MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia quarterback Jarret Doege is stringing together strong performances for the 4-2 Mountaineers.
He’s thrown for more than 210 yards in each of WVU’s first six games this season, including a current streak of three straight with 300+.
“I’ve been decisive, not trying to do too much, not pressing,” explained the 6-foot-2, 208-pound junior. “I’m trusting my preparation and being decisive where I’m going with the football.
“I’m more decisive, more comfortable and more confident.”
On the season, Doege has completed 149 of 232 passes (64.2%) for 1,690 yards with 11 touchdowns against just three interceptions.
His average of 281.7 passing yards per game is second in the Big 12 Conference, trailing only Oklahoma’s Spencer Rattler (301.0 ypg).
Doege is leading an offense that is showing marked improvement from last year. WVU finished at the bottom of the Big 12 statistics in 2019 in scoring offense (20.6 points per game), total offense (321.9 yards per game) and rushing offense (73.2 yards per game), while coming in sixth in passing offense (248.7 yards per game).
With four games left in the 2020 regular season, West Virginia is currently third in the league in scoring offense (33.0 ppg), second in total offense (464.8 ypg), third in rushing offense (177.2 ypg) and second in passing offense (292.8 ypg).
“As a team, I think we keep getting better each game,” noted the quarterback.
One thing that is helping WVU of late is an increase in explosive plays. Last season the Mountaineer offense produced 22 plays of 30 or more yards in 12 games. Through six games this year, West Virginia already has 17 plays that have covered that distance, including a season-high five in this past Saturday’s 37-10 victory over No. 16 Kansas State.
“On the first drive, they went zero (man coverage) on us but dropped out of it, and I ended up getting sacked because they fooled us,” remembered Doege of the first quarter series against K-State. “The next time they did that, I knew what they were going to do, so I stood in there and found a hole. Bryce (Ford-Wheaton) popped a big one. After that happens, the defense kind of backs off a little bit.
The completion to Ford-Wheaton covered 58 yards and put WVU in position for its first touchdown of the day, which ultimately led to a second quarter avalanche of Mountaineer points.
“I think that play gave the whole team a confidence boost,” noted the junior QB.
Doege completed 22 of 34 passes for 301 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions against the Wildcats. Eight different Mountaineers caught two or more passes in the game, as Doege spread the wealth. In all, WVU has had 15 players catch at least one pass this season, led by Winston Wright, who has 32 receptions for 391 yards.
“I have really good chemistry with our receivers. I believe in them, and they believe in me,” said Doege. “We really wanted to make a statement against Kansas State, because we didn’t perform well enough against Texas Tech or Kansas. We wanted to show people we could be a really good offense.”
Included in those offensive weapons are WVU’s tight ends, Mike O’Laughlin and T.J. Banks. Last year West Virginia’s tight ends totaled 10 catches. O’Laughlin, a sophomore, has 10 himself already this season for 115 yards, while Banks, also a sophomore, has three catches for 21 yards and a TD. True freshman tight end Charles Finley also has one grab for two yards.
“They’ve been doing a great job,” Doege said of the tight ends. “They’re good at blocking and catching. You saw last game where Mike caught it, broke a tackle and got 10 more (yards). They’ve been huge for us.
“I believe in those guys. I think you saw that when we converted a third-and-long. We threw Mike the slant, and he got up field and converted the third down.”
That trust is two-way street.
“Jarret is a great leader,” said O’Laughlin. “He’s decisive on the field and just picks everybody up. Obviously he’s a great quarterback. He’s instinctive and has all the great qualities.”
Doege started his college career at Bowling Green, but after passing for 4,041 yards in two seasons at BG while playing in 19 games, 17 of them as a starter, he decided to transfer. A prior relationship with WVU head coach Neal Brown brought Doege to West Virginia in the summer of 2019. He played four games last season, still maintaining his redshirt, and now has the starting QB job at a Power 5 school. It’s position he’s long strived for, but it can be a challenge.
“In the Big 12, defenses are covering the spread more, so they’ll drop eight a lot of times,” he explained. “In the MAC, it was more basic coverages.”
This week’s challenge for Doege and the Mountaineers is against No. 22 Texas. A native of Lubbock, Texas, a trip to Austin could bring about a wave of emotions, but Doege is normally pretty calm and collected.
“It’s nothing really different,” he said of the meeting with the Longhorns. “It’s just another game for me. I’m preparing to beat Texas.”
Doege has already played in 29 games in his college career – 19 at Bowling Green and 10 so far at WVU.
The NCAA passed a rule before the 2020 season began that because of the coronavirus pandemic, all fall sport student-athletes would not have to count this season on their eligibility clocks. That eligibility rule has since been extended to winter athletes.
Thus Doege can return to West Virginia for not only the 2021 season but also can come back as a sixth-year senior in 2022, if he wants. Theoretically he could play in 60 games or more in his college career.
“When they came out with the rule, I thought about it,” Doege acknowledged. “For now, though, I’m just going day by day and game by game. When that time comes, we can see what we want to do.”
For now, Doege is just focused on this coming Saturday’s showdown with the Longhorns. He’ll worry about game No. 60 of his career at a later date.