Eight games into the season, we have a pretty good feel for most of the teams around college football at this point. There is no denying what West Virginia's strength has been this year: Running the football.
Just a few years ago, that idea would have been preposterous to most, but because of the personnel strengths on this Mountaineer team, that is the way head coach Dana Holgorsen has decided to tailor his game plan in 2015.
A one-trick pony doesn’t stand a chance in the Big 12, however, and West Virginia is going to have to start exhibiting more consistency in the passing game in order to get on a roll in the last stretch of the season.
The onus isn’t just on quarterback Skyler Howard, either. For West Virginia to prove it is a balanced offense and force opponents to respect all aspects of the playbook, the Mountaineer receiving corps is going to have to start performing with consistency.
We have seen both Jovon Durante and Shelton Gibson emerge as deep threats from time to time, but drops and miscommunication between them and the quarterback has also resulted in some disastrous turnovers.
“We need to consistently make plays. That’s the biggest thing. The last few games we have had what I call true drops. Jovon had two against TCU. Some of those catches were tough catches, but that’s why you’re out there. We need to be consistent and there for Skyler. When it’s time for you to make a play, you need to make a play. Ninety percent of the time you don’t have the football,” said wide receivers coach Lonnie Galloway.
There is no doubt, inexperience and youth abound on West Virginia’s wide receiver depth chart, but Galloway isn’t using that as an excuse for up-and-down play.
“We are young, but we are going into our ninth game. They’re young, but they’ve been catching the football for a long time. That was the biggest thing from me to them this past weekend. Relax and play. Go out there and do what you’ve been doing your whole life. Catching the ball is the easy part, especially when you’re alone,” he said.
Running the right route, finding space for the quarterback to deliver the ball and catching the ball are what most people look at when evaluating receivers, but their responsibilities extend further than that. In order to keep your spot on the field at WVU, you have to prove you are willing to do the dirty work and give 100-percent effort while run blocking.
That takes an unselfish, team-first mindset that many wide receivers have lacked in the past, but especially last week against Texas Tech, Galloway said his group did a good job of giving WVU’s running backs to pick up big chunks of yardage time and time again.
“They all did a fairly good job. We need to stay on blocks a little bit longer, but being able to run for what we ran for, they blocked. That’s one of those things where, if they don’t, they’re coming out,” he said.
“They all know that’s a big thing about being tough and playing receiver. You’ve got to be able to block.”
West Virginia has had plenty of success in the run game this year, averaging 220.1 yards per game on the ground, but to keep that trend going against an aggressive Texas defense, it will need another all-around effort from its wide receivers, even when their number isn’t called.