Jarret Doege’s final numbers in WVU’s 27-13 loss to Oklahoma State on Saturday weren’t great, nor were they awful.
Perhaps pedestrian is the correct word. Though in the aftermath, the quarterback was lucky to be walking upright at all.
Over the course of 90-plus snaps for the Mountaineers offense, Doege was battered like a fairground corn dog, absorbing shot after shot from an experienced, blitzing Cowboys defense and behind a pair of relatively inexperienced tackles.
In the end, Doege completed 20 of 37 throws for 285 yards, one score (a 70-yarder to Winston Wright to account for WVU’s lone touchdown) and no interceptions. He was also sacked five times.
While solid, that stat line isn’t likely to immediately endear Doege to the Mountaineer fan base. Yet going beyond the numbers, his performance certainly resonated with his teammates.
“Honestly, it’s disgusting having to turn around and see him on the ground,” fifth-year senior offensive lineman Chase Behrndt said Tuesday. “But the fact that he can get up time and time again and still come back with the same composure and still compete the same — maybe even compete harder at times — it’s amazing to watch.”
Before Saturday’s game was even over, the Twitter coaches were out in force, questioning Doege’s accuracy and the offensive performance as a whole. While some of it was warranted — and even owned up to by the WVU coaching staff — there’s likely a lot more going on with that offense than meets the eye of the average couch potato.
Perhaps the main thing that was under fire on social media was play calling. But while much of the ire was directed at head coach Neal Brown or offensive coordinator Gerad Parker, a good portion of that responsibility is on Doege.
The Mountaineers ran a significant number — Parker estimated up to 80 percent — of run-pass options on Saturday, and they will be a staple in the offense this season. On those plays, Doege is afforded the option to either hand the ball to the running back or pull it out for a typically quick-hit pass play, namely a bubble screen or a slant.
According to the coaching staff, Doege’s performance and decision making was about like anything else on Saturday — there was some good and there was some bad, and in the end, it wasn’t good enough to win. But in hearing Parker’s explanation of things, it’s obvious that there was plenty of blame to go around.
“Doege’s decision making was really good. Now with that comes when you miss a key opportunity as an offense in a game like that, that’s heavily conflicted with man and zero coverages, the one miss or the one drop or the one misread we may have had collectively added up to three or four things,” Parker said.
“From how we make a decision at quarterback to his accuracy and of course us being able to make plays and finish with the ball in our hands at the receiver position … so they’re all on a string tied together and that’s the beautiful thing of this sport.”
Along that string, there are certainly some weak or inexperienced spots.
Consider that the four players on the two-deep at the two tackle spots — Junior Uzebu, Brandon Yates, John Hughes and Briason Mays — had combined to make one start at those positions at WVU prior to this season (Mays started seven games at center last season). Of 16 wide receivers listed on the roster, TJ Simmons is the only senior. The running game that was anemic in 2019 has been revamped. Parker is in his first season as the offensive coordinator. Heck, it’s easy to forget that Saturday was only Doege’s fifth career start with the Mountaineers.
That offensive unit went up against what I think is far and away the best defense in the Big 12, one that returned 10 of 11 starters from a year ago. If you watched what happened around the league on Saturday, there’s plenty of evidence to support that theory.
The anticipation among the WVU fan base for this season was at a fever pitch. Year two under Brown. Surviving the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic to actually have a season. A team that struggled but showed late promise a year ago with the bulk of the squad returning.
And I get it. Saturday didn’t exactly instill a warm, fuzzy feeling, especially when the game was winnable, and I also understand that as the quarterback, you’re next in line to get hit with the criticism behind only the head coach.
But Doege has shown the ability to take hits and keep going. Trust me, he’s going to win some big games with this team and probably sooner than later. And I think he will win you over in the coming weeks.
One thing is for sure: he’s already won over the other players in that locker room, and that may be more important than anything.
“He’s definitely a key leader on our offense,” Behrndt said. “He keeps the guys going for sure. He stays on us pretty strong whether it’s at running back, O line, receivers and tight ends — he keeps a good grasp on everyone.”