Milan Puskar Stadium was at - for me - an all-time loud last Saturday. An overtime loss for the Mountaineers was defeating, and slightly appalling.
Late in the second quarter an incessant “boo” took over the crowd. Fans were booing Skyler Howard. Thin chants of "William Crest” were also around, but overshadowed by the intense shouting. The unsettled nature in the stadium was appalling. Yes, Howard and West Virginia’s offense had stalled, again, but booing for the backup quarterback is not the answer.
This is the first time Howard has truly felt the burden of being a starting quarterback. Give him time to develop. Give him time to create his own name at West Virginia. Booing a player does nothing but destroy confidence. Holgorsen named him the starter for a reason. Let Skyler Howard be Skyler Howard.
Yes, there are flaws to his game. He does not have elite arm strength, nor fantastic pocket presence. Holgorsen says it every week; he is developing. There have been noticeable improvements, though. Howard has minimized overthrown balls on short routes, and said his timing is constantly getting better. He will have an opportunity to really showcase his his progression against Baylor.
The Bears present an uphill challenge for Howard, though. Baylor could well pack the box and play man coverage on the outside, forcing Howard and the young receivers to make a play. The hope is that Shelton Gibson and Jovon Durante will eventually free themselves up down the field. It will be on Howard’s shoulders to deliver the ball when necessary.
“They play a lot of man and force you to get open,” said inside receiver Daikiel Shorts. “Us as receivers need to control what we can control. Whether that’s getting open or blocking downfield or running the right routes.”
Shorts and Gibson are Howard’s two favorite targets. The two make up 40% of the total passing production; ten other players have made a reception this year.
“The trust is obviously with number one (Shelton Gibson),” said Howard. “But we have guys that can make plays. We just need a few more to step up, and really win in one on one situations.
“Shorts and Jordan Thompson on the inside have done well in traffic. They find those holes in the defense.”
It is a monumental task to ask Howard to knock off Baylor, but He deserves time to grow in Holgorsen’s offense. There is no reason to abandon the Skyler Howard ship yet.