The West Virginia air attack is clicking — and both its quarterback and receivers have the confidence to prove it.
The Mountaineers got a massive boost from their passing game in their most recent victory against Kansas State, which racked up 301 yards and two touchdowns without an interception. Their performance seemed to calm down a lot of talk after a tough loss against Texas Tech, which saw the Mountaineers still put up a season-high 347 yards despite a flurry of dropped passes.
“We wanted to make a statement [against] Kansas State just ’cause we didn’t perform well enough [against] Texas Tech and Kansas,” said quarterback Jarret Doege. “…When you get knocked down, you can’t just stay down. We wanted to pop up and bounce back and show people that we can be a really good offense.”
Things were quite apparently different in the pass game quite early on, and it showed in one play: a simple slant route on third down from Jarret Doege to Bryce Ford-Wheaton, who took it 58 yards and nearly all the way to the end zone.
At least, the play was simple when described by Ford-Wheaton after the WVU victory.
“I just have to get separation,” he said, “and then I know Doege is going to take care of the rest.”
Of course, that comment came immediately after their first win over a ranked opponent, but that confidence signaled a mental shift from the week prior — one that was mirrored by his quarterback.
“I have a really good chemistry with the receivers,” Doege said. “They believe in me, I believe in them.”
Everyone’s job on the offense has been easier by the emergence of Mike O’Laughlin and TJ Banks, a pair of tight ends who have proven to be consistently viable targets for Doege. Their presence — especially that of O’Laughin, who has 10 catches for 115 yards this year — has taken pressure off the guys on the outside.
After spending a year in practice with Doege last year and a full summer this year, O’Laughlin says his relationship with his quarterback is great.
“Jarret’s a great leader, he’s decisive on the field and really just picks everybody up,” he said. “Obviously, [he’s] a great quarterback and he’s just got all the great qualities.”
By the nature of the position, the value of O’Laughlin and Banks (who has added a receiving touchdown himself) extends to the run game as well, which gives Doege an added boost of confidence in that pair.
“Mike and Banks can both play attached and block, and then they can get spread out and run routes, and I believe in those guys,” the signal caller said. “I think you saw that when we converted a third and long [against K-State] when we threw Mike the slant and he got upfield and got the first down.”