MORGANTOWN - After West Virginia's 55-10 victory over Bowling Green Saturday, receiver Ivan McCartney was sick.He didn't make it to press interviews. Literally, he was ill. He was also suffering from a sore hip.The problem is, he was in high demand with the media. Because in kids' vernacular, he was sick during the game.The reason McCartney hurt his hip is because he almost made a highlight reel catch for the ages. With 4:13 left in the first quarter, he ran a post route, leaped high in the air and just missed catching the ball. When he came down, he landed on his back and hip.
The Mountaineer faithful gasped as the 6-foot-3, 176-pound sophomore lay motionless. But he soon popped up to a collective sigh of relief.The reason: McCartney has become a vital part of coach Dana Holgorsen's offense."He's played well," said Mountaineer receivers coach Shannon Dawson. "He's been pretty solid all through camp. He's got a good attitude and is having fun, which I think is a key."He had some fun with the visiting Falcons, leading the Mountaineers with five catches and finishing with 54 yards and a score.
Understand that McCartney has been expected to have fun since signing with WVU. He's the cousin of Chad Ochocinco, now with the New England Patriots. He hit WVU as one of the most highly touted recruits in years. He was a Florida Class 6A first-team all-state player. He was a member of the Sporting News Top 35 recruiting list. He was named the No. 1 receiver in talent-rich Broward County and was a member of the Miami Herald's Top 5 in South Florida.He hit West Virginia proclaiming himself a hybrid of NFL stars Andre Johnson and Ochocinco.Then he had but one catch for 4 yards last season. He entered fall camp behind walk-on Ryan Nehlen, now a scholarship player.But all of that's changed. McCartney headed into Saturday's game with 23 catches for 270 yards, a 67.5 per-game average. He led the Mountaineers in catches Saturday, although Stedman Bailey had more receiving yards with 112. And McCartney almost made the spectacular play.
Nehlen, who recorded his first college touchdown from 15 yards out, smiled when thinking of the team competition."We both pushed each other in the spring," Nehlen said. "And it really helped. We need him to be great for us to be great.""The more playmakers we have, the harder it is to defense," Dawson said. "If we walk out with four receivers and only two can make consistent plays, it's tough. [McCartney] is doing a great job of filling it in."
Of course, WVU boasts star receiver Tavon Austin, who now has 490 yards. It has steady Bailey, who now has 456. And McCartney is now at 324.Dawson was happy with the entire group after Saturday."They made plays," he said. "We dropped some balls, but all in all we played well."Particularly one sick sophomore.Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, firstname.lastname@example.org
or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.