” he said.
WVU was an offensive machine but so was Texas Tech. The Mountaineers had introduced themselves to their new conference by beating Baylor, 70-63, and then going to Texas before 101,000 people and winning 48-45, but things changed rapidly as the Red Raiders beat them 49-14.
When the final whistle went off young Jarret Doege did as all the kids with him did.
“I rushed the field,” he said.
Why not? He’d just seen his brother throw for 499 yards and six touchdowns against the No. 5 team in the nation.
At the time, Texas Tech’s offensive coordinator was a fellow named Brown — Neal Brown. You may have heard of him.
That was when Doege first got to know the man who now coaches him.
“I always had a relationship with him because my brother played there when he was there,” Doege explained. “I went to camp — me and Charlie Brewer (who would become now Baylor’s quarterback) — and Neal would take us down and we’d just throw. Coach Brown would be there evaluating just us two.”
Brown kept his eye on Doege while he went to become head coach at Troy at Doege decided to attend Bowling Green out of high school.
Bowling Green won him over, he said, because “the coaches were all from Texas Tech.”
That included the wide receiver coach: a quarterback who once threw for 499 yards and six touchdowns against West Virginia.
Jarret Doege won the Bowling Green quarterback job but at the end of his first starting season the entire coaching staff was fired.
“I decided I wanted to go try and play big time football at the highest level of competition, so I jumped in the portal. I had a few calls from all kinds of different schools,” Doege explained.
One was West Virginia.
“I had that prior relationship with Neal, so I came on a visit. I fell in love with it and I committed,” he said.
Will Grier had left and Austin Kendall, an Oklahoma transfer, was in line to start at quarterback. Doege was going to sit out the year and take his redshirt, leaving two years of eligibility, but that same season the redshirt rule was changed, allowing you to play four games and still maintain your redshirt.
So, when Kendall couldn’t light the fire under a team that would finish 5-7, Brown opted to take a look at Doege at season’s end and he won two of the three games he started, creating a quarterback battle, which he would win.
But there were obstacles, for this was the year of the COVID-19 pandemic and spring ball — where the competition was to begin — was cancelled after two practices.
That made it tough but Doege was dogged in his approach and made a strong impression on the entire staff.
“Everyone had a strong opinion of him. There’s a lot of truth that comes through him with his work ethic,” offensive coordinator Gerad Parker said.
Parker was new to the staff this year, coming over from Penn State, so he had an open mind.
“We had a fortunate way to get to know each other more because he was part of my accountability team,” Parker said of the making of their relationship. “So, when we were going through pandemic together for almost four months, virtually we had a lot of conversations about how we were going to lead our team better through the accountability team. That allowed us to have a lot of leadership discussions.
“He’s a great leader. He’s well respected. He puts in a lot of work. He and his Dad really put in a lot of time that allowed him to do a lot of work on his footwork. He and (quarterback coach) Sean Reagan have put in a lot of time on that, too, and it allows him to stay balanced on his throws.
“I think the biggest thing is anytime you have a guy who got the reps he got last year and at Bowling Green and now this year, he stays poised. He doesn’t get too high or too low. He doesn’t get very emotional and you need that out of the quarterback position.
“Where he’s really taken steps the last two weeks is his ability to lead and push guys the right way. He knows when to push buttons and when not to and how to do that the right way. Those are the things that make you take the next step playing the position he’s playing.”
But now comes the challenge. WVU travels to Oklahoma State this week and the Cowboys are considered the most likely team to end Oklahoma’s run at the top of the Big 12, if anyone can.
They bring a strong, experienced defense that returns 10 starters from a year ago. Doege faced them in the next-to-last game of 2019 and statistically had a strong day, completing 28 of 39 passes for 309 yards and a touchdown, but he could only get 13 points on the board, having red zone problems.
“They went zero coverage on us and we just didn’t execute that well last year,” Doege said. “I remember us getting tackled at the one and we didn’t get in. We have to be a lot better this year in the red zone.”
And he believes WVU will improve in that area.
“We have been working on red zone situations all camp. We’ll be a lot better at that this year,” he said.