It took much longer than it should have, but now that West Virginia Mountaineers head coach Neal Brown has inserted Jarret Doege, he needs to become the starter. Doege came into the game, amidst a loud ovation from the Mountaineer faithful, late in the third quarter and played three drives. Those three drives resulted in 17 passes from Doege for 119 yards and one touchdown. More importantly, the offense appeared more fluid and more in sync with Doege’s passes.
Brown undoubtedly will address the quarterback situation either Monday or most likely Tuesday. I’m sure he won’t volunteer the information but one of the reporters will ask and Brown will be forced to respond. Now is the time for Brown to keep Doege in. You can’t waffle on the decision now.
For Austin Kendall, this isn’t the way he envisioned his season going and the offensive struggles suffered by the team are not entirely his fault. The offensive line has struggled all year and there is no running game whatsoever. Brown tried to address the receiver position and was able to get two transfers with experience, George Campbell and Sean Ryan. Campbell has played limited minutes and Ryan has missed the last several games with an injury. TJ Simmons, the most experienced receiver on the team, has also struggled and was called out by the head coach during his weekly press conference earlier in the season.
Brown, as a players coach who is trying to keep the morale of his team up, has been effusive in his praise for his quarterback but fans can’t deny the fact that the offense has been a slog. Over the past four games, the team has failed to score 20 points in any one game and the defense and special teams have scored 25% of the total points over the past month.
While Kendall isn’t solely to blame, against the Texas Tech Red Raiders, he left at least 21 points on the board with three underthrown deep passes. Freshman receiver Sam James got behind his defender twice and had to wait for a deep pass to come down. Had he not been forced to wait, he easily would have outrun his defenders for a long touchdown. These are the throws that fans saw and it just became too much for the fans to bear.
When Doege was inserted late in the game, the offense appeared smoother. The first series for Doege ended the same way many of Kendall’s did, with dropped passes and a three-and-out. The next two drives, albeit against backups and a prevent defense, saw the team march down the field. Receivers caught the ball in stride and were given time and space to make plays after catching the ball. Texas Tech kept their safeties back to prevent a quick strike score, so we don’t know if Doege has a better deep ball, but his short passing game looked and felt more on points. Running back flares were thrown ahead of the ‘backs to give them a chance to catch and run. Crossing patterns were thrown so that receivers could react to oncoming defensive backs before they were hit. Running back Tony Mathis even caught a pass and scored his first touchdown.
For now, Kendall remains the starter until Brown makes an official declaration but for the sake of the fans, for the sake of the team and for the sake of knowing what he has going into 2020, Brown has to let Doege start the next three games. The Mountaineers can still make a bowl game, if they are able to win their last three remaining games against the Kansas State Wildcats, Oklahoma State Cowboys and TCU Horned Frogs. It is possible that only two wins will make them bowl eligible. For the sake of the fans and the sake of the team, Doege must be your starter in the next three games. You can’t turn back now.