The West Virginia University football team knows what it is up against when No. 11 Texas visits Morgantown on Saturday.
The Longhorns have one of the most dynamic offensive teams in the country, that’s no secret. If WVU wants to have a chance against Texas in front of an ABC national television audience, the Mountaineers are going to have to slow down UT’s attacks. The other side of that coin is West Virginia’s offense is going to have to bring its “A” game.
That starts with the mostly young WVU receivers, first-year coach Neal Brown said. If the Mountaineers want to keep up with the Longhorns, the receivers are going to need to win some individual battles with Texas defenders.
“I think when it gets down to one-on-ones, we’ve got to win those,” Brown said. “We’ve got to be able to throw the ball down there. We’ve got to be able to make people miss in the open field. We’ve got to generate explosive plays.
“When you’re playing this type of offense that has the ability to put a lot of points on the board, you’ve got to go into it understanding you have to make some big plays. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve got to throw the ball 50 yards down the field. What it does mean is you’ve got to be able to break tackles and you’ve got to run north and south after the catch.”
Some of that falls to redshirt junior quarterback Austin Kendall, who has to get the ball in their hands. Brown, however, has never been shy about when he feels the receivers are not playing up to his expectations.
Redshirt freshman Sam James has 26 catches for 263 yards and one touchdown — an average of 65.8 yards per game, which ranks No. 10 among Big 12 receivers. Florida State graduate transfer George Campbell leads WVU with three touchdown catches but only has four total catches on the season. Senior T.J. Simmons did not play well in the blowout loss at Missouri last month, but since has returned to form as a steady hand for West Virginia.
There have been bright spots, but Brown wants consistency.
“Outside of Sam James and really T.J. Simmons, everyone else had had some ups and downs,” Brown said. “We need to be more consistent. I didn’t think we played very well at all the receiver positions — that’s all of them — in the Kansas game. That’s why we had more of a ball control, grind-it-out second half — because they didn’t play great for us.
“This week and really moving forward against our schedule, our receivers have to play at a high level. They’ve got to block on the perimeter. They’ve got to win in 1-on-1 situations. A lot of who plays in the game is who has the best Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and we’re going to be that way moving forward.”
BROWN: ‘NO OPINION’ ON CALIFORNIA BILL
Earlier this week, California governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill allowing student-athletes in his state to profit from the name, image and likeness beginning in 2023.
The bill has been the talk of college sports all week, and during his press conference WVU’s Brown offered his view on the subject.
“Bottom line, I don’t really have an opinion on it,” Brown said. “My deal is, tell me the rules and I’ll abide by them. I’m not into making legislation. That’s boring, I get it. Honestly, I’m trying to figure out how to get first downs. I haven’t thought about what the California legislature has done.”