MORGANTOWN — West Virginia University receiver Sam James joined some impressive company with his performance on Saturday against visiting Texas Tech, but as has been the case often this season, drops plagued the redshirt freshman.
James caught 14 passes — that is tied for the second-most anyone has ever caught for West Virginia in a football game and is the most since Kevin White set the school record with 16 receptions against Texas in 2014.
Those 14 receptions for James turned into 223 receiving yards, which puts him alone in fourth-place for the most receiving yards by a WVU player in a single game.
The other thing James caught Saturday was another case of the drops. There was one early, when Austin Kendall was in at quarterback. Then in the fourth quarter with Jarret Doege in at quarterback, there was a sequence of plays in which James was targeted three times and dropped all three.
“I’ve got to learn from it and see what I did wrong like not looking the ball in,” James said. “That’s probably what it was, because I was trying to get up the field fast. You take this, go look at the film and look at it.”
James said the receivers and tight ends tried something new this week after practice — something called the “500 catch challenge.” Every day after practice, the Mountaineers pass-catchers would go out and were required to catch 100 passes each day. It did not pay off immediately for James, so he’ll go back to work next week aiming to catch more than 500 passes after practice.
“I have to overcome drops,” James said. “Your mind plays tricks on you all the time and tries to make you think of things that you don’t even want to think about. So you’ve just got to cancel it all out and take a deep breath then go play the next play.”
DOEGE GETS HIS CHANCE
First-year WVU coach Neal Brown pulled Kendall from the game late in the third quarter in favor of Doege — a move that was met with cheers from what was left of the announced crowd of 56,573 at Milan Puskar Stadium on Saturday.
Doege’s style was noticeably different than Kendall’s, but the results were mostly the same. The Bowling Green transfer had to watch as receivers dropped passes and he was forced to scramble in an attempt to make plays behind an offensive line that was not doing him many favors with its pass protection.
A change at quarterback obviously means there is a different person making the throws to the receivers. Timing can get thrown off and bad things can happen.
That, however, wasn’t really the case for Doege and the Mountaineer receivers. Two of West Virginia’s top pass-catchers said there was not much of a difference between the two Mountaineer quarterbacks on Saturday against Texas Tech.
“Honestly, it’s funny because when we made the quarterback switch I didn’t even notice it,” said Florida State graduate transfer George Campbell, who finished with three catches for 95 yards. “As a team, and as an offense, we’ve just got to come and play. The same way we play with Austin is the same way we play with Jarret. We want to win and make plays, so whatever quarterback is in, we’ve got to make the plays.”
James echoed that sentiment.
“There wasn’t a big difference between the quarterbacks,” James said. “I’ve just got to go out there and play.”
n Senior left tackle Colton McKivitz started his 44th game in a West Virginia uniform on Saturday — the fourth most in program history.
n In addition to Doege, true freshman running back Tony Mathis and redshirt freshman tight end T.J. Banks both saw their first action of the season. In all, WVU has had 25 different first-time players this season.
n WVU’s 498 passing yards were the fifth-most in program history and the 18th time the Mountaineers have thrown for more then 400 yards in a game.
n Saturday marked WVU’s fifth consecutive loss. It is the first time since 2012, when the Mountaineers began their first season in the Big 12 5-0 before losing the next five, that West Virginia has lost five straight games.