by Jim Buzzerd
Received an email the other day that the West Virginia University football team’s home opener with Long Island University is just two months away. While LIU should not be a daunting task, the season opening road game at Maryland the week before is another story. Ditto the home game with Virginia Tech following the LIU game. Two out of three tests to begin the season isn’t bad, but the eye opener is week four’s conference opener at Oklahoma on September 25. Yawn at LIU all you want, but that’s a rugged early season slate.
If the Mountaineers don’t come out of that stretch at least 2-2, the road to a winning season becomes a rough one, if the preseason media poll is to be believed. That poll, released last week, had WVU picked sixth in the 10 team Big 12. As usual, Oklahoma led the voting with 35 first place votes. Iowa State was second and had the only other first place votes with four. Texas was third followed by Oklahoma State, TCU, West Virginia, Kansas State, Baylor, Texas Tech and Kansas.
So, if the Mountaineers start out 2-2, and the actual games on the field follow the results of the poll, WVU would finish 6-6. The good news is the games are played on the field, not in a media poll, so the Mountaineers can make up some ground if certain areas improve. One of those areas is the secondary. Improvement is not the accurate word here, but due to defections via the transfer portal, it becomes an area of concern. There are those who believe WVU has the personnel available to keep that unit competitive.
Another position that needs attention is quarterback where Jarret Doege is expected to return as the starter. Doege now has a lot of experience and he’s surely produced a mixed bag of results in his almost season and a half as the Mountaineer’s starting quarterback.
On the one hand Doege has sometimes hurt the team with his general lack of mobility. Being no threat to run has hampered the offense. He has a long run of eight yards in 14 games. The lack of mobility has led to Doege being sacked more than necessary. Perhaps a bigger factor here is his reluctance to throw the ball away which has led to sacks and fumbles. It was reported that extra time was spent in spring practice to give Doege work on run pass option plays and an emphasis on getting rid of the ball when under duress.
If Doege makes strides in those areas he could be well on his way to a breakout season. While not blessed with the strongest arm he has completed 64% of 494 passes for 21 touchdowns and seven interceptions. That’s not terrible and when one considers the number of accurate throws that were dropped last season by WVU receivers, Doege’s numbers would look much better.